Hudson council considers funding to support DEI program

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Hudson Town Hall. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

HUDSON — Should taxpayer money be used to support a diversity, equity and inclusion program in the community?

City council members were divided on the answer to that question when they discussed a proposal offered by council member Kate Schlademan (Ward 1) during Tuesday's workshop.

Schlademan proposed that the city provide up to $50,000 in funding to the Hudson Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance, which has been working on bringing in an organization to help facilitate community dialogues on DEI issues.

"I would hope that we could come together as a council and as a community and address these concerns," Schlademan said.

A proposal to provide funding to Hudson DEI Alliance will be on council's legislative agenda for a first reading on June 15. On Thursday, Schlademan said the legislation was still being crafted and the amount of funding requested may be different than the initial suggestion of $50,000.

Some recent events have prompted city leaders to reflect on how the municipality should address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. A story about Hudson American Legion and Hudson American Legion Auxiliary leaders turning down the microphone of a veteran as he spoke at a Memorial Day ceremony about Black Americans' role in the holiday garnered national attention. The Hudson City School District reported it was investigating an incident in which high school students were making racial and homophobic comments on a video game app.

"I feel like our community needs to find a way forward, and I've been hearing from a lot of constituents that we need to start having dialogues that are effective and open," Schlademan said. 

Council members who supported the proposal said they felt it was a way for legislators to take on a leadership role, while opponents said they believed it was not appropriate to use tax dollars to fund the Hudson DEI Alliance. 

Council member Nicole Kowalski (at large) noted people often turn to their leaders for direction during challenging times.

"I believe that our leadership on this is imperative," said Kowalski. "It is something we really need to address… why not try? … I don't see why we can't try and I don't see why we can't start somewhere."

Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2) said he felt the proposal was "beyond the reasonable expectation of what a city council should be investing its money in."

He noted that if the Hudson DEI Alliance offers a program through the school or community, he emphasized the effort needs to "be wildly transparent."

Noting there are multiple local groups addressing DEI issues, council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) questioned what the city could do that these groups were not doing.

"I don't know that taxpayer funds need to be spent to try and alter behavior or change ideas," Bigham said. 

Council president Bill Wooldredge (at large) countered he felt legislators should back funding the DEI effort.

"I know it's not the role of government to do a lot of this, but I do feel that we as a council,… need to step up and do something," Wooldredge stated.

Wooldredge relayed that council member Hal DeSaussure (at large) — who was absent from Tuesday's meeting — told him he supported the action, too.

Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) stated he supported the mission, but not the implementation, and said he felt the school district or the library would be a "better partner" for the initiative.

"It just feels like throwing money at a problem so that we can say we did something," Sutton said.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.