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‘This is how we get started’: Los Gatos establishes DEI commission

‘This is how we get started’: Los Gatos establishes DEI commission

The Los Gatos Town Council voted to establish a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission at its Sept. 19 meeting that will be responsible for enacting policies and procedures to make Los Gatos a more welcoming place.

Discussions about establishing the 11-member commission went late into the night Tuesday as councilmembers tried to define the scope and purpose of the new commission’s work.

“We have heard from our community members that this is how we get started,” Councilmember Rob Moore said. “Los Gatos currently has a reputation–an indisputable reputation in some parts of the Bay Area–for being a place that is not inclusive, and voting against the creation of this commission will only further that reputation.”

“I think the way we’re going to get tangible results is through establishing this committee,” Mayor Maria Ristow said.

Los Gatos has taken steps to make the town a more welcoming place following incidents over the past few years like a far-right group whose members harassed councilmembers and shut down council meetings in fall 2021, and anti-semetic graffiti found at the town’s Jewish community center. A report out of UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute found Los Gatos was the seventh-most segregated city in the Bay Area.

The town hired a consultant group to identify what can be changed to promote inclusivity, and the top recommendation from that group was to establish an equity-focused commission.

The majority of the council approved the establishment of the commission, with Vice Mayor Mary Badame voting against it.

Jeff Suzuki, Los Gatos resident and president of the Los Gatos Anti Racism Coalition, spoke in favor of the commission and shared a personal story about a Japanese mother who asked him if Los Gatos would be a good place to raise her son. Suzuki said he had trouble answering her.

“I recognize that this place is hostile to a lot of people. I’m not speaking for all Asian Americans when I say this. Some people, they don’t feel very much racism, but other people think they need to have double eye surgery by the time they graduate” from high school, Suzuki said, referencing a surgery that creates a crease in the eyelid. “We have to improve Los Gatos as a whole.”

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“What you’re referring to with the racist incidents, in a way, it’s bullying,” Badame responded.

Resident Ronald Meyer said he was not in favor of the commission and asked for specific data that showed the racist incidents. He said his neighborhood is diverse.

“Throughout the community, there are Blacks, Hispanics, Persians, Indians. … Belgatos is a very diverse area,” Meyer said.

Commission members will be recruited this fall, along with those for other town commissions, committees and boards and will be made up of representatives from current committees, as well as a local faith leader, business owners, nonprofit employees or residents.

Town staff started identifying processes, policies and other work that would enhance equity and inclusion in Los Gatos in 2021. That year the town council also adopted the 2040 General Plan that contained a new racial, social and environmental justice component to tackle these issues.

The council hired consultants ALF Insights to audit the town’s current processes and identify solutions in 2021, and ALFI presented its initial findings in September 2022, one of which was to establish a commission to facilitate their recommendations.

ALFI is set to present its Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan at the Oct. 17 council meeting