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Community Relations Committee Update

A little over one year into its formation, and the Community Relations Committee (CRC) is starting to build some momentum in its efforts to support UA as a welcoming community for all. The CRC held its first meeting on October 22, 2020. For the balance of 2020, the Committee worked to further define its role and mission. In early 2021, the CRC divided its work into three areas of concentration:

  • City Operations: Working with the Administration to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within the City’s operations. This includes police community relations.
  • Improving From Within: Highlighting the diversity of our community today and supporting the diverse individuals and communities that already exist within Upper Arlington.
  • Improving From the Outside: Finding new and improved ways to encourage more people to consider Upper Arlington as a place to live, operate a business, work or visit.

Over the course of 2021, the CRC advised the City on making some notable improvements to internal operations and police community outreach.

  • The City revised several key aspects of its hiring process, requiring that all positions be posted openly, even if strong internal candidates exist, with applications and resumes stripped of any identifying information during the initial screening process.
  • Recruitment materials have been enhanced to emphasize the value of a diverse workforce, with a series of recruitment videos developed in support of the City’s hiring goals.
  • Members of the Police Division have become CRC meeting regulars, speaking with the Committee on multiple occasions to discuss key elements of our policing policies and procedures, including hiring and evaluation processes, use of force policies, body worn cameras, criteria for traffic stops, the division’s complaint policy, and race-based statistical analysis. These discussions led directly to a community training that is focused on providing information on these topics for busy residents who care about these issues.

In 2021, the CRC made good progress in its efforts to highlight and support Upper Arlington’s existing diverse communities.

  • uacommunityrelations.com – A Community Relations website has been launched to serve as a depository for the work of the Committee as well as providing useful resources for the community.
  • The Committee’s feedback led to the City working with the UA Public Library to develop an annual community calendar of cultural and religious observances, which is expected to launch early in 2022.
  • The City has taken a more expansive approach to recognizing cultural celebrations and observances in Upper Arlington and more generally with guidance from the Committee.
  • Where appropriate, the Committee has worked with City Council and other community organizations to support communities within Upper Arlington when there have been concerns about safety based on events inside or outside of UA.

To effectively make Upper Arlington more accessible to visitors and to expand its appeal to prospective new residents, the Committee determined that more information is needed relative to existing perceptions about Upper Arlington. The Committee is helping the City Manager’s Office with a contract to survey our residents – especially those who are newer to the community – about their experiences choosing UA and becoming part of the community.

Goals for 2022
Beginning in August 2021, the City Manager’s Office and the CRC began developing a grant program for community organizations to work on moving the mission of the CRC forward. In early 2022, the City will release a request for proposals to implement programs in UA that are focused on:

  1. Increasing UA residents’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of diversity within UA and throughout Central Ohio.
  2. Increasing the number, type and quality of positive interactions by non-residents with the UA community.
  3. Increasing the sense of belonging and inclusion of all UA citizens, with special focus on non-majority residents and those without pre-existing connections to UA.

The expectation is that the City will provide grants of up to $15,000 in support of the development of new programs that fulfill one or more of the above listed goals.

Members of the CRC believe that this grant program represents an opportunity for a huge leap forward in achieving the charge that Council set out for the Committee, promising to engage community members and organizations. The Committee and the City Administration both view the 2022 grant cycle as a pilot year, and we are anxious to learn from our successes and failures through the process.

Additionally, the findings of the City’s research with newer residents about their experience becoming part of the UA community will likely lead to an additional set of priorities and potential programs. The Committee also anticipates wanting to test some of the initial research findings with populations outside our community.

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