The city of Livermore is accepting new applications for its Equity and Inclusion Working Group following a City Council update last week.
During the council's Jan. 11 regular meeting, city staff asked for direction from the council on next steps for the working group, including whether to reopen applications for more people to join.
"I think opening (the application period) back up will potentially make sense but I think that we do need to consider where is this going and again what is the goal?" Councilmember Brittni Kiick asked.
"Let's say we get 300 applicants; are we going to take 300 applicants? Are we going to limit down those 300 before we say absolutely 'yes'? Are there any restraints that we're considering putting on this?" Kiick continued, adding that she believes the group "absolutely should still exist," but the council should consider possible consequences of expanding it.
Following the meeting, the city reopened applications on Jan. 13 and will accept them through Friday.
When the public working group was initially formed last year, the Council Subcommittee Equity and Inclusion -- co-chaired by now-Mayor Bob Woerner and now-Vice Mayor Trish Munro -- accepted all 48 people who submitted applications by the Aug. 7 deadline. However, the current council has not yet decided whether it will take the same approach with the new set of applicants.
Munro proposed last week waiting until the council has appointed its fifth member before having a larger discussion about how the working group should move forward.
"We are right now four members; by the next meeting we'll be a full complement. This seems to me to be exceedingly important work that we're doing," Munro said.
"There seems to have been a little kerfuffle back in December that led to this becoming more contentious opening up than we might have enjoyed," she continued. "That said, it's opened up and we have applications and that's great; however, how we go forward with this seems to me to be a longer discussion that we should have when we have the full complement."
Last month, the working group was at the center of a social media-fueled controversy after notes from a Nov. 17 meeting were referenced in an article by pro-law enforcement website Law Enforcement Today, which suggested that the city was considering the Thin Blue Line flag -- which is used to express support for law enforcement, but is considered by others as a symbol of intimidation -- as a symbol of hate. At the time, Woerner and Munro said the notes had been taken out of context.
As a result of the debate, several community members shared their input about the group during public comment at the Dec. 14 regular council meeting. Some expressed support for its efforts, while others called for it to be disbanded altogether.
Jackie Cota was one of the residents who spoke out against the working group in December (identifying herself at the time as Jackie Faith). She returned on Jan. 11 to echo her opposition to the group.
"This subcommittee made up of principals, vice principals, therapists and misguided activists have bought into the propaganda and academia-based lie that there is systemic racism born out of something they like to call white privilege," she said during public comment. "This is a bully tactic Marxists like to use to silence you."
Woerner clarified that the conversations and ideas that the working group has had so far have not been implemented in any form of policy or action by the council.
"We have to maybe reset our expectations in general as to what we can do and on what kind of time frame and how," Woerner said. "In other areas, we have advisory bodies and we have a structure; this one we created to hear from people and of course, we heard a lot."
"I would say at this stage, where we're at, is we've been listening to what people said, and I think we also want to clarify that the fact that we've listened is not the same thing as the council taking action, for sure, and it's not even the same thing as the subcommittee making a recommendation to the council to take action. We've done none of those things," the mayor added.
Woerner agreed with waiting until a fifth council member is appointed to have a more expansive discussion but he asked staff to develop some structural recommendations for council to consider at its next regular meeting, to be held on Monday (Jan. 25).