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Office of Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion makes progress



Indianapolis, Indiana – The proposal to establish and fund the new Office of Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion was approved by the Administration and Finance Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council on Tuesday evening by a party-line vote of 7 to 4, with one abstention.

Ben Tapper currently serves as the city’s first Chief Diversity and Equity Officer. He began work on January 3, 2023.

He argued before the Administration and Finance Committee for the need to staff a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) office with individuals committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

“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.”

On request, this office will conduct DEI training for city officials and employees, organize and analyze DEI-related data, and guide 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 notion that it has performed ‘horribly’ with this work but stated that his objective is to continue to make progress.

“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 department’s creation questioned why existing municipal employees, such as the deputy mayor, could not perform the department’s duties.

“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 be housed within the Mayor’s office and will receive $687,865 from the city budget if it is approved in October. The proposition to establish this office will be put to a vote at the September 11 meeting of the full council.

The office’s responsibilities are listed below.