Williams Defends Record; Says Metroparks DEI Plan Comparable To County Plan
June 16, 2021
By Mike Kruzman / firstname.lastname@example.org
A former county commissioner fighting to retain his spot on the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board continues to defend his voting record.
Steve Williams has served on the Metroparks’ board for 5 years. Last month, when he was up for reappointment, debate around the parks’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programming and Williams’ part in it caused him to fail to gain the needed votes from the County Board.
At Monday’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting, Williams spoke during public comment defending his record of being the County’s representative on the Metroparks’ board. He said in the past month he has been “assaulted by untruths” around the Metropark’s non-existent financial problems, Critical Race Theory (CRT) being a part of DEI, and more. He denied accusations of the Metroparks training children in DEI and said that what the DEI program is responsible for is the recent opening of a new accessible playground at Kensington for children of all abilities. Williams said he is being attacked on 3 votes out of 500 in 5 years and that no one has looked at the tally or talked to him about the votes or about the times he made sure there was some quality control on the DEI program.
Commissioner Doug Helzerman attempted to have a “reconsideration of Williams’ reappointment” added as an agenda item at the beginning of the meeting. The motion was ruled out of order because of policy that would have required Helzerman to have notified the County Clerk beforehand, which he did not. No vote was taken on that, but a motion by Commissioner Mitchell Zajac to add it as a discussion item did pass.
County Board Chair Wes Nakagiri has led the charge against Williams’ reappointment, questioning his involvement and many of the policies coming from Metroparks’ leadership. He said just looking on their website he found disturbing definitions on white privilege, institutional racism and implicit bias are “part and parcel with critical race theory.” Nakagiri also said it was clear that Metroparks’ Director Amy McMillan was looking for the board to do more in support of social justice, with a particular emphasis on school-aged children.
Nakagiri has also taken to Facebook to make his argument;
Zajac said he had a good discussion with Williams late into the previous evening and that he believes Williams does not support the CRT aspects of Metroparks’ literature. Zajac said he wants to know Williams’ commitment in combatting those things going forward.
At the meeting, Williams delivered a letter to Commissioners focusing on a comparison between the Metroparks’ DEI training program, and the 10-page Social Equity section of the current Livingston County Master Plan. Williams concludes that the two bodies have similar social equity plans, with the greatest difference being the Metroparks’ plan is an actual one with measurable goals and steps, while the County plan is an identification of trends to be assessed. He said the 2018 Board of Commissioners essentially created a Social Equity Plan that uses the Metroparks’ plan as a template, and even if current commissioners didn’t vote on it, they have taken no actions to modify it. A complete copy of William’s letter to the Board can be found below.
As for whether Williams will be reappointed, or if someone else will be, is still in the air. The Board of Commissioners is currently working on a new policy for handling appointments that they hope to have ready for adoption soon. Until a replacement is made, however, Williams will continue on in that role.