Winter Garden City Commission to vote on first diversity, equity and inclusion statement during Pride Month
Thursday, June 23, 2022
courtesy of Institute for World Politics
On Thursday, Winter Garden's city commission will vote on a resolution stating that "hate, racial injustice, discrimination of any kind, and the politics of division, including social marginalization, will have no place in our City."
Winter Garden, once one of Orange County’s largest hubs for Ku Klux Klan activity and membership, is poised to adopt its first diversity, equity and inclusion resolution (DEI). And it's doing it during Gay Pride Month.
The DEI statement is listed as Resolution 22-08 on the June 23 city commission meeting agenda under “Matters from the City Manager.” It was developed in response to a request by Joseph Richardson, a Winter Garden resident and VoxPopuli advisory board member. During the public comment period of the March 10 city commission meeting, he asked that the commission issue “a statement or resolution … that would affirm this city’s recognition of our LGBTQ population as full citizens” because of the fear and uncertainty engendered by the Don’t Say Gay bill (now law).
“Whether one is for or against this bill, I hope that an acceptance of our LGBTQ citizens is shared by the leaders of this city,” Richardson said at the time.
At subsequent meetings, the commission indicated it was opposed to focusing on a specific group, and opted instead for a broader statement of unity. Still, the timing appears significant.
“I’m very proud of it,” said District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller, who was instrumental in moving the resolution forward, in an interview Wednesday, adding that one could draw their own conclusions about the timing of the statement. “We’re making a statement that talks about how we are ‘one Winter Garden.’”
However, Richardson, said the resolution was “welcome but disappointing” in a text message Wednesday to VoxPopuli.
“It could easily have been a lot stronger,” he wrote. “It was prompted by my request for the city to affirm that LGBTQ citizens are full citizens of Winter Garden during the hype around Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill. But it doesn't mention the LGBTQ community, and it's not clear that this resolution will be heartening to them.
“Further, the idea that the city ALWAYS HAS and will continue to uphold the inherent dignity and right of all people to have equitable access, opportunity, and participation in their city is simply false," he continued.
"This city, like many others, perpetuated discrimination against Blacks in its history and continues to limit access to the invocations that open city commission meetings among other things. My brief discussions this evening with traditionally marginalized community members seem to affirm these comments. It's almost as if Winter Garden, like Florida, doesn't want to say gay. Or Black. Or atheist.”
Here is the full resolution text to be voted on on June 23:
WHEREAS, the City of Winter Garden recognizes that diversity is an integral part of our culture, history, and identity; and
WHEREAS, the City finds diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to a thriving community; and
WHEREAS, diversity is about the unifying power of the collective and the invaluable benefits that different perspectives will have on our future.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF WINTER GARDEN, FLORIDA:
Section 1. Adoption of Representations. The foregoing “Whereas” clauses are hereby ratified and confirmed as being true and the same are hereby made a specific part of this Resolution.
Section 2. Recognition of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The City hereby adopts the following statement in recognition of the City’s continuing dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion: The City of Winter Garden always has and will continue to uphold the inherent dignity and right of all people to have equitable access, opportunity, and participation in their city. The City of Winter Garden is dedicated to creating a safe environment where hate, racial injustice, discrimination of any kind, and the politics of division, including social marginalization, will have no place in our City. In both serving and governing, the City of Winter Garden will lead in these values and encourage all citizens of our beloved community to do likewise.