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83.5% of survey respondents in Lynnwood prioritize the need for a social worker to diversity coordinator

By Noel Pai-Young and Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times Staff

At the December 14, 2020 Lynnwood City Council meeting, Mayor Nicola Smith opened up with a statement reminding community members of the importance to defeat COVID-19.

“It can be easy to let our guard down, but we can’t give up yet. Right now COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in Snohomish County and across Washington State and the United States… placing a great stress on our healthcare system… Please continue to wear face masks… limit your social gatherings,” said Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith.

It was an evening of recognition.  For displaying excellence especially in their support of the community, The Lynnwood City Council presented Jared Bond with the Employee Award, Bruce Lawson a Citizen Award, and Chef Dane Catering of Lynnwood with the Business Award.

The Washington State Department of Transportation agreed to pay $698,213 of the estimated $28 million toward to the repaving of 196th St. SW.

Multiple ordinances were passed including one to amend the fee schedule and another to omit references to a Fire Department from the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. All ordinances presented were passed unanimously. The Director of Economic Development, David Kleitsch, was then confirmed as Lynnwood’s first Development and Business Services Department Director. 

Councilwoman Ruth Ross gave a statement regarding support for the Race and Social Justice Coordinator position being filled as soon as possible in 2021. Councilman George Hurst mentioned that the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission has not brought forward a written proposal to the council to clarify what the position entails. Councilwoman Shannon Sessions agreed that she would like to see details in writing early next year.

Councilman Smith cautioned the expense of creating a new position at this time when so many residents are suffering financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilwoman Dr. Altamirano-Crosby added that from a 200-person survey of residents she conducted, 83.5% showed preference for a social worker over a Race and Social Justice Coordinator.

After some back and forth from several councilmembers, Councilman Ian Cotton reminded councilmembers of their duty to perform due diligence.  

In a statement to the Lynnwood Times, Dr. Altamirano-Crosby provided insight into her position of supporting a social worker to address the current human service needs of the community.

“We must be accountable at all times and the pressing needs that our communities experience,” wrote Dr. Altamirano-Crosby. “In line with this principle, the recent decision to halt the hire of a Diversity and Inclusion Director/Social Justice Coordinator for the City of Lynnwood, must be understood not as a decision against the very urgent and pressing matter of social justice but in its favor of it.

“The position in discussion was originally conceived in 2018 with the intent to hire someone that advocated for diversity and inclusion by working at the administrative level with different directorships within the city.

“It is clear after this summer and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that such a position is antiquated. The demands coming out of our social realities demand that we re-imagine such position to serve our communities in meaningful, on-the-ground initiatives and not only at the administrative level.

“More importantly however, the current economic challenges caused by the pandemic may point out to first dedicate our efforts to make sure our communities can access whatever resources our city can offer to alleviate their situations. For this reason and using my training as a social scientist, I decided to consult our communities to assess what position they considered more urgent”

Dr. Altamirano-Crosby conducted a random survey that received 200 responses from families, business owners and students in the Lynnwood area to understand what Lynnwood residents think should be a priority. The survey question asked was:

During this time, with the COVID-19 crisis present, do you believe that the City of Lynnwood should hire:

  1. Social Worker and Community Outreach
  2. Race and Social Equity Coordinator/Advisor of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  3. Other.

Link to survey

Out of a random sample of 200 responses, 167 (or 83.5%) advocated for a Social Worker, 18 (or 9%) considered neither one, 12 (or 6%) selected Diversity and Inclusion/Social Justice coordinator and three chose other.

The racial breakdown of survey respondents was: 60% White, 20% Hispanic/Latino, 7% Asian, 5% Slavic, 5% African American and 3% Other.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the racial breakdown of Lynnwood is as follows: 59.2% White, 18% Asian, 13.7% Hispanic, 8% African American, and 1.1% other.

Some of the survey comments are below:

  • “I heard they have a diversity committee, what have they done?
  • Social Worker because we need more social support in Lynnwood and help the community more.
  • It is incredible that they are considering hiring someone at this crucial and uncertain time.
  • I believe we need both, but to have a director or advisor of diversity we first need to establish community services.
  • The diversity, equity and inclusion committee should make an annual plan of its activities, for example, reach out to our community and city employees through focus groups, surveys, identify community leaders and collaborate with them, but most importantly build truthful relationship that are crucial to promote the mission of the committee.”

Dr. Altamirano-Crosby concluded that the survey was an eye-opener for her.  It conveyed that Lynnwood residents would like to see more engagement from the current Diversity, Equity & Inclusion commission to continue fostering Lynnwood’s welcoming city status. Because of the current human service needs of the community, respondents from the survey prioritized the need for a social worker to that of a diversity administrator.

“These results make clear to me that our scarce resources at the city should focus on hiring a social worker that can help our communities access services,” wrote Dr. Altamirano-Crosby. “Also, that the Diversity and Inclusion position, while also a priority, must be re-designed to meet the social demands of 2020. “As a Latina, I considered both pressing and important issues; my actions as a city council member are unequivocally congruent with these needs and the well-being of our communities.”

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