UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 8, 2019 - Chico City Council voted 5-2 on March 5 to submit the city's existing Diversity Action Plan to an internal affairs committee for review.
The goal is to identify tasks the city can accomplish at low cost within the coming year to improve cultural awareness and messaging to diverse populations.
Councilwoman, Ann Schwab, who submitted the action plan, said Chico State has offered to partner with the city to achieve some of the diversity goals outlined.
UPDATE 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 - During the Tuesday, Feb 5, 2019 meeting of the Chico City Council, members voted 6-1 in favor of placing the Diversity Action Plan, presented by Councilwoman Schwab, on a future agenda for consideration. To view the City Council meeting regarding the action, click here.
CHICO, Calif. – Most everyone who lives in and or visits Chico, finds the community to be welcoming. But is it a diverse city? In 2011, then-Mayor Ann Schwab spearheaded a Diversity Action Plan.
A host of community leaders came together to build a more inclusive city. It is now 2019; eight years later. Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough explored how the original plan has turned out.
One woman who has lived in Chico since 1978 says she moved away to North Carolina for several years and discovered much more diversity in that area. When asked how she would describe diversity in Chico, she said, “Oh boy, we could use some more.”
Chico City Councilwoman Ann Schwab says the city today is exactly where it was when the plan started. How did this plan come about?
In 2010, numerous acts of hate were the catalyst behind the Diversity Action Plan. At that time, the Chico State Student Body President was verbally attacked and violently stabbed. Later that same year, another man was sentenced on federal charges after he physically assaulted an African American man in a Chico establishment.
At the same time, these incidents were capturing headlines, Schwab says she had learned of a prospective doctor who had turned down employment in the community after someone hurled racially charged verbal attacks at him and his family while downtown.
Schwab says those incidents sent a clear message, the City would have to do something to show the community it was a leader and willing to learn how to be more aware of cultural differences and become more inclusive.
The Diversity Action Plan is a 23-page document, found on the City of Chico website. It spells out a five-year plan outlining specific targeted goals for Chico.
Some of the goals include increased messaging to underserved populations which, includes language translations for information posted to the City of Chico website, increasing diversity in hiring, offering more education to staff, such as implicit bias training which addresses attitudes and stereotypes which can affect interactions and each department setting a diversity-related goal.
Schwab says sometimes simply having greater awareness can make a big difference towards moving the City to where it needs to be.
The most recent U.S. Census puts Chico’s population at just over 93,000, with 82.3 percent comprised of Whites. I reviewed employment statistics from the City of Chico Human Resources Department. Of 337 employees, just 41 are considered People of Color. Of those, one is considered two or more races and just one, is African American.
Action News Now spoke with Chico Fire Chief Steve Standridge about diversity within the ranks. He said he believes diversity is the key to making a much more resilient, innovative and stronger workforce. However, he admits, his current staffing does not reflect diversity.
At the helm for roughly one year, Chief Standridge says he has already been working to revamp current hiring practices to reach a more diverse pool of qualified candidates. He says there is always room for improvement when it comes to diversity practices.
At the Chico Police Department, there is a total of 94 employees, including the one African American employee in the City.
When asked whether diversity is a priority within the department, Police Chief Michael O’Brien said, he always wants to hire the best and that is always the objective. He said in order to do that it is best to have a broad an applicant pool as possible.
Where is diversity thriving within the Chico community? On the campus of Chico State University.
President Gayle Hutchinson says diversity is what gives the community strength. She says when there are people from different backgrounds all coming together the community is stronger.
Councilwoman Schwab says given the immense growth and change taking place in the community as a result of the Camp Fire, she believes now is a good time to revisit the Diversity Action Plan.
Although the goals set out in the plan have not been reached, there are some steps underway. Chico State is currently working with the Chico Fire Department to create a program to identify qualified fire service candidates.
Police Chief O’Brien says his department often looks to Criminal Justice students from the university as academy hopefuls.
To put the overview into even greater perspective, Chico may not be that much out of line for this region. In Redding, which has a similar population of just over 91,000, Anglos far outnumber every other demographic group at 84.3 percent.
Councilwoman Schwab says she plans to reintroduce the Diversity Action Plan during the Feb. 5 council meeting, in hopes the current council will see value in the proposal and be willing to place it on the agenda for a vote.