By EMMA BARTLETT Eight months ago, Cranston City Council overrode Mayor Ken Hopkins' veto to establish a diversity commission within the city - today, the commission waits on One Cranston Health Equity Zone to fill the last committee member seat. Daniel
Eight months ago, Cranston City Council overrode Mayor Ken Hopkins’ veto to establish a diversity commission within the city – today, the commission waits on One Cranston Health Equity Zone to fill the last committee member seat. Daniel Parrillo, the city personnel director who serves as the committee’s chair, said One Cranston will reach out to him with their appointment this week. The diversity commission intends to have an introductory meeting this February after the selection process is complete.
Former Council President Michael Farina introduced the diversity commission as a resolution in 2019. The resolution’s goal was to create an advisory board of individuals to give advice on how the city could better reflect diversity, inclusiveness and equality in city policies and departments. The resolution, however, did not give the committee permanency, causing the City Council to sponsor an ordinance in 2021 that would make the commission permanent.
The commission would be composed of two council members of the council majority and minority, two public safety members, one member of the local NAACP, one member appointed by the head of One Cranston Health Equity Zone and the city personnel director; it is expected to have a total of nine members on this committee.
The eight members are: Daniel Parrillo (Personnel Director and Chair), Major Todd Patalano (Cranston Police), Chief Jim Warren (Cranston Fire), James Vincent (NAACP), Derik Tutt and Donald Roach Jr. (council majority) and Noako Shibusawa and Mathew Buchanan (council minority); the ninth member remains unnamed at this time. Each will serve three-year terms that are set to expire in 2023 and 2024.
The City Council received an update on the diversity commission Jan. 24 when Councilwoman Aniece Germain asked why they had not heard anything from the commission since its establishment back in May.
“There are a lot of things that could be done,” said Germain.
Parrillo explained that after the diversity commission’s establishment, the first member was not appointed until August 23. Two more members were added on September 27, and the last appointment was made on October 25. No time frame had been given for the appointments, resulting in the lengthy selection period.
Once the commission meets, their advising will begin. Parrillo said the mayor would like to see more training and that the last commission had some training at the library that was paid through the Rhode Island Foundation. Since the city has 615 employees, it can be difficult to give everyone the same training all at once, so the training may occur over a period of time. The diversity committee’s budget from last year was $10,000.
“$10,000 is nothing when it comes to training,” Germain said.
Germain specified the importance of training and how education is key.
“I believe that when you learn something you’ll improve the way you see things,” Germain said. “We are a really diverse city and we need to show that in everything we do.”
The past commission had success by focusing on diversity in the hiring process for police and fire. The council worked on eliminating the EMT-C cardiac certification as a pre-employment requirement for new Fire Department hires, which can now be obtained on a post-employment basis. In the last class of fifteen candidates, five were minority hires.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s initiatives and seeing what the new members bring to the table,” said Parrillo.
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