Ellensburg City Council is in the works of combating local racism and discrimination


Bruce Tabb

Star Diavolikis, Senior Reporter

The Ellensburg City Council is currently working on creating a commission dedicated to inclusion, diversity and equity, but it may not be established until late spring. Beginning in July 2020, a subcommittee consisting of Ellensburg Mayor Bruce Tabb and city council members Nancy Goodloe and Nancy Lillquist went on a hybrid virtual and in-person “listening tour.” This tour was for the committee to listen to discriminatory or racist experiences Ellensburg community members have faced, and kickstarted the city council’s efforts to combat local racism and discrimination.

“I think when we started, we weren’t sure what kind of responses we were gonna get,” Goodloe said. “As it turned out, we got some very positive ones but we also heard some stories that were disturbing; there were some that were hard to hear just for the fact of what happened to folks. Almost every night after we finished, after we [had] done a listening tour, none of us slept very well.”

Tabb said these racist experiences are very different from how white community members may be treated in their daily lives, which is why these listening tours were hosted so they could plan a course of action. He said one experience he heard was that a student of color was nervous during a traffic stop due to the cop’s behavior towards them.

“It was overwhelming … When I get in my car, I don’t have to go out with the thought of fear. One of the experiences people had was [something] I don’t experience as a white person in this community,” Tabb said.

Goodloe said the subcommittee provided a recommendation to the city council to form a city commission on diversity, equity and inclusion. This recommendation was approved, so currently the council is going through the city’s mandated process to get the commission in place. This requires an ordinance.

This initiative is called Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. On the Ellensburg City Council website, there is a description of this initiative and their founding pillars. These founding pillars are listed as “Ellensburg cares,” “There are long-standing concerns about the treatment of people based on how they look, speak, or act, not by whom they are as a person” and “We can do better.”

The ordinance has been worked on with the city attorney, and a draft will be presented in February’s council meeting. This presentation will be open to discussion, public input and questions.

“There will be notes of all of those things, and [the] council will decide what changes they want to make to the original draft to the ordinance,” Goodloe said. “Or, they might hear things they want to include in that ordinance, they may take some things out of the ordinance. The ordinance itself describes the commission, how many members, what their duties and responsibilities are gonna be, their terms of service on the commission [and] how they’re appointed.”

After any edits to the ordinance are completed, it will be presented again for consideration.

“Once that hearing is conducted, then we go to the next meeting of council which will be the first meeting in March, and that’s where we’ll conduct [a] second reading,” Goodloe said. “And if [city] council approves the ordinance on [the] second reading, that gives us the green light to start advertising for the commission for people who would like to be on the diversity, equity and inclusion commission.”

Goodloe said there will be an application process to be on the commission, and the city council will hopefully have selected members by April.

“We will have a commission by May for sure, if everything goes like I’ve described,” Goodloe said.

Both Tabb and Goodloe gave the same idea that it will still be a few months until locals see a solid commission put together for the community.

“It’s gonna take a while before we actually see anything on the ground so to speak, [before] it’s really visible,” Goodloe said. “That indicates we have a focused effort going on in this community to address these issues.”

There were calls to schools, businesses and the CWU campus to share findings from the listening tours. The subcommittee has met with the local school district, sharing what discriminatory experiences they heard about from community members while on the listening tour. The school district is interested in collaborating with the city council, and Goodloe hopes they will be collaborating with CWU, Chamber of Commerce and the Ellensburg Downtown Association.

“[CWU] has a lot going on in terms of diversity on the campus and they are interested in working closely with us in the future,” Goodloe said.

Tabb said as of now, there is not much city officials can do or have done for racist and discriminatory remarks. Currently, the main effort is Ellensburg police watching social media feeds in case hate groups attempt to plan an event through social media. He said there is not much that can be done about the white nationalist group that left propaganda on CWU’s campus over winter break as they have their right to freedom of speech.

“The challenge that we have in this country right now is that as long as they’re within legal boundaries, there’s a right to free speech,” Tabb said. “It’s not clear what we can or cannot do other than ignore them and not give them a platform.”

Tabb recently sent an email to certain individuals saying the city council will hold a proclamation Feb. 1 at the meeting to celebrate African American history month.