August 18, 2023

New city office to focus on equity, belonging and inclusion

Mayor Joe Hogsett presents the 2024 budget that includes funding for a new diversity office. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

Mayor Joe Hogsett presents the 2024 budget that includes funding for a new diversity office. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

A new Office of Equity, Belonging and Inclusion is part of the 2024 budget proposal in Indianapolis.

The office would operate within the mayor’s office and focus on equity in city government. There would be dual goals to start – targeting workforce diversity in the administration and data transparency.

Ben Tapper was appointed as the city’s first Officer of Diversity earlier this year and said understanding the current equity landscape is important.

“In order to do that we need to be more proactive in measuring culture across departments and understanding where we're falling short, where we're succeeding, and that's part of the work that the office is going to be doing,” Tapper said.

Trapper said the office will target populations for community engagement, including LGBTQ, Black and immigrant residents.

The Administration and Financing Committee voted in favor of the proposal 7 to 4, along party lines.

Council Minority Leader Republican Brian Mowery questioned the need for the office.

“Why this cannot be done within the individual departments themselves and have someone that is tasked with doing these things rather than create a whole new department,” Mowery said.

Tapper said the move is an opportunity to work on inclusion efforts.

“We know there are ways we can improve and this is a step toward improving,” Tapper said.

The 2024 budget earmarks more than $680,000 for the new office. Funding will also support a community engagement position. 

The office will gather more information about equity needs and priorities and where barriers exist. Training will also be part of efforts.

Democratic Councilor Crista Carlino said the work should be a priority.

“This is intentional work, it's deep work and it needs to have the dedicated time staff effort energy research and the feedback is important and takes time to listen,” Carlino said.

The measure now heads to the full council for a final vote.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org.

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