City leaders Monday unanimously directed city manager Peggy Flynn to finalize a multi-pronged effort. That includes a city equity czar and an independent city commission along with further police oversight.
The ideas were advanced by a special advisory committee, tasked with improving diversity, equity and inclusion, along with addressing allegations of excessive force and racial profiling by Petaluma police.
Money woes had the council entertain combining and dissolving some city committees, and reassigning staffers. Local resident Josh Simmons predicted a backlash.
"I'm not here to argue the laws of physics, the scarcity of time or limited budgets, but I have to say it feels inappropriate for the pursuit of DEI, to be pitted against other forms of community engagement, beyond inappropriate, it seems like a sure fire way to provoke a reaction from the community."
Councilman Dave King doubted increased discord would result.
"We are repeatedly, repeatedly advised, not to kill our staff. When that comes into a staff report, I think we have to take that seriously. To the idea that someone on a committee is pitted against the D.E.I. commission, I don't think the people on these committees and commissions are going to be thinking that way, and if they are, all I can say is, 'don't let the door hit your, on the (pause), on the way out.' I just don't think we need that kind of thinking on any of our committees or commissions, and quite frankly, I don't see it."
While several urged a direct hire to lead efforts, Flynn made the case for launching with an outside expert.
"I think it's having somebody come in, and staff has been....like I said, 'we're not the experts,' so we want somebody to be brutally honest. We want somebody to be able to show us where our weaknesses are, because we can't be successful as a city, if we're not."