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LEDCO board under fire for lack of racial diversity

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Sept. 27, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Longview City Council members appeared to have been taken off-guard Thursday when representatives of the NAACP and the city's Unity and Diversity Committee took the floor in council chambers to ask for more diversity in the board of directors and staff of Longview Economic Development Corp.

The LEDCO board of directors consists of 10 white men. All staff members are white women.

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview Chapter of the NAACP told the City Council that the LEDCO board is not representative of the city's racial make-up.

"With the growing Muslim-owned businesses, there is no Muslim representation; with the many Asian business owners, there is no Asian representation, the question of Latino representation, if any, has been even more limited," Johnson said.

"We need a wake-up call to encourage all who do business in Longview to create a climate of inclusitivity and multi-culturalism through cultural responsiveness," Johnson said.

LEDCO's board members are appointed by the City Council and Mayor Jay Dean.

The city in December approved its own workforce diversity plan, which is focused more on employment, city spokesman Shawn Hara, said.

"Though there have been topics of diversity for some time, Hara said he was not aware of any previous specific discussion concerning the LEDCO board or any other specific boards.

Mayor pro tem Kasha Williams said the council will take the concerns about LEDCO's board under advisement.

"We have heard you this evening. We will take this matter seriously," Williams said.

Dean, along with council members Richard Manley and Sidney Allen, were not present at Thursday's meeting. Dean was out of town due to a death in the family, and the two councilmen joined the mayor in Louisiana to lend support.

Because a full council board was not present for discussion, District 2 Councilman Gary Smith made a motion to postpone two agenda items: approval of a five-year Capital Improvement Project plan and funding for CIP projects for fiscal year 2012-13 as well as approval of LEDCO'S 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

Because LEDCO's existing budget has to be adopted by Sept. 30, Smith amended his motion to postpone only the CIP item.

Council approved LEDCO's $4.9 million budget, which includes $1.3 million in the incentives fund.

LEDCO is a government corporation funded from a -cent sales tax revenue.

LEDCO officials could not be reached by press time for comment.

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