After one of Chapel Hill’s newest committees failed to recruit a public housing representative, some residents are pointing out a lack of diversity in town politics.
The Central West Focus Area Steering Committee — which plans ideas for the town’s central-west region — recently had a vacant seat that the Chapel Hill Town Council hoped to fill with a public housing resident.
When no one from that community applied, the council decided to leave the position unfilled.
Amy Ryan, a committee member, said she was disappointed by the lack of applicants.
“It’s an important voice,” Ryan said. “There is a lot of public housing in the central-west area so it would be great to have a representative at meetings to help us make decisions.”
Ruby Sinreich, founder of the blog OrangePolitics.org, said she was not surprised that no one applied.
“These people don’t have a history of being engaged,” she said. “Why would we expect them to jump up to join the committee?”
In her more than 20 years working with local government, Sinreich said she has seen very little done to increase diversity in boards and committees.
“The goal should be broader participation in local government,” she said. “But in 20 years, I haven’t seen them do much of anything towards that goal.”
Sinreich said there are many ways to bring a more diverse group of residents into local decision-making.