Maybe it’s the holidays, but lately, I have been thinking about what brings people together. What bonds together a family, let alone a community? At times our world can seem more and more divided. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I try to be optimistic even when things seem difficult. With that in mind, I started thinking about some of how we have been intentional about bringing people together. Instances where we have made accommodations, became more inclusive, and even how you can be a part of that effort in our community or maybe your organization.
Sioux City is a beautifully diverse community. Maybe you have noticed that diversity at work, church, community events, or perhaps you have tried one of our amazing ethnic restaurants. While acknowledging our diversity may be easy, during the Black Lives Matter protests, it was clear that a concerted effort was needed to make sure that people from many minority groups felt their voice and interests would be heard at City Hall. With that in mind, members of the City Council, community members, and city staff began brainstorming what we could do to improve our communication and inclusivity. As a result of those conversations, an inclusivity advisory committee was established with representation from a number of marginalized populations including LGBTQ+, NAACP, Native American, Latinx, and others. Additionally, an inclusivity liaison was hired to champion these efforts within City Hall and throughout our community. You may have even been introduced to her in this publication!
There also has been an effort to update our policies and ordinances. In 2008, the City Council, in an act of opposition to the state legalizing gay marriage, passed an ordinance stating that the City of Sioux City would only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. This ordinance was unenforceable, went against state law, and only stoked division. Therefore, in September 2021, that ordinance was rescinded.
Measures were also taken to provide accommodations. A grant was pursued and received to provide a lactation room in City Hall that would allow nursing mothers intentional space and privacy. In some of our parks, sidewalks were extended to shelter houses so that those using wheelchairs or have other mobility challenges can use the picnic tables and shelters without having to go through the grass. In addition to sidewalks and trails, accessible workout equipment was included in the amenities being added to the riverfront.
More and more organizations are having conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It has been my experience on the City Council that the more voices represented, and opinions shared, the better the outcome. I urge you to consider joining a city board or commission, attend a community event, or ask how your company could be more inclusive. These are things that will make us stronger as a community and make sure that marginalized voices are heard and that everyone has a seat at the table.
By Alex Watters