Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
GRAND RAPIDS August 27, 2015– The city of Grand Rapids currently has 27 vacancies on 11 of its city-wide boards and commissions, and has launched an effort to fill those vacancies while bringing a new level of diversity to the boards. The Kent-Ionia Labor Council sees this as the perfect opportunity for union members to step forward and participate in the governance of their city.
“As you know, organized labor needs more union members in leadership positions at all levels of government,” said KICLC President Sean Egan (IBEW 275). “This is the perfect opportunity to make that happen here in Grand Rapids.
“Whether someone just wants to give labor a greater voice within the city, or they have larger political ambitions, filling these vacancies with men and women from the labor community is a critical step toward ensuring our voices are heard in our government and toward building a strong middle class.”
As reported in today’s MLive/Grand Rapids Press, the demographic make-up of the city’s boards does not accurately represent the city’s population. City leaders are hoping to fill current vacancies with more female and non-white candidates.
Though less than 49 percent of Grand Rapids residents are male, men make up two-thirds of the city’s 36 volunteer boards and commissions. And while 59 percent of Grand Rapids residents are non-Hispanic whites, about 81 percent of the people who serve on the appointed volunteer boards are white.
Racial and ethnic minorities make up 19 percent of the boards and commissions, filling 52 of 277 seats.
The boards collectively have 27 current openings, leaving a vacancy rate of 9 percent. The city wants to fill those slots, preferably with volunteers who diversify the membership ranks.
For example, the Vital Streets Oversight Commission, which has five vacancies, currently is 80 percent white and 65 percent male. Ethnic minorities make up 44 percent of the Housing Appeals Board, which has three vacancies, but women make up just 11 percent of the membership.
“It’s only half of what we need to mirror and reflect the population of Grand Rapids,” Second Ward City Commissioner Ruth Kelly, told the Grand Rapids Press. “It’s always good to have a diversity of thinking.”
The city also wants young people, and residents from all three wards, to apply.
“It’s not just minority representation. We’re looking at representation as a whole (including gender, age and ward representation),” Patti Caudill, director of the city’s office of diversity and inclusion, told the Grand Rapids Press. “We’re always looking to add those diverse voices to our boards and commissions.”
For a list of board vacancies and the demographic and geographic breakdown of those boards and commissions, click here.