A proposal to hire a Chicago-based firm to study diversity needs in Temple won’t move forward after significant community input, city officials said Friday.
In a letter to Temple residents, Mayor Tim Davis and City Manager Brynn Myers said the city won’t hire Nova Collective for the proposed $112,000 study after receiving feedback from residents. Instead, Temple officials said city staffers will conduct the study.
“We have listened to the feedback from the community regarding the proposal,” the letter said. “We believe that the same goal can be accomplished by our own city staff and community members and that retaining the services of an outside consultant will not be needed. As such, the city of Temple will not move forward with the proposed contract.”
Community opposition to Nova Collective included a group that claimed the study and any subsequent training would focus on drag queens or sexual identity and lead to indoctrination.
“We understand the sensitivity across the community as it pertains to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It is important to us that we listen and learn from all of the unique voices and perspectives of the Temple community,” the letter said. “One of the greatest aspects of local government is that it is closest to the people in the community. We see each other at the football games, in the grocery store, and in our restaurants. As we reflect on the feedback we received from the community, we are able to make the necessary adjustments when appropriate. We can still reach the overall goal of delivering our municipal services in a manner that meets the needs of the members of our community.”
The study was proposed after the city created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission in 2020 following the officer-involved shooting of Michael Dean, a black resident killed by then-officer Carmen DeCruz.
The appointed nine-member advisory panel’s goal is to promote equality in the city and eliminate discrimination. To do this, the group looks at proposed city policies, practices and programs. The commission can make recommendations to the City Council but has no funding authority.
To help identify some of the changes that need to be made on the city level, the commission was expected to consider the recommendation of a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant next month.
If approved by the commission, the Temple City Council — consisting of two white men, including Davis, two white women and a Hispanic woman — would have considered an $112,000 contract with the Nova Collective, a women-owned consulting firm from Chicago.
Myers said the consultant would have conducted a survey of Temple employees and look at existing practices to help the city determine if there are any unintended barriers to various diverse groups in Temple.
Myers said the work by the Nova Collective would be similar in cost and scope to other planning work or studies done by the city, such as those to determine where new parks or roads are needed.
“As Council and staff refined the work of the new commission, the City Council asked staff to focus the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on only the internal operations of the city in its delivery of municipal services,” the city manager and mayor’s letter said. “Staff’s initial recommendation to contract with the Nova Collective was intended to assist the city with developing an internal DEI effort. The city has received a broad array of community feedback regarding the contractor, its social media content, and the proposed contract price.”
The last City Council meeting included 16 people, who all spoke against hiring Nova Collective.
At a community meeting Monday at Trinity Church, Nova Collective was labeled “a satanic cult” by opponents who said that the firm would work to undermine and divide the community. The church had copies of an opposition flyer with a drag queen pictured proclaiming “Help us stop this!”
“Nova wants to invite you and your family to understand ‘who you really are’” by “gender bending, self-exploration, performing outward (false identity), gender expression (and) sexual fluidity,” the flyer said.
Joe Goodson, president of Concerned Christian Citizens, previously told the Telegram, “We are not trying to prevent a drag queen show in Temple, we are trying to prevent any organization who flaunts drag queenage from being invited into our city as ‘advisers’ on policy.”
In the city letter, officials said the city’s mission is “for our organization is that we provide exceptional services, without exception.”
“Our mission statement is intentionally short and simple but also powerful and inclusive,” the letter said. “In establishing this mission, we have challenged ourselves to strive to build a community that every person — regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age or sexual orientation — loves to call home. If we are to achieve success in our mission, it is critical that we provide our employees with the training and tools necessary to ensure that every member of our community receives exceptional service.”
Myers said she hasn’t determined which city employees would work on the survey, but it could include human resources, performance excellence department and even city manager staff.
“We’ve got some great talented employees,” she said.
Myers said it was important to draw upon local resources first as the study moves forward. She said many people have opinions on DEI programs, but the Temple study will focus on internal measures and be transparent so the community has a clear idea of the survey’s purpose and scope.
The intent, she said, “is to make sure our community is a place for everyone to feel welcome.”