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What Does Auburn’s New Equity and Implicit Bias Program Include?


Auburn’s City Council has been discussing Resolution 5427, a resolution that would provide racial equity and implicit bias training to City of Auburn employees. When first introduced in February, the purpose of this program was explained as a “program to support Mayor Backus and her Leadership Team to systemically implement a comprehensive strategy to ensure racial equity in the City of Auburn.”

Proposing Racial Equity and Social Justice to City Council

The base justification of the resolution stemmed from reports from the “Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the McKinsey Consulting Group, which indicated that diverse cities, workplaces, and communities are more productive, innovative and prosperous if equitable policies, practices, and procedures are critical components of its landscape,” stated consultant Bernardo Ruiz’s proposal. “Despite all that makes Auburn a vibrant City, many of its residents face pervasive challenges of housing and healthcare instability, education and employment inequality and crime.”


Taking into consideration the weight of the program, and its cost, Resolution 5427 came before the council for review and continued discussion at multiple study sessions. In June the resolution was tabled during a city council meeting, putting off the vote for a month.

The New Equity and Implicit Bias Program

Resolution 5427 passed at the July 17th City Council Meeting. But it is not the same proposal as to when it was first introduced. The program, now called the Equity and Implicit Bias Program, does include much of what was included in the original proposal.  However, adjustments were made to reduce the cost of the overall cost of the program to satisfy concerns expressed by several councilmembers.

This new Equity and Implicit Bias Program will enact the development of Auburn’s inclusiveness and diversity policies and tools. This includes the inclusiveness and diversity adaptive leadership training for management teams. This training is sculpted for people who will be training new employees in the city, and staff who manage a specific area in the city. The program will also include inclusiveness and diversity training for city employees.

The city’s new program will also include strategic executive advising on inclusiveness and diversity for the Mayor, Department Directors, and leadership teams. This material will be made explicitly for Auburn’s leaders. Research, analysis, and metric development for the Auburn’s Equity and Implicit Bias Program will also be included. This is a program that will be developed for the city, so that Auburn, as a city, can be welcoming to everyone.


The Equity and Implicit Bias Program will also see the development of the city’s “Inclusiveness and Diversity Team.” This development will include training and advising during the first two years of the team’s creation, as well as the facilitating of Auburn’s “Affinity Caucusing” groups. These two groups are intended to increase the inclusiveness of Auburn by thinking of new ways to be more welcoming to people of all different cultures.

What Was Lost in the Compromise

The adjusted Equity and Implicit Bias Program loses the “Train-the-Trainer” program, which was a vital part of the program for the city. This portion of the program meant the city could further this training without having an outside contractor involved once this contract is complete.

As mentioned, another significant difference is cost. The contract went from a three-year contract of about $410,000 to a one-year contract at around $140,000 with no guarantee of a second year. The resolution was also changed so that the training would start for the 2020 City Council


Hearing from Auburn’s Residents

The resolution was passed 6-1 at the Regular July 17th City Council Meeting. Prior to the vote, several Auburn residents spoke in favor of the program during the public comment period. Resident Victoria Mena stated this program “is especially important right now, as we just saw two men of color shot by police.”

Auburn School District teacher Hanna Brenlan shared her experience of going through a similar equity training program, and the value it had. As a soon to be mother, she urged the council to unanimously vote in favor of the resolution.

Voting On Change

At the time of the vote, Councilmember Yolanda Trout-Manuel Motioned the resolution’s vote, and Councilmember Largo Wales seconded. That Wales seconded the motion surprised some, as she had been a vocal opponent to the program throughout discussions.  Wales repeatedly expressed concerns regarding cost, as well as the program being too focused on race and not addressing the disabled, veterans, or age discrimination.

Also a surprise was the admission by Trout-Manuel, a champion for the program, that she had second thoughts of voting for the resolution.  Her hesitations came from concerns over the cost and that the program was not going to start for the 2020 council. These concerns were a stark contrast to previous comments made by Trout-Manuel that cost should not matter, especially due to potential lawsuits over Racial Discrimination. The adjusted resolution significantly reduced the program’s cost, removing her concerns.

Deputy Mayor Peloza voted against the resolution saying that the council did not have enough time to review the presented revisions.  Contrary to Peloza, Wales offered her gratitude for the swiftness that Director of Human Resources and Risk Management Candis Martinson worked to see changes made to address concerns expressed by council so the resolution could be passed.

After the vote, and the resolution’s passing, the Mayor thanked everyone for how hard they worked to get this passed because this is what the city needs. The Mayor is definitely correct; this city needs racial equity.

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