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Why diversity matters

Madeline Rogero, March 1, 2013

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero speaking on March 1, 2013

I recommend Donna Smith’s report (in Monday’s print Oak Ridger) on the the speech that Madeline Rogero gave at the International Women’s Day event in Oak Ridge on Friday. I paid particular notice to Rogero’s anecdote about Congresswoman Lindy Boggs and the federal legislation against discrimination in mortgage lending.

Before that legislation passed in the 1970s, some lenders would not issue mortgage loans to women. If a woman — such as a Vietnam war widow with a good job — wanted to buy a house, she needed to find a man to cosign the loan. Boggs was the only woman on the congressional committee that was considering proposed legislation¬† that would make it unlawful to discriminate against borrowers on the basis of race, age, or veteran status. Aware of the way women were treated by lenders, she thought women also should be protected, so she quickly and bravely drafted an amendment to add gender and marital status to the list in the bill. She expected to get some pushback when she proposed it, but the men on the committee accepted her amendment without debate — the only reason gender and marital status weren’t in the bill was that no one had thought to add them until Boggs proposed them.

To me, this story seems like a perfect illustration of why today’s well-managed organizations consider diversity to be a vital asset. Unless and until the “other” kinds of people are on the inside, around the table (as Boggs was that day in Congress), the organization will never know what critically important perspectives it is missing.

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Lobbyist contracts renewed

As the local newspapers have reported, on December 17 Council voted 6-1 to renew the Ferguson Group lobbying contract (I was opposed) and 7-0 to renew the contract will Bill Nolan Associates.

There was little discussion of the matter at the meeting, but it appeared that other Council members’ votes on the Ferguson contract were influenced by the staff recommendations, by the amount of money that staff said Ferguson had helped bring in, and by the fact that experience with Ferguson was far for the city than the experience with the Baker-Donelson law firm had been earlier.

As I’ve said earlier, I continue to believe that the city could gain federal funds for local needs without the services of a lobbyist. Further, the fact that this firm is serving us better than Baker-Donelson does not mean that we need their service.

However, now that Ferguson Group is on board for another year, I look forward to working with them to further Oak Ridge’s interests.

The Council Intergovernmental Relations Committee will meet January 9th (4pm in the municipal building training room) to review and make recommendations on the city’s federal and state “agenda,” which the full Council will consider on January 28th. There’s time for citizen input. Equity for local contractor retirees (see this earlier blog post) is one of my highest federal priorities for the city, but there are plenty of other potential wish list items on both the federal and state level.

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