The City of Dubuque’s commitment to addressing racial equity has increased as our local population has become more racially and ethnically diverse. As early as 2005, the City Council supported the recommendations of a community member task force to hire a consultant to work with the City to identify barriers to inclusion within the City organization. The work spanned two years and included an organizational assessment, report and recommendations, and capacity building that included the development of crossdepartmental teams focused on intercultural communication. The Council later approved two new staff positions focused on coordinating workforce development and community engagement to further this work and expand the focus of the Human Rights Department beyond compliance to include a commitment to advancing equity and inclusion.
Work inside the organization has been supplemented by work in the community through the creation of Inclusive Dubuque, a local network of more than 60 community leaders from faith, labor, education, business, non-profit and government dedicated to advancing justice and social equity in Dubuque. The City was one of several partners involved in launching Inclusive Dubuque, with the City Council and other partner institutions allocating three years of funding for the network to become established. In 2015, Inclusive Dubuque completed a Community Equity Profile based on quantitative population level data, results of community surveys and dialogue sessions, and meetings with focus area specialists. The profile reviewed indicators of community health, disaggregated by race, gender, and income where possible, in the areas of housing, economic opportunity, health, education, safety, transportation, and arts & culture.
As in most communities across the United States, people of color fare worse on these indicators than whites. Since the completion of the equity profile, the City Council has explicitly added equity to its mission and vision statements and has infused equity into the conversation to update the City’s Comprehensive Plan. At the administrative level, the City has established several cross-departmental equity teams. Finally, the City has set forth guidance in the form of four organization-wide equity goals, with associated objectives and guiding principles for advancing racial equity. These form the basis of each department’s equity plan around the four goal areas: 1) advance equity through workforce recruitment and retention efforts; 2) advance equity through grant, contract, and purchased services agreements; 3) advance equity through service delivery and community engagement; and 4) advance equity through collective impact partnerships. City Council members, commissioners, and city staff in Police, Housing, Planning, Human Rights and the City Manager’s Office have attended four hours of training in each of the past five years related to racial equity in Dubuque, with a particular focus on structural nature of racial inequities in housing. Each of these departments, along with the Public Works Department, has developed an equity plan for their department.
Each year, three additional departments participate in a self-assessment process and identify equity leaders in their department. These leaders then begin to work on an equity plan for their department with the support of the equity teams. Successes and lessons learned are shared out as part of Leadership Team meetings, where we have a standing “Equity FYI” agenda item each month. We have begun to normalize conversations around race and are in the beginning stages of applying an equity lens to projects using our racial equity toolkit. We know that long term change will require embedding a racial equity analysis within departments across the organization, while also continually evaluating and adjusting our work to bring us closer to realizing more equitable outcomes.
Kelly Larson, Human Rights Department
City of Dubuque