Max Disposti | North County Update
Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases the Municipality Equality Index (MEI) scorecard, a nationwide evaluation of municipal law, this year rating 353 cities on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people that live and work there.
In North San Diego County, only two cities made the 2014 survey: Escondido and Oceanside. Unexpectedly (yes, unexpectedly) the city of Oceanside was ranked among the lowest in the state with a score of 57 (out of 100) score, and Escondido had a 60. For those of you that live in San Diego, those scores might not come as a surprise, especially after a perfect 100 for the city of San Diego, but for those of us who live in Oceanside and North County and are familiar with the extensive work that the North County LGBTQ Resource Center has done in the past years, that score hit home and made us feel very uncomfortable.
Apparently, many in the community have seen that score; business owners, members, donors, and of course, our city — and realize they are now perceived as anti-LGBT!
Despite that score, in the past years the city of Oceanside has shown a close collaboration with the LGBTQ Resource Center. Mayor Jim Wood has participated in many of our public events, the city has sponsored our Pride by the Beach, and many pro-LGBT policies have been put in place. So what has really happened?
A city with an LGBT Center should, in my opinion, reflect that presence by promoting a good and safe environment for LGBT people. So after a few investigative calls to the Oceanside mayoral office, we realized the MEI survey was never filled out and therefore never returned to HRC.
While it is not good for the city of Oceanside to miss a national survey that is seen by thousands of residents, business owners, and potential visitors, I am at least now glad to know that the score did not quite reflect where the city actually stands. In fact, last week the city decided to take this survey issue by the horns and called for an urgent meeting with the city’s human resources director, the city manager’s office, the neighborhood services director, Councilmember Esther Sanchez, and myself.
In this meeting, the city understood the importance of the survey and apologized for failing to return it to HRC. To amend some of the damages already done, the city has committed to take immediate visible steps in making sure LGBT families and individuals are fully represented. In the next few weeks, a city LGBT liaison will be appointed, and in the next few months, the Oceanside police and fire departments will follow. Existing anti-discriminatory policies are going to be reviewed and revised to be more inclusive of LGBT people and additional training may also take place. Sanchez also offered to bring a resolution to City Council that allows the city to do business only with contractors that have LGBT anti-discriminatory policies in place.
Because of this survey, we were able to come together and reach further agreements that our LGBT Center has pursued and worked for so many years.
We look forward to seeing Oceanside become a beacon of hope and inclusiveness for LGBT visibility within the San Diego North County area, and maybe even reach a full 100 percent score in the next few years. But we are also committed to making sure that the rest of the county, such as Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Fallbrook, and Carlsbad can follow through to become more inclusive and no longer intimidating to our LGBT families and diversities in general. We are here to stay!
—Max Disposti is a human rights activist, a community organizer and the founder and executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. He is currently also serving on the boards of the Oceanside City Library and Main Street Oceanside and previously served on the city’s Community Relations Commission. He can be reached at email@example.com.