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De Pere council looks at equity and inclusion survey

By Rich Palzewic
Staff Writer

DE PERE – At its Tuesday, Oct. 20, virtual meeting, the De Pere Common Council discussed the results of the community equity and inclusion survey.

The survey, conducted by Polco, was in response to recent national calls for racial justice, inclusivity and equity for historically oppressed peoples.

The questionnaire included questions about safety, fairness, respect and how welcoming residents feel inside their communities.

As part of our (meeting) agenda packet, the results are available (see page 304), but we haven’t posted them on social media or our website yet,” said Larry Delo, city administrator. “After discussions with the mayor (James Boyd), we agreed we should go forward with the survey. It was simply used to see if there was something we could gain some insight on.”

The city posted the equity and inclusion survey on its Polco platform (an online civic engagement platform) July 26 and received responses through Aug. 25.

A total of 279 responses were gathered during that time.

“Because this was not a scientific study, I’m not sure what value we have in reviewing the results and even understanding them,” said Alder Dean Raasch. “Because it wasn’t statistically accurate and not something we tried to garner some real detail with, I’m concerned the information could be used to make De Pere look like something we are or aren’t.”

Delo said the equity and inclusion survey didn’t specifically identify where people took it from.

“We do similar surveys all the time that aren’t scientific and use the data,” he said. “We do surveys every year through the parks and recreation department.”

Raasch said comparing a park and recreation survey to this one is different.

“Asking about playground equipment and baseball fields have a less divisive impact on the city compared to this survey,” he said. “I’m not saying the results of this survey were good or bad – I think they were good – but again, I’m simply concerned the information can be misconstrued.”

The survey results showed 61 percent of the respondents said De Pere makes all its residents feel welcome with a good or excellent rating.

Delo said a few areas stood out to him.

“Forty-five percent of the people gave us a good or excellent rating in regards to the city doing a good job of attracting people with diverse backgrounds,” he said. “Forty-seven percent said the city does a poor or fair job of that. That doesn’t surprise me too much because De Pere’s population is 90 percent white-Caucasian if I remember correctly. Another area is regarding lower-income people and how welcoming the city is for that. Again, that’s not a real surprise with housing and how much it costs to live in De Pere.”

Alder Kelly Ruh said she was concerned with how the survey might not have reached as many people as it should have.

“My parents, who are in their 70s, don’t go on Facebook much, don’t have Instagram and don’t go to the city’s website unless they need something,” she said. “I asked my parents about it, and they didn’t know about it. When sharing the results, we need to be mindful the results are skewed. We may have missed a large segment of the population who live here. This survey also got out in other Facebook groups, so I’m also concerned some people might have taken it without ever setting foot in De Pere.”

Delo said local media also announced the survey.

“If we are trying to get information out, we used the same avenues we always do,” he said.

Boyd also said he didn’t find the sampling size discouraging.

“You always want to reach everybody, but it’s impossible,” he said. “I find the survey results quite good.”

In other action, the council approved establishing salaries for elected officials.

Boyd’s salary for 2020 is $25,112, and that will increase by about $500 during 2021.

The council approved a mayoral salary of $26,126 for 2022 and $26,649 for 2023.

Alderpersons currently make about $7,200 per year, but that will increase to $7,639 by 2023.

The raises for the mayor and the alderpersons equate to a 2-percent yearly increase.

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