The Sandy Springs Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is considering ways to better communicate with residents.

Rabbi Joshua Heller, chair of the communications subcommittee, outlined methods to reach marginalized community members during the task force’s Nov. 9 meeting.

The city’s wayfinding plan envisions kiosks, some of which could be digital, in locations around Sandy Springs on city property.

The overall goal: Remove barriers preventing members of any race, ethnicity or marginalized community from connecting with Sandy Springs civic life and city government.

The subcommittee’s draft report offered communications methods including:

  • Advertising on MARTA or other venues;
  • Setting up kiosks in key high-traffic areas such as supermarkets, pharmacies, recreation areas and bus stops, although Heller said some problems exist such as the ownership of the kiosks and maintenance responsibilities;
  • And, better publicity for the Sandy Springs Works app, including a QR code, although a translated option is necessary.

The subcommittee also wants agendas for city meetings to be more accessible. That includes translating it into Spanish and possibly other languages.

“About 76% of the population of Sandy Springs above age five speaks primarily English,” Heller said. “Another 15% have another native language but speak English very well and presumably don’t need translation in order to communicate fully.”

About 5% of the population speaks primarily Spanish, he said.

“So call it about 5,000 individuals who really would rely on a Spanish translation in order to access information from the city,” Heller said.

Another 2% speak some other European language, or about 2,000 people. And about 1,000 residents have an Asian language as their native tongue. That means as many as 8,000 people are not comfortable with English, “and the question is how do we address their needs?” Heller asked.

“We also talked about translation into plain English as well … That’s not just an ethnic thing. That’s just if someone doesn’t have a master’s in urban planning, you know, will they understand the Next Ten document?” he said. “Or is there a version of that comprehensive plan that an average citizen can understand?”

He said the committee also suggested the city push local newspapers to distribute to more residents, including apartment communities.

To assure a more diverse employee base, they want the city to make sure a human resources employee is designated for diversity, equity and inclusion recruiting.

“The issue of affirmative action is a little bit more controversial, but at least making sure that we are reaching the most qualified candidates that people are not seeing their race or ethnicity as a reason not to work in Sandy Springs government,” Heller said.

By working with partners that already reach ethnic communities, the city can get help distributing information, such as including schools, churches and nonprofits.

Chairman Jim Bostic asked Heller to have the communications subcommittee prepare a final draft of its report and share it with the entire task force. The task force will review the final draft at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.