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Winter Garden city commission unanimously passes first diversity resolution

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Norine Dworkin


Friday, June 24, 2022


"It takes all of us to make Winter Garden great. I’m very proud of everyone," said District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller of the unanimous vote to pass the diversity resolution at the city commission's June 23 meeting.

The Winter Garden City Commission Thursday night voted unanimously to adopt the city’s first diversity, equity and inclusion statement (DEI).

“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,” the statement, known as Resolution 22-08, reads, in part.

It was presented by City Manager Jon Williams as the last agenda item at the end of a short commission meeting that also saw a MAGA Republican candidate for Congress — a reference to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — give a stump speech, introducing herself as an alternative to Republican incumbent Rep. Daniel Webster in the newly created District 11. (The primary election is Aug. 23.)

The DEI statement was drafted in response to Winter Garden resident Joseph Richardson’s request that the city publicly stand up for its LGBTQ+ citizens in the face of the Florida’s controversial "Don’t Say Gay" law. The commission balked at singling out one group, opting instead for a broader unity statement.

“We tried to do something that was for everyone,” Mayor John Rees told VoxPopuli after the meeting. While June is Pride Month, the vote was coincidental, Williams emailed VoxPopuli later.

There was a slight change in wording before the commission voted. The DEI statement initially included the words “diversity, equity and inclusion.” However, District 1 Commissioner Lisa Bennett asked to change “equity” to “equality.”

“Equality more clearly defines our objectives,” Bennett told the commission.

“I like that idea,” responded District 4 Commissioner Colin Sharman.

Commissioner Mark Maciel, who represents District 3, nodded in agreement.

After the meeting, Bennett clarified her reasoning to VoxPopuli, saying, “Equity is hard to quantify for me, where equality is more descriptive.”

The word swap subtly changes the meaning of the statement. Equality is defined as giving all citizens equal access to the same resources. Equity is defined as giving citizens the resources that they need in order to achieve an equal outcome for everyone. Far-right web sites, like RAIR Foundation USA, claim  “equity” as something of a communist dog whistle.

Even with the word change, District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller, who shepherded the resolution through to a vote, said he was proud of the statment the commission produced. "It takes all of us to make Winter Garden great. I’m very proud of everyone.”

Rees took the resolution in stride. “I think it’s how we’ve been living my whole life,” said the 72-year-old mayor. “People come up to our podium, and they introduce themselves as ‘residents of Winter Garden’ and that’s it.”

Not everyone present was happy about the vote though. Laura Loomer, the Republican candidate for Congressional District 11 who had given her speech just a few moments before the vote, provided this statement to VoxPopuli Friday morning:

“I know I speak for the majority when I say I do not support the resolution that was passed by the Winter Garden City Commission last night. I do not support the ‘diversity and inclusion’ resolution precisely for the fact that it was born out of a lie and a distortion of reality regarding recent legislation in Florida that serves to bolster and protect parental rights and prevent children from being sexualized by the LGBTQ+ agenda.

“There is no such thing as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Instead, the bill is called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, and its purpose was to ban the teaching of sexual topics like masturbation and pornography to children in kindergarten to third grade.

[Editor’s Note: These topics are not part of the Florida Department of Education K-3 curricula. Find Florida education standards for all grade levels here.]

“The bill doesn’t even mention the word gay, and the recent resolution passed by the Winter Garden City Commission only serves to legitimize purveyors of Fake News in the LGBTQ+ community and people who wish to push the LGBTQ+ agenda on children with disregard for parental rights. The resolution should not have been entertained by the city commission because it is a false claim that LGBTQ individuals aren’t accepted in the city of Winter Garden. The U.S. Declaration of Independence says, We the people are all created equally. We don’t need any more woke resolutions.”

[Editor’s Note: It is the preamble of the U.S. Constitution that begins “We the people of the United States…” Article 1 of the Constitution also established enslaved Black people as only 3/5 of a person in what became known as the Three-Fifths Compromise. Redressing historic wrongs is part of what DEI statements do.]

In a follow up call Friday afternoon, Loomer emphasized she’s not anti-gay, she just believes these types of resolutions are divisive. “Gay people have the same rights as everyone else,” she said. “I don’t see people being persecuted for their sexuality. I don’t see that in this country.”

[Editor’s Note: Between 2019 and 2020, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people in general jumped 16 percent, according to the FBI. Hate crimes against transgender people alone spiked 25 percent while lesbians experienced a sevenfold increase in violence. Since these numbers just reflect reported incidents, actual numbers are likely to be higher.]

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