The city of Evanston plans to hire consultants, revamp its human resources policies and revise its training in its most comprehensive response to more than 60 allegations of racial discrimination made by an anonymous group of Black city employees last month.

The city finalized the 60-day roadmap last week after a telephone discussion with the group Tuesday, Nov. 29, said City Manager Luke Stowe.

City Manager Luke Stowe Credit: Richard Cahan

The roadmap is intended to develop the infrastructure to fulfill the employee action group’s 20 recommendations, Stowe said in an interview with the Roundtable. 

But despite calling it a “60 day roadmap,” the city has attached no firm deadlines to its actions.

“The last thing I want to do is commit to something that we will do ‘x’ in three months and then it ends up taking six months and then everyone’s left disappointed,” Stowe said.

But the roadmap website does commit to 20 highlighted actions the city has promised to take – something it worked on with the Evanston YWCA Equity Institute Staff – and which will be audited by an outside firm to assure compliance. It includes:

  • Analyzing workforce demographics, compensation and related issues.
  • Reviewing and improving the human resources policies and practices.
  • Revamping the current racial equity and anti-oppression training/curriculum. 
  • Conducting numerous small-group listening sessions.
  • Launching an anonymous satisfaction survey of city employees.

Several of those steps are taken directly from recommendations made by the Black employees who raised these issues last month.

Woman with a red face mask holds up a sign that reads "End racism in Evanston government."
Lesley Williams holds a sign that reads “End racism in Evanston government” as she stands in solidarity with other speakers at a November meeting. Credit: Gina Castro

The City Council allocated $200,000 of the city’s 2023 budget toward training and hiring consultants. These funds will potentially go toward a Human Resources Department investigation and an audit of the Evanston Police Department Field Training Program, Stowe said in an interview with the RoundTable on Nov. 29 before he spoke with the action group.

The city manager, deputy city manager, directors and other senior staff are undergoing a two-day Beyond Diversity training program with Evanston’s Cradle to Career on Dec. 15 and 16.

The city also created an email address for employees to report instances of retaliation for speaking up. Stowe and the corporation counsel will receive these emails.

Phone call with the action group

The city’s Nov. 29 phone call with Stowe, 28 of the Black group members and Council Member Krissie Harris, 2nd Ward, lasted an estimated one hour and 15 minutes.

Both sides called the discussion productive and positive.

Still, Stowe said of the roadmap: “I think some members of the group want to see more specific timelines, and I think that’s part of the nature of the [plan]. That will then put us in a better position to be able to more fully answer the 20 recommendations and what are feasible timelines for implementation.”

The group chose to include Harris in the conversation because of her experience with diversity, equity and inclusion work at Oakton Community College, she said. All future conversations with the group will feature Stowe and Harris. The two will then fill in the rest of city staff and council members with details of the conversation.

“We’re trying to build consistency from the city side,” Harris said. Harris and Stowe said they plan on meeting with the group in the coming weeks.

The RoundTable will be speaking with group members, who remain anonymous to the public, about the roadmap and their interactions with the city since releasing the report.

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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