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 Committee Report

Committee Report #1


In City Council May 4, 2015

Councillor Denise Simmons, Chair  
Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan  
Councillor Leland Cheung  
Councillor Marc McGovern  

The Civic Unity Committee held a public hearing on April 7, 2015 beginning 5:34 p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber.

Present at the hearing were Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Marc McGovern, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Leland Cheung, Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Robert Haas, Police Commissioner, Chris Burke, Superintendent, Chris Elow, Deputy Superintendent, Cambridge Police Department, Sheila Keady Rawson, Personnel Director, Duane Brown, Affirmative Action Director, Christina Giacobbe, Director of Emergency Communications, Michelle Farnum, Assistant Director of Children, Youth and Families, Human Services Department, Iram Farooq, Acting Deputy Director, Community Development Department, Taha Jennings, Assistant to the City Manager, Andrea Spears Jackson, Chair of the License Commission, Neal Alpert, Aide to Councillor Simmons and Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk.

Also present were Marie Killackey, Sylvia Barnes, Carol Cheung, Yola Dubois, and John Hawkinson.

Councillor Simmons convened the hearing and explained the agenda for the hearing. (Attachment A). She reminded attendees that a quorum of two committee members is required for the meeting to formally stay in session, and that the meeting would need to be adjourned at 7 pm if another member of the Civic Unity Committee did not arrive by the time that Councillor McGovern exits to attend a prior commitment at that time. She then gave opening remarks and read from a prepared statement. (Attachment B). Councillor Simmons then opened the meeting asking if anyone would like to participate in public comment at 5:42 p.m. Hearing none, public comment was closed at 5:42 p.m. Councillor Simmons introduced Richard Rossi and asked him for opening comments.

Mr. Rossi opened his remarks by providing some context and history, harkening back to hearings that were held in the summer of 2013 wherein Councillor Simmons and other councillors expressed concerns, ideas, and suggested improvements that could be made by the City in the arena of diversity and fairness. He noted that he and his staff were asked to formulate plans around these issues. Mr. Rossi explained that he and Ms. Peterson began the process by addressing all department heads to explain the goals of the administration. He explained that they reinforced the importance of fairness and equity in the workplace and urged department heads to read the book entitled Blind Spot, which speaks to the hidden biases that we all have. He asserted that this book is valuable in resonating with people and underscoring why these are good conversations to have. He stated that he directed all department heads to read the meeting minutes of previous Civic Unity Committee meetings addressing the subject of fairness and equity. He stated that department heads were urged to address workplace conflicts early, before they became larger problems. He added that when addressing department heads they stressed the key tenants of having a workforce that is culturally aware. He stated that the administration emphasized the use of diverse screening panels in the hiring process, and advised that the administration has worked with the Personnel Department on recruitment strategies. He stated that the City has increased the pool of diverse candidates in hiring. He stated that he takes every opportunity to talk to department heads about being good leaders and setting the pace on how to be a good leader and how to treat one another in the work place. He stated that as a follow-up to a previous suggestion by Councillor Simmons, he and Lisa Peterson have visited most of the city departments and spoken to staff to explain their vision of the city, as well as their expectations of city staff. He stated that they talked about diversity and what can happen when small squabbles turn into larger issues. He urged department heads to be proactive to set the pulse and tone of city departments. Mr. Rossi explained that the administration made it very clear to employees that he and the Deputy City Manager would be available to employees to meet with individual employees in the event that they felt that issues were not being dealt with appropriately in their respective department. He stated that there have been instances where he has met with employees who had concerns and, through informal procedures, they were able to resolve some issues that were troubling to the employees. Mr. Rossi noted that the City uses outside mediation when appropriate. He affirmed that there are changes being made to the Employee Handbook based on feedback from employees. Mr. Rossi noted that the administration has encouraged departments to cross train their employees at good skills development and lessons that are of value to all. He noted that exit interviews are taking place and asserted that these interviews provide valuable information.

Mr. Rossi explained that the city administration has discussed different options when thinking about promotions within the Police Department. He stated that there is now the opportunity for command staff promotional candidates to be evaluated in many areas. He stated that the basis for promotions is not only focused on what a candidate can memorize. He noted that he is working with the Police Commissioner in his efforts to make the upper leadership promotional process more meaningful with the hope that they can positively engage the unions in these discussions. Mr. Rossi stated that he was proud to read an article in the Associated Press that was published in September which stated that Cambridge was noted as one of the most racially balanced police departments in the country and the only one noted in the Northeast.

Ms. Peterson stated that building a culturally competent workforce is critical for the city's goal of delivering excellent services. She stated that ongoing training and dialogue is key. Ms. Peterson highlighted some department specific training which were new initiatives since 2013:

Department of Human Services Programs (DHSP)/Community Engagement Team. Ms. Peterson stated that this team has expanded its training. She stated that the training was designed in FY14 and piloted in FY15. She stated that a primary goal for the training is to support Cambridge in continuing to be a model for effective and culturally inclusive community engagement.

Council on Aging: Cambridge Elder Abuse Prevention Coalition. Ms. Peterson stated that the Council on Aging took the lead in convening this Coalition. She stated that it is a community based team of organizations and individuals committed to providing staff training and public education, outreach and resources to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, fraud and financial exploitation of all seniors in Cambridge. She noted that the focus is on public education regarding the notion that "Domestic Violence does not end at age 60." She stated that the Coalition will also be looking at same-sex relationship in regards to intimate partner abuse in elders.

Department of Human Services Inclusion Initiative. Ms. Peterson stated that the Inclusion Initiative, now staffed by two full-time employees, provides support for DHSP out-of-school-time programs. The addition of the second full-time employee has enabled more focused on-site coaching and modeling for staff and staff trainings on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Joint Staff Training. Ms. Peterson stated that in 2015 the full-time staff of Cambridge Youth Programs and the Cambridge Police Department Family Service and Community Relations Units participated in a joint training titled "Culturally Proficient Youth Work" facilitated by Dr. Ulric Johnson. She stated that the goals of the workshop were to build awareness and understanding of personal diversity; increase knowledge about the importance of diversity and patterns of inclusion and exclusion in organizations and the broader community; develop a common language and framework for discussing and understanding diversity, inclusion and "isms"; identify the impacts of diversity and inclusion on interpersonal communication, teamwork and organizational success and to prove an opportunity to have a shared experience and enhance relationships across the departments.

Department of Human Services Program Equity and Access Project. Ms. Peterson stated that DHSP has been engaged in a project aimed at examining DHSP's internal process and structures with the goal of increasing access to programs for low-income families and families of color not currently being served by their programs. She stated that staff workgroups have been meeting over the past two years to identify current barriers and create solutions. She stated that one group is focused on building culturally rich organizations and is looking at building out the professional development efforts including the family engagement project, OSST Symposium and program assessment tools.

Department of Human Services Program's race and culture discussions. Ms. Peterson stated that DHSP continues to engage their staff to understand the impact of race, class and culture have on the department in order to create the best possible work environment for all employees and to most fully serve the residents of Cambridge.

Department of Public Works Respect Training. Ms. Peterson stated that the Department of Public Works (DPW) has developed and implemented Respect Training for all DPW employees about creating and sustaining a respectful workplace. She noted that the Teamsters have been a collaborator and a great supporter of this effort as well. She noted that the training specifically addresses how best to handle conflict in the workplace, a commitment to addressing disrespectful behavior immediately and proportionately and the promotion of greater collaboration between the management and the union in dealing with situations as they arise throughout the organization.

Ms. Peterson stated that the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) has been on the forefront of providing training to its personnel around diversity issues, and has also promoted that training outside the sphere of its own agency. She highlighted some examples:

Police Legitimacy/Procedural Justice. Ms. Peterson stated that the CPD was among the very first agencies across the country that developed a training curriculum on Police Legitimacy/Procedural Justice. She stated that Procedural Justice does not only have an external component in terms of how Cambridge police officers treat the public, but an equally important internal component which addressed how they treat one another within the department, with the command staff setting the example.

Fair & Impartial Policing. Ms. Peterson stated that the CPD has led most other police departments in tackling the issue of implicit bias, and promoting a method of enhancing how officers recognize implicit biases that we all possess, as well as promote a greater impartiality, equity, and fairness in how the officers exercise their discretionary authority.

GLBT Training. Ms. Peterson explained that this training curriculum was developed for the entire Cambridge Police Department, and it has promoted a much greater understanding and appreciation for individuals who identify themselves as GLBT. This is an ongoing training practice that is shared with all new employees and has been introduced it to the curriculum at the regional basic recruit training program. The CPD has also introduced this training to the Cambridge Fire Department and the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department.

Supervisory Liability Training. Ms. Peterson stated that more recently, the CPD has introduced a new training block to all of the supervisory personnel which addresses their responsibility toward ensuring a workplace that is respectful to all employees. This training stresses how important it is for all supervisors to maintain a certain standard within the department that is welcoming and respectful to all employees.

Ms. Peterson stated that city wide they are working with GLBT to develop cultural competency training for municipal employees, in particular, promoting understanding and respect regarding the transgender community.

Ms. Peterson noted that as a result of the City Council expanding the training budget in FY15, the city is about to start on a new Cambridge Leadership Initiative. She explained that in its first phase, 100 senior managers in the city will undergo training to ultimately ensure cultural competency at all levels of employees. She noted that this the start of an ongoing training effort on this topic. Mr. Rossi added that this needs to be a continuing effort. He noted the importance of being willing to resolve issues before they become major issues. He added that he and Ms. Peterson attend and support the Employees Diversity Committee, and this is just one way in which they work to show employees that they care.

Duane Brown then gave a brief overview of the City's workforce as of April 2, 2015. (Attachment C). He stated that the City's workforce is comprised of 2,452 individuals. Of that figure, 35% are persons of color and 43% are female. He stated that all new hires in all categories include 51% persons of color and 54% female. He stated that there were 143 total promotions from July 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015, which include 28% persons of color and 43% female.

In response to a question from Councillor Simmons regarding the inclusion of School Department employees in this data, Mr. Brown stated that the data does not include School Department employees.

Councillor Cheung stated that he would like more detailed information regarding demographics. He stated that he would like individual statistics for the different categories and categories of employment.

Sheila Keady Rawson stated that as it relates to recruitment, there were two focus areas: recruitment of managerial staff and recruitment of public safety personnel. In terms of managerial staff, she noted that she has been charged with making sure that the workforce reflects the diversity of the city. She stated that the City has joined the Professional Development Network which looks at jobs and puts them on several culturally distinct websites including, BlackCareer Network, NAACP JobFinder,,, ProAble,net. and She stated that the city has signed up to have an e-mail campaign which will allow the city to send targeted e-mails to let people know of jobs that are available with the City of Cambridge. Ms. Keady Rawson pointed out that there were over 2,000 hits between from January through March on these sites. Ms. Keady Rawson stated that the city has joined the Commonwealth Compact which targets professionals of color who are seeking opportunities in Massachusetts. She stated that Commonwealth Compact has a resume bank wherein the city can list available jobs. She noted that the city regularly places jobs in print in publications such as the Bay State Banner and Bay Windows. She stated that social media is being utilized regularly. She added that job postings are listed on the city's website. Ms. Keady Rawson added that education jobs in the Department of Human Services Program are placed on the School Spring Network. She noted that 20% -30% of the applicants have been persons of color.

Ms. Keady Rawson stated that the Personnel Department works with specific departments such as Finance, the Cambridge Police Department, Community Development and the Department of Public Works to create internship opportunities to provide real-life work experience. She noted that this has been a great way to bring in a diverse number of students to learn about the city. The other area that they have spent a lot of time on is public safety which has been a challenge due to state restrictions. Because there is a residency preference for employment as a police officer in the city, they try to hone in on Cambridge residents who qualify. She stated that Facebook is utilized. She added that the Police Department has created a wonderful recruitment video which is on this site as well. She stated that the Police Department has partnered with the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) to get the word out to graduates of the program. She stated that the Police Department also utilizes its Resource Officers and Community Relations Officers to get the word out through various community groups. She stated that the department hosts a prep course by an independent consultant for Cambridge residents who are taking the police examination. She noted that there are 40-50 people signed up for this course, with 125 signed up for the police examination. She noted that 50% of the exam takers are persons of color and 25% are female.

Ms. Keady Rawson highlighted that the administration has been cognizant of the need to recruit and retain. She stated that the Personnel Department has been granted an additional position that will focus on recruitment, training and staff development. She noted that she is actively recruiting for that position.

Councillor McGovern stated that he and Vice Mayor Benzan recently had the pleasure of attending a performance at the high school which was centered upon the story of a mixed race woman growing up in Cambridge. At the end, many people who spoke talked about diversity and the sense of Cambridge not having issues around race and class. Councillor McGovern stated that as a former School Committee member, he has certainly seen issues around race and class, and that is one of the reasons that he appreciates these conversations. He asked Mr. Rossi about the process if an employee feels that they are being discriminated against by a supervisor or another employee. He stated that he is always worried about people feeling safe to speak up, whether their fears about speaking are based in reality or not, because certainly their perceptions are important. He stated that he has heard that people fear retribution in all places of employment. He questioned what the city does to ensure that its staff feels safe and comfortable. Mr. Rossi responded that he has made clear that there is a process in place, but if an employee does not feel comfortable with the process, they are more than welcome to meet with him or Ms. Peterson. He stated that some employees have asked that their supervisors not be made aware that they have met with him. Mr. Rossi stated that he would discipline any department head that retaliated against an employee.

Councillor McGovern asked if there a sense of how many complaints or issues there were prior to training under the current leadership. Mr. Rossi stated the importance of city employees knowing that he is available to meet with him. Mr. McGovern suggested the possibility of an anonymous survey for city staff to ensure that they feel comfortable with the system currently in place.

Councillor McGovern stated that the School Department has a goal as it relates to diverse hiring. Councillor Simmons added that she believes that the School Department has a 30% diverse hiring goal. Councillor McGovern stated that as it relates to training, follow-up on that training is a key factor. He asked what can be done to ensure that trainings are carried out and then become part of the culture. Ms. Peterson responded that part of the process will be to develop mechanisms to continue the training. She stated that the administration is trying to build a culture with constant reinforcement.

Vice Mayor Benzan stated that while recently going through his files at home he came across six letters from the City of Cambridge dating back to 1996 indicating that he did not get a job that he had applied for. He stated that it is incredibly difficult to become employed by the City of Cambridge. He noted that there is a lot of frustration in the community as it relates to not being able to find employment with the city, especially if the applicants are qualified, former students, etc. He stated that there are people who are competent and could be excellent employees, but that these people can't get their foot in the door. He stated that much of his work on the City Council consists of trying to create as many opportunities as possible. He stated that when we put people of color in management positions, they oftentimes find themselves under attack. He questioned if more is expected of them. He stated the importance of ensuring that the city hires persons of color and that they feel supported in their positions. He stated that as it relates to protective services, seeing more people of color in high ranking positions is very important. He stated that the command staff has to reflect the community it serves. He stated that his hope is that Mr. Rossi has taken the steps to ensure that people feel comfortable speaking with him. He added that continuation of training is essential.

Councillor Simmons stated that when thinking about why we have the Civic Unity Committee meetings, what can we learn from what happened in the Monteiro case with the view of trying not to replicate that type of situation again. She stated that this came at the same time that the Executive Department was undergoing transition. She stated that the goal is to learn how to become the Cambridge, the tolerant and progressive community that we say we are. She stated that it is not enough to have diversity, you have to have embedded in the idea of diversity that people feel valued. She said that, even within the Sullivan Chamber during this meeting, there was a diverse group of people, but that this outward diversity was not sufficient, because we might not all feel that we are being treated fairly in our roles. She asked how the city can develop well thought out plans, with measureable goals, to develop an open, fair, and diverse workforce. She stated that it is important to figure out what the city is trying to achieve, and to have an objective, measurable way of determining if we are meeting our ultimate goals. She explained that these conversations are moving toward finding a mission statement that all city departments adhere to. She acknowledged the fact that Mr. Rossi and city leadership have done the type of extraordinary outreach that has not been done in the past. Yet she also stated that this will not be easy work because fairness is very hard to do. She noted the importance of changing the cultural DNA if we are going to be the model that we want to be. She stated that every department, every department head, and even the City Council should receive diversity and cultural competency training.

Councillor Simmons affirmed that strides have been made. She applauded the Department of Human Services Program, the Cambridge Police Department, and the Department of Public Works. She added that diversity has to be a systemic approach. Councillor Simmons noted that the Department of Human Services Program is the most multi-cultural department in the city in terms of people of color.

Councillor Simmons stated that the work of diversifying and increasing fairness must be clear, transparent, ordinary and regular. Mr. Rossi stated the leadership team meets monthly and they in turn share information with their respective department.

Councillor Simmons stated that some questions that need to be answered at the next meeting include:

What is the change we are trying to have?

What is the problem we are trying to solve?

What are some of our best practices?

What do we need to improve?

How do we get there?

How do we maintain it?

Councillor Simmons stated that she would like development of a plan to get to a positive end place. She stated that she would like to hear more about Executive Training. She stated that it is extraordinary that Mr. Rossi and Ms. Peterson have made themselves available to employees, but she stated that some people still have fear and trepidation about exercising the option to speak with them. Councillor Simmons stated that an employee advisory committee that would report to the City Manager could be beneficial. She stated that she looks forward to further discussion on this important topic. She stated that the environment does not get sick overnight, and it will not get healed overnight. She stated the need for clear guidelines and the need for a shared vision and commitment.

Vice Mayor Benzan stated that it is a struggle to get more people of color across the board. He stated that while recently visiting Boston City Hall, he was in five different departments and these departments were not a reflection of the communities in Boston. He would like to see the City committed to going out into the community telling residents that they can work for the City if you prepare for our workforce. He stated the need to send positive messages to the community. He asserted that if the City is out front with a positive message, more people will want to apply. He stated that yes, the City of Cambridge wants the very best employees, but that we most likely have these people living right here in Cambridge. He stated that when attending a 2024 Olympic meeting with Mr. Rossi, there was a large group of men in attendance. He explained that there were only four men of color in attendance at that meeting. He pointed out that the problems that we are facing in the city are also problems in other areas of society.

Councillor Simmons stated that fairness is something that we have to work on. She asked Ms. Peterson when the Cambridge Leadership training will take place. Ms. Peterson responded that they are in the process of a hiring consulting firm and trainers and hope that the start of the training will take place this fiscal year. She noted that this is the start of an ongoing training program with topic areas including cultural competence and managing a diverse workforce, leadership styles, communication, consensus building and collaboration, coaching and change management. Councillor Simmons noted that she sees this as an organizational dynamic and questioned how to spread this training further. Ms. Peterson responded that this training is a first step with a goal of reaching all city employees. She noted that this is a substantial and on-going commitment.

Councillor Simmons thanked all those present for their participation.

The meeting adjourned at 7:08 p.m.

For the Committee,

Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair
Civic Unity Committee


View attached file


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