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Office of Belonging, Equity and Inclusion advances

Ben Tapper. (Photo aired on WISH-TV)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The proposal to create and fund the new Office of Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion passed the Administration and Finance Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council on party lines in a 7 – 4 vote with one absence on Tuesday night.

Ben Tapper is already in place as the city’s first Chief Diversity & Equity Officer. He started on January 3rd, 2023.

He made the case to staff an office of people dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, also known as DEI, to the Administration and Finance Committee.

“The work of DEI is we are creating spaces where everyone can feel like they are valued and like they belong. And belonging doesn’t mean we are all the same,” Tapper said. “It doesn’t mean there are no differences. It means that we understand how our differences allow us to fit together better.”

This office will conduct DEI training for city officials and employees on request, organize and analyze DEI-related data and lead community initiatives.

“You listen, you learn, you understand,” Tapper said. “And then you act in good faith to meet needs as they come up and to connect people so their strengths can shine and their weaknesses can be minimized.”

Tapper defended the city against the idea that it has done ‘horribly with this’ work but said his goal is continued improvement.

“It would insinuate that there have been moments in our cities history where we haven’t acted in ways that have been equitable,” Tapper said. “At this moment in time, we know there are ways we can improve and this is a step toward improving.”

Opponents of the creation of the department questioned why existing city employees, such as a deputy mayor, could not take on the work of this department.

“It’s great that we’re trying to get more inclusive and everything but for me I look at this as a spend when this could be someone’s task inside of the department, whichever department it may be, to do these things,” Brian Mowery, (R), Council Minority Leader, said.

This office will exist within the office of the Mayor and is set to get $687,865 from the city budget if it is passed in October. The proposal to create this office now heads to the full council for a vote during the Sept. 11 meeting.

The duties of the office can be viewed below.