By Sydni Williams
FRAMONGHAM – The Framingham City Council’s Finance Subcommittee voted not in favor of Mayor Yvonne Spicer’s request for a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for this fiscal year in a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, September 22.
Mayor Spicer re-proposed the position of a chief diversity & inclusion officer, an executive position responsible for the diversity, inclusion, and equity in the community, after the fiscal year had begun and after the City Council had already approved the Fiscal year budget in June.
In Framingham, “91% of our workforce, as of 2018, was white,” said Mayor Spicer.
This data, however, is “Not a reflection of our community as a whole,” said Spicer. (Editor’s Note: Brazilians tend to identify themselves as white on federal documents and make up a large percentage of the City’s population.)
Since 2018, Mayor Spicer reported the numbers have increased, but there is still more work.
Working closely with the school department and Framingham State, this position “can serve a greater need for the city of framingham” and “It is clear that it is something that we long have believed that we need in our community,” said the Mayor.
The salary for this position has been recently updated.
“Originally the salary range was $100,000 to $115,000. The Council approved 101,000 dollars for this position,” in a previous budget, but the City of Framingham never hired anyone.
Mayor Spicer said “since 2 years ago, we have gone back and repriced this particular position in terms of salary.”
Now, the salary for this position has increased “given everything that has happened in the last several months there is a great need for people that can do this role,” said Spicer.
The consultants estimated that “the salary should be between $118,000 and $125,000.”
Mayor Spicer concluded her statement to the subcommittee with “a city of 70,000 strong, a very diverse city, it is a position that will help move the needle for the city in a much more cohesive fashion.”
Members of the Finance Subcommittee then asked questions and share their opinions on the position’s salary through several rounds of discussion.
City Council Chair George P. King Jr. said he was “all in favor of this position.”
However, he was “not in favor of a $125,000 salary to start out for this position.”
King suggested the Spicer Administration not spend more money and instead “try to rearrange things with the money we have.” Basically, re-arrange line items in the already approved Fiscal Year budget by the City Council in June.
‘I really believe we should do this,” King said, “but I believe we should do this one of two ways.” Either “We should establish a lower-paying level or, if the mayor insists on a high-level executive position, I think we should look at another high-level executive to reduce,” said King.
The at-large city councilor said this would “make a reasonable reduction to the budget to benefit diversity.”
Clarifying his stance, King said he did not object to the position, the “objection is to the continued refusal of this administration to ever make reductions or even changes, efficiencies, in the way we do things.”
District 4 City Councilor Mike Cannon suggested consultation with communities, such as Arlington and Sommerville, to gain more information about the successes and failures of a diversity position.
“I’m just concerned about adding more layers of government,” he explained. “The sentiment is wonderful,” he said, “but I just don’t believe financially it makes sense.” Cannon concluded, “I just can’t support it.”
District 2 City Councilor Cesar Stewart-Morales said as a “modern city, a leader in the MetroWest area, I think that Framingham is long overdue to have a position like this … I am very supportive of having this position.”
“Given the current environment in our country, in our state, in our city, with Black Lives Matter, with protests, all the concerns that the community has placed around some of our police history, it’s a time when a lot of people are requesting this expertise and the pricing is definitely much higher,” Stewart-Morales said.
“We do need an expert in this area, in order to lead us and in order to make real progress for our city,’ said Stewart-Morales. “That does come at a price and I think that is a price that is well worth paying.”
“I too agree that this is a needed position” at-large City Councilor Janet Leombruno said.
For this position, Leombruno said that “some who can come in and help us where we need help knowing the neighborhood, knowing the churches, knowing all the different parts of the community to me is key.”
Finance Subcommittee Chair Adam Steiner said “I feel that this position is warranted. I think that in hindsight this is a position that we should have had 20 years ago.”
But District 3 Councilor Steiner also “agree[d] with King that there is room elsewhere in the budget for reductions.”
“Building Equity is something that takes time” and “It’s a matter of capacity of all of are departments,” said Steiner. “The salary is justified” and in our current world “This is clearly an issue that is demanding attention.”
Stewart-Morales introduced a motion to recommend approval to the full 11-member City Council. This motion was seconded by Steiner.
King then proposed an amendment to the motion, adding that “approval be limited to a salary of $100,000.” The amendment was seconded by Leombruno.
The Finance Subcommittee voted on the amendment, Cannon, Leombruno, and King voting in favor, and Stewart and Steiner voting against.
The subcommittee then voted on the main motion, to recommend approval to the full City Council, with a salary of $100,000.
King and Leombruno voted in favor, while Steiner, Cannon, and Stewart voted against.
Thus, the Finance Subcommittee’s recommendation to the full City Council on Tuesday will be not to approve the position for $100,000.
Sydni Williams is a fall 2020 intern for SOURCE. She is a student at St. Mark’s School in Southborough. She is doing the internship for school credit.