Albany City Council rejects equity language

ALBANY — Despite emotional testimony from some residents, the Albany City Council rejected an attempt to add the words "diversity" and "equity" to a city code.

By a 4-2 vote Wednesday, the council rejected the proposed change to the Albany Human Relations Commission municipal code. The proposal would have also removed the word "harmonious" from the code.

The Albany Democrat-Herald reported that the council meeting room was filled beyond capacity for the vote. Most speakers favored the new language, citing Oregon's history of racial inequity and personal stories about a lack of harmony in the small Willamette Valley city.

"My beautiful wife, who is not white, is repeatedly asked if she is going to pay with her Oregon Trail Card before she even gets out her wallet," said Ken Larson, referring to the state-issued card used for food benefits. "But when her white husband is with her, that never happens," he added. "And she makes probably three times what the cashier makes."

Erlene Wilson Huey, who is black, said she sends her kids to West Albany High School instead of South Albany, which is nicknamed the Rebels.

"The Confederacy and I do not get along," she said.

She also spoke about her son being harassed by Albany police and fears that he might not come home one day.

Other speakers took exception to councilor Rich Kellum's opposition to the proposed changes at a meeting last month, when he said diversity and equity were buzzwords used by Black Lives Matter and other groups. He also referred to "those people" when describing people who support equity and diversity.

"When I watched the video and I saw him talking about 'those people,' I thought, 'How is he sitting there?' " said Frederick J. Edwards, president of the Corvallis-Albany branch of the NAACP.

Kellum joined the council majority in voting against adding the equity language.

Share This Story