Hilltop leaders note a lack of diversity in representation

By Josephine Birdsell
Staff Writer

The Greater Hilltop Area Commission addressed a lack of racial diversity at its meeting on Aug. 4.

The discussion came after Columbus City Council’s public discussions on police demilitarization and amidst ongoing Black Lives Matter protests.

The Greater Hilltop Area Commission is made up of mostly white commissioners. There are only two members of color on the commission.

The lack of racial diversity on the commission means the commission is not fully representing the voices of Hilltop’s residents, said Rachel Wenning, commissioner.

“Racism isn’t just about racial prejudice; racism is about power: who is empowered and who is not,” said Patrick Barnacle, commissioner.

“I think we have very serious work to do as a city and as commissioners. When you look around our room here, our electronic room, you will see a group that does not accurately represent the makeup of our neighborhood. I think it’s on us to fix that,” Wenning said.

Commissioners said one way to address this issue is to promote the commission and encourage more residents to run for election.

The commission approved spending $1,000 for the purpose of promoting the commission and its work.

“If we can get the word out in the community, we may change the makeup of the commission,” said Shawn Maddox, commissioner.

The commissioners also discussed implementing diversity and implicit bias training to help them better serve Hilltop residents of color.

The city of Columbus offered implicit bias training for all neighborhood commissions in April. One commissioner from the Hilltop attended the city’s training. However, the commission intends to host an additional training for its members since most commissioners were not able to attend the city’s training.

The city of Columbus highly recommends and encourages implicit bias training and the allocation of funds for implicit bias training for commissioners, said Melissa Green, West Side Pride Center Manager.

The commissioners also discussed implementing a ‘youth seat’ on the commission to better represent young Hilltop residents. The West Scioto Area commission and the South Side Area commission both have youth seats. West Scioto’s youth seat member has the ability to vote while the South Side commission has a non-voting youth seat.

The Greater Hilltop Area Commission is open to considering all options.

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