Nashville works to diversify its city-appointed boards
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Over the past five years, Nashville has spent over $49 million to improve its fairgrounds. As a new soccer stadium is built on the property, the Tennessee city hopes to bring in a more diverse crowd, including residents from nearby immigrant communities. Now there’s a debate about making the board that manages the fairgrounds more diverse too.
The five-member board of commissioners mostly makes independent decisions. But all of its current members are white. There’s one vacant spot.
“We as a community are going to be more involved in what happens at the fairgrounds than ever before,” said Nashville Metropolitan Council member Sandra Sepulveda.
In Nashville, the diversity of board members doesn’t reflect the overall population. The city has more than 50 boards and commissions. As of February, only about 30% of their members were people of color.
Matt Leighninger of New York-based nonprofit Public Agenda said diverse boards do a better job serving all of a community’s residents. “It seems impossible to do that if you’re not incorporating a wide range of voices in terms of figuring out how race and other differences matter and how you can make things better,” he said.
Nashville officials are working to fill the vacant seat on the fairgrounds board. Vice Mayor Jim Shulman said his pick will be a “minority.” The city is looking at proposals to reform the selection process for a variety of boards.
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