Hermiston Wins Award for Cultural Diversity

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Cultural Diversity Award
Hermiston City Councilors Manuel Gutierrez, left, and Rod Hardin, right, along with Hispanic Advisory Committee Chairman Eddie de la Cruz came back from Washington, D.C., with the city's Cultural Diversity Award.

Hermiston was among seven cities in the nation to be honored for embracing cultural diversity.

The National League of Cities presented the city of Hermiston with the 2013 City Cultural Diversity Award during the NLC’s Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. The award was given to Hermiston on Tuesday, March 11, for its creation of a Hispanic Advisory Committee to the City Council.

The City Cultural Diversity Awards recognize municipal programs that encourage citizen involvement and show an appreciation of cultural diversity. Other cities honored were Fort Worth, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Lake Worth, Fla. In addition, three cities were honored as runners-up: Tempe, Ariz., Coral Gables, Fla., and District Heights, Md.

The city of Hermiston created the Hispanic Advisory Committee (HAC) in June 2012 in response to the 2010 US Census figures showing that the documented Hispanic population accounts for 34.9 percent of the Hermiston population, and likely also includes a sizable un-documented population.

Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier said credit for the creation of the HAC goes to City Councilor George Anderson.

“It was his idea,” Brookshier said. “But it was also a logical progression of the city’s thought process over time.” Back in 2006, Hermiston was one of two Oregon cities to be designated as an “Inclusive City” by the National League of Cities. The designation was given to cities that recognized the importance of cultural diversity.

Mayor Dave Drotzman said the Hispanic Advisory Committee serves to provide the Hispanic community within Hermiston a forum through which it can work and communicate with the council.

Award closeup
The city received the award for creating the Hispanic Advisory Committee in 2012.
“The city of Hermiston and the council have recognized that there is a significant part of our population that doesn’t have a voice within our community,” said Drotzmann. “Approximately 35 percent of our city population and 45 percent of our schools are Hispanic. So we created the Hispanic Advisory Committee to allow participation in the decisions being made at the city level in a format that was comfortable for English- and nonEnglish-speaking citizens. In the last year, we have made some significant headway in bridging the gap to becoming an ‘Inclusive Community.'”

Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said the committee, which holds its regular meetings in Spanish with English translations, acts as a fully-functioning advisory board to the Hermiston City Council to create better access for members of the Hispanic community to the government of Eastern Oregon’s largest city.

Morgan said the award means Hermiston is being recognized for not simply reaching out to the Hispanic community, but actively including them in the development of the city.

“All Hispanic issues in Hermiston are city issues, and all city issues are Hispanic issues,” Morgan said.

Anderson said the HAC “provides critical input to the city council about Hispanic affairs and gives our Hispanic community a forum where their aspirations and concerns can be aired – in Spanish.” He said it was gratifying that the National League of Cities recognized the leadership of the city and the HAC.

“The committee is an unprecedented advance in the Pacific Northwest in making our community truly inclusive of all cultures,” Anderson said.

Hermiston City Council President Rod Hardin, along with City Councilor Manuel Gutierrez and Hispanic Advisory Committee Chairman Eddie de la Cruz traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the award.

“It’s an honor to be recognized nationally,” de la Cruz said. “Hermiston is an inclusive community and we’re working really hard to unite the community.”

The City Cultural Diversity Awards program was established in 1995 by the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) to promote cultural diversity in community governance through citizen and community participation. Winning cities are selected from a pool of applicants and are grouped according to population.

Each city was honored at the Celebrate Diversity Breakfast on March 11 during NLC’s Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. The Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” and founder of National Action Network, addressed attendees at the breakfast about the importance of cultural diversity in communities.

In addition to NBC-LEO, the annual awards are co-sponsored by four other National League of Cities’ (NLC) constituency groups: the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO); the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials (GLBTLO); the Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO); and Women in Municipal Government (WIMG).