To the editor:

Recently the Columbia Heights City Council selected new members of city commissions. These commissions serve to act as voices of the people, representing a wide swath of gender, culture, race, sexual orientation, etc. from within the city population, at least in theory. Results of commission appointments were mixed, at best.

Among the candidates was the family member of another person already appointed to one of the commissions (and a personal friend of a council member), chosen above other applicants. This, though legal, is unethical, being that there were many qualified applicants that should have been given more weight for diversity’s sake.

Also, racial diversity is clearly undesirable to some council members. The Parks commission had a local soccer coach apply, one who is very active in our community. He was of East African background and represented an opportunity to add needed diversity to the commissions, but instead was denied in favor of a less qualified white man. This has happened before; recently a Somali businessman applied for the Planning Commission but was passed up to appoint a family member of a councilman. There are apparently no African American people on commissions currently.

If anyone would like to view the City Council discussion regarding the selection of the latest appointees, you can’t. Though the meeting was an open public work session, it was not recorded. In a time of COVID, this is disappointing and unethical

Our city, while seeing improvement regarding visibility of its diverse residents, still has a long way to go. It was heartening to see Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula and Council Member Connie Buesgens try to bring more diverse appointees, but sadly, those who are fighting to keep the old-boys clubs and/or white majority intact won out, but that can change in the future. The next elections are closer than you think. We, the people of Heights, have the power to ensure that ALL voices are heard, not just the “traditional majority.” We’ll continue the fight. Our city deserves true representation of its diverse population.

Andy Newton

Columbia Heights

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