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Mayor Smith moves forward with hiring of RSJC despite Council’s request to delay

LYNNWOOD, WA – Mayor Nicola Smith sent a memo to the City Council of Lynnwood, Friday April 2, informing that she is moving forward with hiring of the Race and Social Justice Coordinator (RSJC), despite many council members’ reservations.

Race and Social Justice Coordinator Background

During the budget process approved in November 2020, Mayor Smith proposed a racial justice coordinator position to replace the Inter-Governmental Liaison in an effort to focus on implementing equitable principles and practices into the work of City Government. The Lynnwood Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Commission (DEIC) asked the Mayor to bring the topic of a Race and Social Justice Coordinator to the City Council.  The Council was never informed of the DEIC request.

A motion was brought forth to the council by Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, to delay the hiring for the RSJC until more research was conducted to define what the roles of the position would be, which was passed by the council. The Mayor then hired a consultant to conduct a survey to learn what types of needs Lynnwood’s diverse community require.

The position was revisited by Mayor Smith again in February 2021, insisting it be fulfilled immediately. George Hurst, City Council President, brought an additional motion to delay the hiring for the position until the data from the survey could be assessed. This motion also passed by four council members, Jim Smith, Julietta Altamarino-Crosby, Ian Cotton, and Hurst, which provoked discussion whether the council has the right to tell the Mayor who she can and cannot hire.

Mayor Smith’s April 2 memo

Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith
Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith

Two months later, Mayor Smith issued the memo informing she would be filling the position despite the council’s belief it should be delayed. To view the memo click here.

She wrote: Council, I have given you the grace and the opportunity to learn more about the need for this important position. I am very concerned at the barriers and obstacles that Council is (maybe inadvertently) placing on this position. No other job description has outcomes and metrics attached to it. I am concerned that the line between Council and the Executive is becoming blurred. Job performance is the role of the Executive.

Response to mayor Smith’s April 2 memo

“My concern about this hiring is the lack of process transparency and the lack of any support funding for this position. The failure to include any supplies or services for the Race and Social Justice Coordinator, is a failure to accurately reflect the true cost needed for this position,” Hurst told the Lynnwood Times.

George Hurst
Council President George Hurst

In the Mayor’s message found on page 14 of the 2021-22 proposed budget, the she lists budget reduction strategies including, “Delaying the rehire of vacant employee positions,” but according to Hurst, this is in conflict with her decision.

“My greatest concern is that the RSJC is a position that is destined to fail due to lack of any funding to assist the new employee,” Hurst said.

In the 2021-22 proposed budget, page 91, the program cost of the Equity and Social Justice section shows salary and benefits totaling $219,796 but includes no listed funds budgeted for supplies or services, which the 2019-20 budget included for the Inter-Governmental Relations Liaison, the vacant position being filled by the RSJC, which included salary, benefits, as well as $5,000 for supplied and $104,165 for services. 

“There is no line item for this position as far as supplies or support. A lot of it involving internal human resource funding that I thought the HR director should be dealing with. It just seemed like this was not a well-funded position,” Hurst said.

“If the Mayor would be up front and give the Council an accurate accounting for the RSJC, there would be much less resistance to the hiring of this important staff position.  It is a staff position our community members need, but they deserve a fully funded Race and Social Justice Coordinator,” Hurst added.    

Hurst believes, at some point, the city should develop a Human Services Department, which many cities have, to support the position of the Race and Social Justice Coordinator. It would be a new department and would require an additional proposed budget in the next biennial.

“I fear that what has been transpiring over the past several months debating about this position, is unfortunately a very clear example of institutional racism. We are creating and perpetuating unnecessary barriers which are stopping progress and sending a very negative message to our BIPOC employees and our community members. I have heard from several people that they are tired. They are tired of not being believed that they face barriers and bias, they are tired of the finish line always moving, they are tired of words that don’t match actions,” Mayor Smith wrote in her memo.

Proposed RSJC performance measures

The RSJ Performance Measures, as defined in the Mayor’s Memo are as following:

  • Coordinate with consultant to conduct a Community Equity Survey to assist with meeting Strategic Priority #3 to be a Safe, Welcoming and Livable City, and City Resolution 2017-03 to be a Safe, Welcoming, and Equitable City.
  • Increase training opportunities for city employees related to race, equity and undoing structural racism to one or more offering annually in addition to the “Role of Government ‘Training.
  • Formalize the City’s Racial Equity Action Plan over the next 3 years.
  • Participate/consult on every major project or initiative of the city to ensure a racial equity lens is applied.
  • Connect weekly with community leaders from underserved and underrepresented communities to build up a network of trusted messengers.

“As the Administrator and CEO of the City of Lynnwood, I am directing my staff to begin the recruitment process to fill the Race and Social Justice Coordinator position. Council, I do not need your approval per se, but I am asking for your support of this position and this important work. This work should not divide us, it is intended to make us better, to improve outcomes for everyone,” Smith wrote.

As of now, there are no candidates for who would fill this position but the council believes the hiring of the RSJC will be fairly soon.

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