WEST FARGO — The future of a plan to study West Fargo's diversity and inclusion measures may hinge on cost.
City spokeswoman Melissa Richard introduced a potential community action plan that would address diversity, discrimination and inclusivity in the community at the City Commission's regular meeting Monday, July 6.
Mayor Bernie Dardis announced June 22 that he would introduce a plan of action, including hiring an outside consultant to help evaluate the current climate and develop a plan. The announcement followed his steps to mark June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day, a day that was long celebrated after word of the end of slavery reached Texas.
Richard said an action plan would be a roadmap to guide diversity initiatives for the community and would assess need and community engagement. It could include a review of ordinances and policies to new programs and access to additional resources for community members.
"We want to enhance what is already in place and build on progress. It's really an enhancement we are looking at," Richard said. "Inclusion refers to a community where members are and feel respected, have a sense of belonging and are able to participate and achieve their potential. I think that is a really beautiful summary."
She also introduced Laetitia Hellerud, who owns West Fargo-based Ubunto Consulting and specializes in intercultural competency development.
Hellerud, who comes highly recommended from leaders across the country, is a refugee who speaks five different languages, holds a master's degree and has visited more than 40 countries and four continents. Her resume includes jobs from working overnight at a factory to being a director at Lutheran Social Services.
But commissioners questioned if now is the right time for a potential action plan.
Commissioner Brad Olson said residents have asked if a formal action plan is really needed as they felt West Fargo is already an inclusive community. He suggested an assessment of the city's inclusivity now come first.
"You don't need to wait for there to be a problem before you are proactive and address it," Richard said.
Commissioner Mark Simmons said he is concerned about the cost. He said Richard and other staff's time is a expense for the city and he would like to see an estimate of Hellerud's service costs.
"There are a lot of other issues we have to work on as a city," Simmons said.
The announcement of a potential action plan came amid weeks of continued worldwide protests against racial inequality and police discrimination in the wake of George Floyd's death in custody. Although a peaceful march that extended into West Fargo on May 30 turned violent in downtown Fargo, subsequent protests and marches in the area have remained peaceful.
Monday's meeting item only called for the plan to be discussed. Simmons asked that a cost be estimated and returned to the commission before any movement forward is made.
"I think at the very least, it would be important to consider an assessment, because sometimes we don't know what we don't know," Hellerud said. "It's not a bad idea to check the pulse of the community. "