The Democratic caucus of the Orange County Legislature recently held a press conference pushing for county-wide measures to address discrimination, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The group was supported by City of Newburgh Torrance Harvey, City of Newburgh Councilman Anthony Grice, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, and others.
The press conference was held in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Bust in the City of Newburgh.
One of the most prominent measures was the formation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee [DEIC] for the Orange County Government.
The DEIC would focus on data collection and analysis to determine needs to gather demographic data and company culture. Members would also create and design strategies and action plans to address policies, practices and procedures affecting racial, diversity, and inclusion issues within the county.
DEIC Members would also work with departments on implementation of initiatives. Members would evaluate and provide ongoing audits of the county’s action plan, initiatives and training.
“We stand with you regarding the need for positive change,” said Democratic Minority Leader Mike Paduch. “We hope the county executive and the Republican, and Independent caucus members will support these measures as well.”
Republican legislators proposed to hire an outside consultant to research racism in the country. In contrast, the Democrats’ proposed DEIC will have volunteers from senior level management, legislators, and senior level staff from the county executive’s office.
In the current climate, more individuals, and municipalities are starting to take notice of racial tension in the nation.
“All 50 states across the country have come together in solidarity in response to the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black lives lost to racial injustice,” said Paduch.
The lawmakers also called for the creation of a community complaint commission to oversee correction and sheriff’s office staff related complaints. The lawmakers also stated that they support the sheriff’s office’s efforts to obtain body cameras, they also asked that body cameras be made a requirement for all sheriff deputies on patrol.
The lawmakers’ proposal was submitted for a vote at last Thursday’s Orange County Legislature Session.
Legislators voted on a resolution authorizing the County’s Commissioner of General Services to issue a request for proposals [RFP] for a diversity intervention initiative and making a supplemental appropriation to the 2020 Orange County Budget for the Orange County Legislature. The resolution amounted to $100 thousand.
Paduch asked to have the DEIC included in an amendment to the resolution.
“I think the idea might be a good one to have, to review it,” said Michael Amo, Independence Party Legislator for District 1. “I think its points are well made but, I think it’s premature at this point.”
Amo said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to insert the DEIC at this point. He raised concerns like the DEIC may be a duplicate of a committee the legislature will use at a future time. Amo said due to the complications of the RFP process, it would be better to wait and develop a committee like the DEIC.
Amo supports moving forward on the original resolution, and the idea behind the DEIC. Most of the concerns raised about the DEIC and the original resolution by other legislators were about money, duplication issues, and the RFP process.
Laurie R. Tautel, Democratic Legislator for District 14 raised the point that the DEIC would be beneficial for gathering data, and would reduce the costs of a third party consultant. She said she doesn’t believe a third party consultant would be fair to county employees.
Kevindaryán Luján, Democratic Legislator for District 4 said that issues pertaining to people of color often don’t appear to be as much of a priority to legislative board discussions.
“This DEIC that we’re talking about,” said Luján. “It’s not just about this RFP. It’s about discussing issues that have long been ignored, or issues we could be discussing in the future. And, it costs you nothing. The DEIC is literally made up of senior staff members here in Orange County.” He also said it would be great to have citizens involved in the DEIC.
The legislature didn’t approve the Democratic Caucuses amendment to the resolution but the legislature approved the original resolution.