AUBURN — The City Council is poised to adopt a citywide equity policy this week, which would establish a set of goals to guide the work of Auburn policymakers.

The policy stems from months of work between the cities of Lewiston and Auburn and a local coalition, City Spirit L/A. The coalition developed an equity statement that commits the cities to addressing inequity and building a community “where people of all cultures and identities can thrive.”

According to City Manager Phil Crowell, the vote Tuesday will accept the equity statement and establish a policy “to put the statement into action.”

Crowell is among several officials from both cities who have been members of City Spirit L/A since its initial formation in 2018.

An Auburn City Council memo said the policy will “define expectations for consideration of racial and social equity, and in particular, meaningful community involvement when planning, developing, and implementing policies, practices, and initiatives.”

Among the equity goals listed on the draft policy are “have a workforce broadly reflective of the community;” “identify and address barriers within organizational systems;” “attract and retain a talented workforce skilled at working in an inclusive and respectful manner with one another and with the community;” and “create processes, policies, programs and services that meet the diverse needs of those we serve.”

Mayor Jason Levesque said the city wanted to go “a step further” with its adoption of an equity policy in order to have a framework of how it would be implemented going forward.

The council memo states that the council is directing the city manager to develop and implement a staff policy and guidance on equity and inclusion “to ensure the (equity) statement is incorporated into city management.”

Lewiston officials adopted the equity statement in early April after the City Council had initially delayed the decision pending a legal review. Several councilors argued that a legal review for the statement was unnecessary.

The statement was crafted along with human rights nonprofit Mindbridge during a public process that began in June 2020 and included workshops and focus groups. The statement saw six drafts, then went to the public for feedback in November.

Mindbridge, based in Portland, helps municipalities implement equity plans and conducts trainings on implicit bias, among other services. The organization was hired through a grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.

Fatuma Hussein, executive director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, presented the details on the statement to both city councils in March.

Hussein, an Auburn resident, told Auburn officials that she’s proud of the work, and that the statement can signal that Auburn “embraces all people,” and “ensures that people thrive.”

Following the initial presentation in March, Levesque said he believed Auburn officials needed more time to discuss the statement, adding he’d like to look at “some concrete examples that informed some of this equity statement.”

No additional council workshops have been held on the topic.

Lewiston officials have looked to City Spirit L/A as an outlet to continue citywide conversations on equity, after Mayor Mark Cayer’s ad hoc committee on equity and diversity handed over a set of recommendations to the City Council.

According to the Auburn memo, equity statements “provide a common foundation that commits cities to the healing of inequality and discrimination.”

In Auburn, the proposed policy will also incorporate the Equity and Inclusion Tool Kit made available for municipalities by the International Association of City/County Managers.

“ICMA recognized local governments must consider issues of equity and inclusion that go beyond race, ethnicity, and gender and include variations in age, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, educational attainment, immigration status, and community size,” it states.

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