AUGUSTA — While all of Augusta’s city councilors appear to agree the city should form a diversity, equity and inclusion committee, they hold a range of opinions on how and when the city should do so.

At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle disagreed last week with councilors who said they should wait until they have a chance to undergo training on the subject so they all begin the process with the same understanding.

St. Valle said councilors can educate themselves, but it is time for the city to form a committee to work on something she said has gone unaddressed for centuries.

“This is a problem that’s been going on for 200-plus years, and for us to continue to sit on it so we can learn more. …” St. Valle said at Thursday’s City Council meeting. “I understand wanting to learn more and educate yourself so you understand the issues. I think that’s something we can do on our own. And just the implementation of getting to this point has been 10 months. And it’s 200 years late.

“So I’m of the mind I’ll continue to say we need a full committee with the support of the city of Augusta, for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and I’d like it next week.”

Four other councilors agreed to co-sponsor a proposed ordinance to create the committee at the council’s business meeting this Thursday, a week after councilors got a draft of the proposed ordinance from a lawyer.


Longtime Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti agreed a committee should be formed soon and not be held up for training. She also said it should be a formal committee, not an ad hoc committee as some councilors had suggested.

“I feel very uncomfortable living in a city and working for a city that doesn’t have a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policy,” Conti said. “So I’d like to move this. I think we have talked about it for a long time, and there’s not a lot more we can say until we start getting into it and having a permanent committee to start doing something.”

Ward 3 Councilor Michael Michaud said city councilors had received a copy of the proposed ordinance creating the committee the day before their meeting, and St. Valle and others added changes to it at that meeting.

“It just seems to be moving rather quickly, because I know we talked about having a workshop, and somebody needs to talk me through all this,” Michaud said. “I’m on the same page I just want to be able to understand everything, 110%.”

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind favored forming an ad hoc diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, committee composed of people with passion for the subject to study the issue and make recommendations to councilors. Doing so would give councilors time to become more educated on the subject while still enabling progress to be made.

“My experience in this world is if you make a mistake with a word here or there, you can really offend somebody, because we may have an inadvertent bias as a council,” Lind said. “So I’d feel more comfortable with an ad hoc committee, if there are people who have a passion for this and take the time to do research and get it done correctly.”

City Manager Susan Robertson said she planned to have a consultant run three sessions — over three weeks — with councilors to educate them on the topic, solicit their views and set goals and objectives for a committee.

Mayor Mark O’Brien said he thought a majority of councilors had agreed it would be worthwhile to have training before they finalize an ordinance, but work could continue on a draft ordinance while the training takes place. O’Brien said this process would allow councilors to know what is expected of the committee.

St. Valle said she had spoken with officials from municipalities that have formed committees on diversity, equity and inclusion, including Bangor, at a recent Maine Municipal Association conference. She said the officials advised it important to get a committee started, and “some version of a committee is better than none.”

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