A deliberate discussion on diversity

A deliberate discussion on diversity
Sadiqa Reynolds (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sadiqa Reynolds (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A routine appointment vote this month for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Merit Board was anything but routine after Councilman David James asked to table or postpone a vote to reappoint two people to that board.

"It's just something I couldn't do," James explained. "This is 2016. Why do we have an all Caucasian male police board?"

The Sheriff's Merit Board is not the only board or commission in the city to stand in question of meeting the city's required diversity levels. James points out the required diversity on the city's boards and commissions is more than just a noble idea. It is the law.

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"There is a State Law KRS67C117 Sub Section 2 that says each individual board and commission shall be reflective of the make-up of the community," James exclaimed from memory. "Each board that we look at.  Each commission that we look at should be reflect the make-up of our community."

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin challenges the legitimacy of the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees on racial grounds. Bevin filed papers in the Franklin Circuit Court vowing to correct the lack of minority representation. Bevin is not the only official to address the problem.  According to the current Census data, UofL must have three minority trustees to comply with state law.

"What I'm trying to do is make the boards represent the face of the community," proclaimed Mayor Greg Fischer. "We have over 100 boards. We need people to apply for the boards. Ninety-Nine percent of the people that apply to the boards we appoint."

The Mayor's office defends it record of minority nominees saying under their interpretation of merger law the city's 100 panels exceed the minority population of the 13 county metropolitan area, which encompasses surrounding Kentucky counties as well as Southern Indiana.

"African-Americans represent 22 percent of the city of Louisville's population, according to census data," James pointed out, "and currently make up 23 percent of the council."

The argument has moved from the boardroom to the courtroom and to the court of public opinion including social media. Judge Olu Stevens dismissed a jury in 2014 because he claimed it did not have enough African-American jurors to hear the case against an African-American defendant. Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine filed a motion with Kentucky's Supreme Court asking if Stevens had the power to do that.

When Stevens took the battle to his Facebook page, Wine's office asked the Chief Justice of Kentucky to remove Stevens following those comments.

"I am really disappointed that the issue of jury diversity is getting lost in the side show," said Sadiqa Reynolds, former Jefferson County District Judge and Chief of Community Building for Louisville Metro Government. "The issue for me is jury diversity and the fact that that is not the headline and that is not the focus is deeply concerning."

As the Louisville Urban League's first female president, Reynolds says, "We have to think about how to make sure people are very intentional about being inclusive because the problem is when you're not you're missing the opportunity to get a different perspective and maybe sometimes a better perspective. I am here period because of somebody's commitment to diversity."

A chart on the Mayor's website shows about 80 percent of board members are Caucasian and more than 60 percent are men.

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