Mayor Ballantyne Announces Plan to Make City Boards and Commissions More Inclusive

Work will focus on recruitment, the appointment process, and barriers to serving on boards and commissions

“If we want to live up to our values of equity and inclusivity, we need to break down those barriers so that our boards and commissions are representative of the wonderful diversity in our community.” ―Mayor Katjana Ballantyne

In an effort to diversify the City’s boards and commissions and provide equitable opportunity for residents to participate, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne announced plans to address barriers to serving on Somerville’s boards and commissions through a comprehensive reevaluation process that will result in both amended and new standard processes.

“There are so many ways for residents to get involved and help shape the future of Somerville, but for some, the process to join a board or commission or the logistics of serving creates barriers that keep them from participating,” said Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “If we want to live up to our values of equity and inclusivity, we need to break down those barriers so that our boards and commissions are representative of the wonderful diversity in our community.”

The plan will be rolled out in phases, with the first phase focused on initial steps to standardize inclusion best practices in the recruitment process for new appointments. In the interest of transparency and inclusion, all calls for any new board and commission members will be distributed through a range of both public digital and traditional non-digital methods, and applicants will be able to apply online or offline, such as via mail, phone, or application drop-off.  All openings will be publicized for a minimum four-week application period from the date of announcement, and extended as necessary. Unless professional experience is required by City charter or ordinance, lived experience will be considered in the appointment process. Applicants will be supported in requesting accommodations as needed. In addition to broad promotion of opportunities through the City’s many communications channels and five main languages, membership calls will also be promoted via additional City departments, including the Racial and Social Justice Department and SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs, and shared with community partners to expand reach. Membership calls will also be available in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Nepali, and, soon, Mandarin.

This approach prioritizes recruitment for new appointments to ensure boards and commissions can continue to do their critical work. Calls for new members will be sent out while additional phases of the plan are being developed. Residents will be able to find open positions listed at the following locations:

  • City-owned bulletin boards, Somerville Public Library branches, and flyers posted in other locations around the community
  • The Be Somerville website, somervillema.gov/besomerville
  • The City home page and social media channels
  • City GovTV and EdTV local access TV
  • The City’s newsletter (subscribe at somervillema.gov/newsletter)
  • Announcements sent to local media

Looking forward, the City will collect feedback from community members, as well as board and commission applicants, members, and staff about existing barriers that may prevent residents from applying for a position or accepting an appointment. This feedback will help inform future phases of work to further expand outreach methods and address identified barriers to participation.

Following the recruitment phase, the next phase of the plan will focus on standardizing the appointment process. In order to do this, the City aims to work in partnership with our boards and commissions to establish a process that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. Staff liaisons to Somerville boards and commissions will be reaching out to interested current memberships to seek any feedback or insights focusing on equity, inclusivity, efficiency, and transparency. This feedback will be vital to ensuring this process considers the specific challenges facing our current and future members. 

The ultimate goal of this work will be to implement long-term solutions to support more equitable participation across the city. Stay tuned for future updates on our next steps as we work to put equity and inclusion at the center of our appointment process.

 


The City of Somerville does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, disability or any other protected category. Auxiliary aids and services, written materials in alternative formats, and reasonable modifications in policies and procedures will be provided to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities free of charge, upon request.

Persons with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication (i.e., CART, ASL), written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures in order to access the programs, activities, and meetings of the City of Somerville should please contact Adrienne Pomeroy at 617-625-6600 x 2059 or apomeroy@somervillema.gov.