Geneva looks to form diversity task force to ensure a 'welcoming' community

Updated 10/21/2019 8:51 AM

Geneva officials say they want to make the city more welcoming for residents and visitors of all backgrounds.

The goal to be recognized as an inclusive community was among the priorities identified by residents at a community forum. As a result, the city's Strategic Plan Advisory Committee, or SPAC, is looking at developing a diversity task force.


"In forming the current strategic plan, ensuring Geneva is recognized as a welcoming community to all was a common theme heard among members of the community," SPAC Chairman Brendan Cassin said.

About a year ago, once the strategic plan was adopted, "SPAC got to work discussing the creation of a group devoted to this vision," Cassin said.

SPAC, in an advisory role, works closely with the city council and on Oct. 14 the group met with the committee of the whole. The diversity task force is still in the planning stage.

"We have to figure out what we can do with our limited resources this year," Alderman Craig Maladra said.

Ben McCready, assistant city administrator and staff liaison for SPAC, said the community forum and the survey results show residents want to make visitors feel welcome.

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"A diversity task force shows we're moving in the right direction," SPAC Vice Chairman Jill Johnson said.

Paula Merrington, a five-year Geneva resident, supports the task force idea.

"I want to see how we move forward and implement the plan," she said.

That plan still needs to be determined, Cassin said.

How the task force would function will be figured out as the group continues to research and gather feedback from the community. The task force also could tie into other areas of the strategic plan, such as housing diversity and economic health, Cassin said.

"It is important that we leave no rock unturned when conducting our research," he said.

Following the joint meeting with the council, SPAC members outlined their next steps. When the plan would begin won't be known until there is more discussion with the council, Cassin said.

"There's still some heavy lifting for this group to do," McCready said during SPAC's Oct. 16 meeting.

SPAC members will be reaching out to other communities that have some sort of diversity task force. They also will look for experts in subjects that relate to the project to learn about their experiences or "bounce ideas off them," Cassin said.


Members said they understand how significant this is for Geneva

"This is something the community wants and is going to make the community better," SPAC member David Ellett said.

"This needs to be something we can all be very proud of," Johnson said.

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