Inclusive Community Discussions
Is Norman an inclusive community?
Do all of our residents feel respected and represented in the business, education and social sectors?
Are we as a community taking advantage of the economic and social opportunities represented by diversity?
Complaints must be filed in the City Clerk's Office within ninety (90) days after the alleged discriminatory practice occurs. Reasonable accommodations to assist in the filing of complaints shall be provided to individuals with disabilities upon request in accordance with the policies and procedures outlined in the City's Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility and Inclusion Statement.
Voices of Norman Summary
On March 27, 2017, the Xenia Institute for Social Justice, the Norman Human Rights Commission, and the University of Oklahoma Office of University Community hosted an event for community members to talk about their feelings regarding police relations. The Norman Police Department is posting a summary of our understanding of the general feelings expressed, but we also have tried to digest the comments made. The summary is attached below.
The Norman Police Department enjoyed hearing about the thoughts and feelings expressed by members of the community, and we want the opportunity to continue this dialogue. We have started working with the Xenia Institute to develop a framework for ongoing community meetings.
2009 Inclusive Community Dialogue Hispanic Population
Norman’s third Inclusive Community Discussion (ICD) was hosted by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on October 26th, 2009, and was sponsored by the Human Rights Commission. For this session, a concerted effort was made to reach out to the Hispanic community to solicit their participation and input. As in previous ICD’s, the goal was to provide a forum for Norman’s residents to discuss whether they feel respected and represented in the business, education and social sectors, and whether Norman is taking advantage of the economic and social opportunities represented by diversity. Approximately thirty residents attended along with members of the Human Rights Commission and City Staff. Three discussion groups were formed, including one Spanish-speaking group. The topics were similar to those previously used: Economic Opportunity; Housing; Public Safety; Transportation; Human Services; and Education. This report attempts to capture the opinionsandperceptions of the participants.
Participants expressed considerable concern about jobs and economic opportunity in Norman, particularly for Hispanics. These concerns relate to real or perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, lack of sufficient diversity awareness by employers, recession-related issues, and documentation of immigrants.
There is also a perception that a disparity exists between Norman’s middle class and working poor. Norman wants to appear to be open and welcoming, but economic segregation is as much a concern as racial segregation. An observation was made that the number of people struggling is underestimated, and that this population is invisible.
There is a need for greater diversity awareness in hiring practices, particularly among smaller employers. Larger employers have a greater tendency toward being bilingual. Recession-related job loss is particularly high among Hispanics. There is the perception of being targeted or dismissed from jobs with no grievance process. A number of comments were made concerning documentation (or absence of) as a significant factor in lack of employment, job loss, low pay, and lack of any recourse. Those without papers have greater difficulty than those who have documentation.
Several comments were made concerning how the lack of information and resources, after school language programs for adults and children, and literacy tutors impacts economic opportunity. This reflects both a lack of resources and inadequate publicity of resources to non-native speaking residents.
There is a perception that immigrants are excluded from planning and opportunities. There is a public perception that illegal immigrants drive up the cost of health care, and that is seen as an unfair characterization.
A number of participants expressed concerns related to housing shortages or inadequacies for homeless adults, youth, mental health clients, and other vulnerable populations. Several people agreed that more housing for battered women is needed as well as the need for more housing for mental health clients.
There is an overall perception of a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) attitude with respect to public housing. Several participants commented that there is a lack of mixed neighborhoods in Norman, as well as clustering of “like values.”
Most of the comments about public safety were generally positive and reflect the community’s positive reaction to the department’s community policing initiatives. Representatives of the police stated that their officers strive to be community minded and dedicated. In addition to their other efforts to reach out to the community, they have three working languages on the force: English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
There were suggestions on some areas in which police might consider focusing future community policing efforts. For example, two residents specifically requested that police increase their presence in the Kennedy Elementary area. One other citizen encouraged police to step up their interaction with elementary children in an effort to improve relationships and create more of a perception that police are here to help, not just to punish. Another suggested making an effort to recruit more Hispanic officers.
There was a consensus that accessibility really needs to be addressed throughout Norman, not just in the central part of town. Public transportation is not just for the poor; long-range planning for the city must include mass transit that serves and moves the more prosperous areas of the city, as well.
There were a number of comments from and about immigrants and non-English speaking residents who have difficulty dealing with businesses and city government. Some of the suggestions offered for improving accessibility to services included creation of a method whereby complaints and suggestions could be made anonymously; a regular section of the local newspaper written in Spanish; more City of Norman staff members, who are themselves members of racial minority groups, to work on issues related to diversity; and opportunities for Human Relations graduate students to do internships working on Human Rights and Inclusive Community initiatives.
Language barriers and racial segregation are still perceived as problems, particularly by members of minority groups. In spite of the number of non-native speaking students, there is a lack of bilingual classes, and there is no forum to really integrate the cultures in our schools. There is a need for ESL immersion programs for adults and children in Norman, and possibly the need for more tutors/instructors to meet the demand.
Some suggested that the city should offer racial and cultural sensitivity opportunities to Norman residents, community leaders, and employees. Although the participants generally praised the police department’s community policing efforts, there were also comments that the department – and the city as a whole -- should continue and strengthen ethnic and cultural sensitivity training.
The Norman Human Rights Commission will continue its efforts to reach out to the community and meet with citizen groups, social service agencies, business and others to examine the specific challenges that were discussed in the Inclusive Community Dialogue.
The Commission will continue the Inclusive Community Dialogue process with a meeting on April 12, 2010 to be held at the Little Axe Elementary School with residents of east Norman.
The Human Rights Commission will continue its role, as set forth in municipal ordinance section 7-102, including but not limited to:
To study problems of discrimination in any or all fields of human relations and to encourage fair treatment and mutual understanding among all citizens; and to combat those misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes that tend to prevent individuals from reaching their full potential as human beings;
To cooperate with interested citizens, private agencies, and the agencies of local, state, and federal governments in the promotion of human rights.
The Commission encourages the City Council, city employees, and other institutions and residents of the City of Norman to think about the perceptions expressed by those who participate in the Inclusive Community Dialogue process. In the minds of our neighbors, perception is reality, and where there is an opportunity to improve, we should take advantage of that opportunity.
The Human Rights Commission will continue its efforts to establish collaborative relationships to support initiatives related to human rights issues. As the Human Rights Commission moves through their process, they will keep Norman City Council informed.
2010 Inclusive Community Report and Action Plan
DATE: August 17,2010
TO: The Honorable Mayor and Council
FROM: The Norman Human Rights Commission
SUBJECT: Norman's Fourth Inclusive Community Discussion
Norman's fourth Inclusive Community Discussion (ICD) was hosted by Little Axe Elementary School on April 12, 2010. About thirty residents of east and "far" east Norman (approximately I 80th Avenue to the far side of Lake Thunderbird) attended this fourth Inclusive Community Discussion facilitated by members of the City of Norman's Human Rights Commission. In addition to several members of the Human Rights Commission and the Norman Police Department, Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and Councilmember Rachel Butler were also in attendance. Thank you to the Little Axe Schools, the Little Axe Chamber of Commerce, From Soup to Nuts, and other east Norman residents for their hospitality and for assisting in publicizing this event.
As with previous Inclusive Community Discussions, citizens were invited to speak to how inclusive they would describe Norman as being in several key public service areas: education, transportation, human services and health care, public safety, housing, economic development and communication.
Strengths and examples of inclusiveness
- Natural beauty of area.
- Strong community commitment that continues to build and improve.
- Interest in area for both living and business opportunities continues to be strong.
- Partnerships with Pioneer Library System, Moore-Norman Technology Center
- Percentage of college-bound students and students who choose to join the military after graduation
- Little Axe teachers and students are included in the Norman Chamber of Commerce's recognition programs.
- Lack of high-speed Internet access in the schools.
- Unlike the Chamber of Commerce, many Norman civic organizations, in their recognition of outstanding students and teachers and in awarding college scholarships, tend to either exclude or overlook Little Axe students, although Little Axe Schools are located in Norman and most Little Axe students and their families are Norman residents.
- Little Axe students' academic achievements and success do not always receive as much attention from the Norman Transcript as students attending Norman Public Schools.
- Stereotypes and misperceptions about Little Axe students seem to persist and people could be more informed about the cultural, economic, racial and ethnic diversity among Little Axe students and residents.
- There is less access in east Norman to adult education and literacy programs and OED preparation programs.
- Little Axe is in the Mid-American Technology Center, located in Wayne, service area which can cause transportation and access issues.
- Do the Norman Public Schools take full advantage of the educational opportunities provided by the Little River Zoo (LRZ)? Do NPS students have access to LRZ's after-school program and summer programs? Is transportation the primary challenge and how might that be addressed?
- East Norman has the last remaining I % of ancient forest; how are citizens and students educated about this ecological treasure?
- Would students be better served if Little Axe was consolidated with the Norman Public Schools, or if there was a shared LAPS/NPS administrator?
- Public transportation between Little Axe area and Norman has improved and CART is receptive to input and tries to be responsive despite budget challenges.
- There are many success stories told within the Little Axe community about public transportation creating opportunities, helping people keep doctor's appointments and obtain general health care, access legal services, meet responsibilities and access services and public events.
- Public transportation is not just about getting Little Axe residents to Norman, but bringing Norman residents to the Little Axe area for special events, recreation, and the Little River Zoo.
- The Little Axe area is not always included on Norman area maps and other promotional and information materials such as Chamber of Commerce materials, Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau publications, and economic development information.
Human Services and Health Care
- Opportunities for partnerships with Absentee Shawnee tribe in several areas including health care.
- Existing partnerships with the Cleveland County Health Department
- Public health clinics previously offered at the Little Axe Community Center have been discontinued.
- Access to health care for East Norman is limited to 911IFire Department. The Fire Department is not always staffed, EMS response time can be slow due to staffing as well as distance, and fire trucks do not carry defibrillators. The Absentee Shawnee Tribal Clinic is the only health care facility in the area and can only provide emergency care.
- Can partnerships with the Cleveland County Health Department be expanded?
- Interest has been expressed in providing additional health clinic services in east Norman but citizens expressed concerns over the perception that opportunities for improved services are limited by zoning restrictions, in addition to rural/urban funding challenges.
- Are the needs of the Little Axe area represented to the City of Norman's Social and Voluntary Services Commission?
- Citizens expressed an interest in upgrading the Community Center to a incl ude fitness center and walking track.
- Several residents expressed concern that AA, AI-Anon, and Overeaters Anonymous groups are no longer meeting but were not sure if it was due to lack of interest, lack of group leaders, or related to fees or availability of facilities, or other reasons. They felt these and another initiative, the Choice program, an unfunded, volunteer-staffed initiative to teach skills and behaviors to young, at-risk girls and lower the teen pregnancy and drop-out rates, are important to the community and that perhaps if the Community Center were more affordable and available for these kinds of community groups, the community's connection with and appreciation for the City of Norman would be strengthened.
- Public safety: good cooperation among multiple jurisdictions, reasonable though slower than preferred response times considering the geographical challenges and distances involved
- Positive experiences with Norman Police Department.
- Concern was expressed over the fact that the East Norman Fire Department closes when there are City of Norman Fire Department meetings, leaving the Little Axe area without protection during those times.
- Although participants indicated that response time to public safety calls are timely considering the distance and multiple jurisdictions, it is still an area of concern.
- There is a concern among Little Axe residents that they do not receive the same attention to concerns such as street and sign maintenance and animal control as other residents of Norman.
- Wide range of housing in terms of size, affordability and design.
- Individuals who build homes in this area tend to respect the area's natural beauty.
- Because this is the rural part of Norman, some of the participants expressed concern over a lack of interaction with "city" residents, and that some City codes and policies, particularly with respect to building permits, may not be as rural "friendly" as they might be.
- The need for low-income housing in the Little Axe community seems evident, but participants are unaware of any plans for addressing that need.
- Participants were interested in knowing more about how economic growth in east and "far east" Norman will be supported, and if there is a timeline for extending utilities farther east, which would increase a sense of inclusiveness among east Norman residents.
- The perceived potential for and interest in economic growth in this area is very strong.
- Success of recent developments like the new Sonic restaurant and the grocery store (heavily damaged during May 10th, 2010, tornado
- There is a sense among some Little Axe residents that economic growth is not encouraged or supported by the City of Norman.
- East Norman and the Little Axe area tend to feel that it is difficult to obtain accurate information about incorporating property, about City services in general, the proposed power plant in the Little Axe area, and maintenance and expansion of current recreational parks and facilities, which contribute to both economic development and quality of life.
- Improved sanitation and recycling services, especially during the summer and athletic tournament times, would support economic development and also address public health issues.
- Residents are interested in learning more from City Council about economic forecasts for the area.
- Soup to Nuts as a way to communicate among residents of far east Norman
- On-line availability of the Norman Transcript Concerns
- Because Cox Cable is not available in much of this area, broadcasts of City Council meetings and other events broadcast on Cox's community Channel 20 are not available to most east Norman residents.
- Neither the Norman Transcript nor the Oklahoman provide daily home delivery in much of this area so residents must seek out local news and information about local issues from other sources. If a legal notice is published about a person or piece of property in this area, that publication will not be delivered to the people who are actually
- Residents expressed a concern over the under-representation of east Norman residents among groups like Leadership Norman, which is known for being a good way for community leaders to learn about Norman.
- Recommend to City Council that a follow-up town-hall type meeting including key City of Norman officials responsible for the departments that can best respond to the questions and areas of concern described in this report, be held for the purpose of following up, providing additional information, answering questions and continuing to improve communication between the City and this part of Norman.
- Encourage participation in Norman News, the City of Norman's free e-mail blast that regularly sends news and announcements and City Council meeting agenda, and also encourage residents who do not have access to daily delivery of newspapers, or access to Cox's broadcast of City Council meetings, to read the on-line versions of the local papers for news and legal notices that might affect them.
- Work with the Norman Chamber of Commerce to identify ways to reach more potential applicants from east Norman for Leadership Norman, Tomorrow's Leaders, Norman NEXT and Leaders Plus.
- Identify and communicate ways to encourage Norman civic organizations that award college scholarships to include Little Axe High School on their contact lists for scholarship information and to invite Little Axe students to apply for scholarships that are available.
- Share this report specifically with the Norman Transcript and the Norman Oklahoman and ask that they consider ways that Little Axe is represented in their publications and news coverage.
- Encourage the use of the Little Axe Ledger, Soup to Nuts monthly newsletter, and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma Newsletter by the City of Norman and Norman organizations and agencies to communicate with residents in east Norman and Little Axe area.
The Commission encourages the City Council to think about the perceptions expressed by those who participate in the Inclusive Community dialogue process. In the minds
of our neighbors, perception is reality, and where there is an opportunity to improve, we should take advantage of that opportunity.
The Human Rights Commission will continue its efforts to establish collaborative relationships to support initiatives related to human rights issues. As the Human Rights Commission moves through their process, they will keep Norman City Council informed.
2009 Inclusive Community Report and Action Plan
Norman’s second Inclusive Community Discussion (ICD) was held in the Oklahoma Memorial Union on the University of Oklahoma campus on Tuesday, February 3rd. The discussion was sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Norman Chamber of Commerce and the City of Norman Human Rights Commission. Approximately 80 people representing OU faculty, staff and students and other Norman residents participated. They were asked to review the results of the first ICD, held in November 2007, and respond to similar questions: is Norman an inclusive community? Do all of our citizens feel respected and represented? Are we as a community taking advantage of the opportunities represented by diversity?
Reports from each small discussion group were compiled and reviewed by members of the Human Rights Commission with additional assistance and input from Vincent Winston, an intern with the City of Norman and OU senior in political science and public administration, and Anna Chappell, OU graduate student in Adult and Higher Education. Our thanks go to these two students for their comments and observations, as well as to National Issues Forum moderators and OU faculty and staff members who helped guide the discussion and reflect on the comments shared in the small groups.
Participants in this second ICD spoke candidly about those areas where they felt improvements were necessary in order for Norman to continue to be a strong community and one that is inclusive and welcoming to all its citizens, but the many positive observations and comments should not be overlooked. Specific references were made to the widespread confidence in current Norman Public Schools administration with regard to its awareness of and attention to diversity issues; perceptions of Norman taking public and positive steps toward becoming more welcoming and respectful of individuals who represent diversity, and the very real challenges associated with providing services to a community as large geographically as Norman is. Many participants expressed appreciation for the meeting being held on the OU campus in order to include more students, faculty and staff, and encouraged the Commission to continue to host dialogues throughout the City of Norman in order to be more inclusive of the many “voices” of Norman.
It was clear from review of the notes that the issues of diversity and respect for all of our citizens are concerns that impact, and are impacted by, every area discussed: transportation, public safety, economic opportunity, housing, human services, and education. Several key concerns, however, consistently emerged and those are the issues upon which this report focuses.
1. Public safety and community/police interaction.
Concern was frequently expressed about how the attitude of police, as well as other police department employees, has changed over the past two or three decades. Complaints about possible “profiling” came from minorities and young people, and the perceived lack of interest in serving and protecting non-English speaking populations and those with cultural differences from the majority of Norman residents. It was acknowledged that the way the public responds to law enforcement has also changed, and that programs bringing police back into contact with citizens as educators, “beat cops,” and initiatives that promote mutual respect and cooperation, should be strongly supported. Many of these same impressions are addressed in the proposed Community Oriented Policing program, which is an encouraging and welcome development.
2. Economic and social opportunities for new and recent OU graduates, especially minority students.
Although the University actively recruits and enrolls relatively large numbers of students from underrepresented minority populations, the employment and economic opportunities upon degree completion are perceived as limited. High housing costs, lack of minority professional groups and job opportunities, and limited social offerings other than college and campus activities, discourage graduates from staying in Norman to live and work.
3. Diversity in the schools.
The challenge of attracting a diverse instructional staff continues to be an area of concern among the citizens of Norman, and participants expressed interest in knowing what progress is being made in this area and how individuals outside the school systems might be able to assist. Another concern expressed was the lack of a fully inclusive written policy that includes the needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) students and staff.
Many of the participants recognized that City Council and staff understand the need for improved transportation systems in Norman but were vocal about their concerns with how the lack of adequate public transportation affects everything from economic development to access to social services to participation in social and cultural events and activities.
5. Housing and social services.
Increasing the availability of adequate shelter and services for homeless and transitional populations and citizens living in or near poverty continues to be of significant concern. The difficulties faced by many citizens, and especially students, in finding affordable housing in Norman was also discussed in several groups.
Communication was mentioned in a variety of contexts, and that better communication might facilitate stronger working relationships between citizens and the City of Norman. City leaders were urged to consider substantial changes to the City of Norman website; develop simpler and more direct methods of reporting problems and concerns (and getting replies); making contact information for citizen inquiries readily available; and taking a more centralized approach to citizen problem-solving. Interest was also expressed in a more sophisticated citywide calendar and/or electronic bulletin board to encourage participation and community engagement.
Based on the results of the 2009 Inclusive Community Discussion, the Norman Human Rights Commission has identified the following action items to be addressed over the next twelve months:
- Members of the NHRC will actively cooperate with the Norman Police Department to successfully implement the Community Oriented Policing Program approved by City Council on April 28, 2009; and will also continue to meet with NPD representatives regarding issues related to diversity, especially in the areas of training, continued professional development, and recruitment of new officers.
- The NHRC will invite the leadership of the Norman Public Schools, Little Axe School District, and Robin Hill School District to meet and discuss issues of mutual interest including diversity among instructional faculty and staff, programs; policies related to LGBTQ students and staff; and concerns related to poverty and social services as they impact students and families in Norman.
- The NHRC will continue to collaborate with various organizations and agencies in Norman to address poverty, hunger, protection from violence and abuse, and homelessness as human rights issues.
- Representatives of the NHRC will meet with City of Norman staff for the purpose of identifying additional ways for citizens to access information and assistance from the City of Norman.
- The NHRC will continue to host at least one Inclusive Community Discussion each year in locations deliberately intended to encourage the participation of underrepresented populations.
2007 Inclusive Community Report
On November 8, 2007, the Norman Human Rights Commission sponsored a public meeting focusing on diversity in our community. Some of the questions asked were: Is Norman an inclusive community? Do all of our citizens feel respected and represented in the business, education and social sectors? Are we as a community taking advantage of the economic and social opportunities represented by diversity?
The goal of the Commission was to provide a safe and respectful place for Norman’s citizens to discuss whether we are a community that is genuinely open to the participation and opinions of all of our residents. Approximately 50 to 60 citizens attended and the issues discussed were public safety, education, human services, housing, employment, and economic opportunity.
The participants in the discussion had many positive impressions of Norman – quality social service agencies, good schools, adequate public transportation, and a great environment to raise children. The discussion also produced some common areas that were identified by the participants as perceived community challenges that our citizens experience. Listed below are examples of some of the perceptions that the participants in the inclusive dialogue discussed.
- Lack of employment opportunities impacts the homeless individuals and families in Norman. Individuals with low job skills require adequate wages with health care to improve their status as well as services to improve skill levels.
- Strong diversity training improves employee performance and also improves staffing diversity recruitment.
- Gay and lesbian citizens and young people (teenagers) feel that they are being watched more closely and not being treated the same as others in the community.
- The Little Axe community and east Norman feel underserved in many areas.
- Education and affordable daycare, more neighborhood and recreation centers with summer and after-school programs for children with trained daycare workers are necessary to address homelessness.
- There appears to be a lack of public transportation to the Moore/Norman Technical Training Center.
- Members of the Hispanic community believe they are being profiled and discriminated against.
- Concern was expressed among citizens and prospective citizens related to sexual orientation and the treatment of gay individuals and same-sex couples in schools and the work-place.
- There is a lack of affordable housing and handicapped-accessible housing in Norman.
- Higher housing costs can make it difficult to live in Norman on a single income.
- The homeless population needs more emergency shelters and the cost of health care may be contributing to the number of people living in poverty.
- Norman can be difficult to navigate for individuals traveling in wheelchairs
- Norman needs more availability of information about services and resources in Spanish.
- There is a need for increased availability of supportive health services for returning military members in our community.
There were several groups of people who attended the Inclusive Community meeting who felt that they were less included than others. This lack of inclusion can lead to lack of equal access to opportunities. Included in these groups were people in wheelchairs, people without cars, those with felonies or substance abuse histories, and those from minority groups specifically Hispanic and gay/lesbian adults.
The Norman Human Rights Commission is grateful to the National Issues Forum (NIF) for facilitating and providing initial summary findings that were used as a basis for this report. The NIF has agreed to facilitate the second Inclusive Community Dialogue meeting to be held on the University of Oklahoma campus in the fall.
The Norman Human Rights Commission would like to thank everyone who participated in the Inclusive Community meeting. We appreciate the honest and thoughtful responses that were received. The Human Rights Commission presents this compilation of the perceptions expressed by the Inclusive Community participants to City Council. While we acknowledge that community perception is always subject to empirical verification, the hope of the Commission is that by working together and better understanding our strengths and weaknesses, we can become a truly Inclusive Community.
The Norman Human Rights Commission will begin a program to reach out to the community and meet with citizen groups, social service agencies, businesses and others to examine the specific challenges that were discussed in the Inclusive Community Forum.
The Commission will continue the Inclusive Community Dialogue process with a meeting in fall 2008 on the University of Oklahoma campus with an emphasis on soliciting input from University students, faculty and staff and including the National Issues Forum representatives in the planning and execution of ICD meetings.
The Commission will communicate and emphasize Section 7-102 of the duties of the Norman Human Rights Commission, including but not limited to:
(1) To study problems of discrimination in any or all fields of human relations and to encourage fair treatment and mutual understanding among all citizens; and to combat those misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes that tend to prevent individuals from reaching their full potential as human beings;
(2) To cooperate with interested citizens, private agencies, and the agencies of local, state, and federal governments in the promotion of human rights.
The Commission will initiate collaborative relationships with Norman agencies and initiatives with missions related to human rights issues. As the Human Rights Commission moves through this process, they will keep Norman City Council informed with timely reports.