The results of an Equity Survey presented by City staff to the Human Service Committee on Aug. 7, caused two committee members to direct that no more surveys be taken. The time for surveys and town halls is over, both said, and the time for action plans has arrived.
“Just another survey, another Town Hall – I’m not in favor of that,” said Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward. “We know our needs. Many in the community have lost hope, and just continuing to talk about it does no good. We should be in action mode” developing an “action plan. We are in crisis in certain communities.”
“My concern is, how can this data be useful?” said Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward. Questions asking essentially, “How do you feel?” are not useful, she added. “I appreciate the survey, but I do not want to spend a lot of time” on it or any future survey.
About 800 residents completed the survey. Almost 78% were female, more than 73% were white, and 46% earn more than $100,000 per year. About 8.5% of respondents earn less than $30,000.00 per year. The 21-question survey asked whether respondents attended City Council meetings, participated in City-sponsored events, contacted their alderman, and whether they interacted with other demographic groups.
The City’s Equity and Empowerment coordinator, Reverend Patricia Efiom, said she agreed with the criticism. “There has been a call from the committee for data,” she said, and the survey and town hall meetings were one way of collecting data. But given the results, she admitted, “part of what we found is what we all see – we are not reaching the community. We are simply not reaching people of color. We just are not.”
“I recommend we don’t take any more surveys, and we move directly into action,” said Ald. Rue Simmons.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, agreed, saying the City could always go back and take another survey later.
Rev. Efiom said she planned to reach more people in the community by engaging identified leaders to bring people along. Ald. Rue Simmons suggested her regular monthly ward meetings as a place to start. She also suggested working within the faith community.
“We have to be really clear what we’re looking for,” said Ald. Fleming. “Don’t engage the community just for the sake of engagement. People do come out when you are really talking and offering something.”
In the end, the committee suggested doing more outreach, going into the community to talk to members, rather than convening meetings and conducting surveys and hoping the community comes to the City.
In the end, the Committee voted 4-1 to accept the proposed Equity and Empowerment work plan, but emphasized once more that the time for surveys was over.