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  • Sacred Conversations 2016

Race relations among the topics dominating debate

Race relations and the number of city issues they influence were among the most prominent topics at Wednesday’s mayoral forum.

Springfield mayoral candidates Jim Langfelder and Paul Palazzolo were asked a number of questions about how they’d approach minority hiring and working with minority contractors, how diverse their leadership teams would be, and how much time they’ve spent on the east side since announcing their candidacies.

Palazzolo would appoint a “diversity director” to help make sure “we’re open and welcoming, not only in city government employment but also in Springfield in general,” he said.

Langfelder said that under his administration, any diversity director-type role would fall under the mayor’s duties.

“I’m not going to hire a diversity director; I am the diversity director,” Langfelder said. “It goes back to being the leader of this city. Any faults with regards to minority hiring stops with the mayor’s office.”

Palazzolo said it’s part of the mayor’s role to raise awareness of the need to both “end and abhor” discriminatory attitudes. He said it would be part of business recruitment efforts to encourage that opportunities are offered to all people, “regardless of race, color and creed.”

Palazzolo called diversity “critical” and said his leadership and management teams would be reflective of that.

Langfelder outlined a minority hiring plan that includes an anti-discrimination review process for job applicants — if there were two similarly qualified minority and nonminority applicants — to ensure the process is fair.

“I will continue those initiatives but make them better,” he said of some of the race relations-related initiatives Mayor Mike Houston has implemented during his tenure.

Langfelder would also monitor city vendors’ contracts to make sure both the city and its contractors are abiding by the terms.

The majority of the questions Wednesday night came from the more than 50 people present in the audience at Lincoln Library. The forum, one in a number leading up to the April 7 election, was sponsored by the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, the Springfield branch of the NAACP and One in a Million Inc.

The candidates were asked a wide-ranging group of questions during the nearly two-hour forum, including how they’d improve City Water, Light and Power finances, whether they favor Hunter Lake as a second water source for the city, and how they would implement a residency requirement, which both candidates favor.

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