Jun 22 2011
Salt Lake City - Today Governor Gary R. Herbert announced that, as part of the restructuring of the Office of Ethnic Affairs, he will convene a new Multicultural Commission with representatives from ethnic communities, state agencies and political entities to address issues like the educational achievement gap, healthcare disparities and joblessness among Utah's ethnic community.
Governor Herbert called the transition a challenge and an opportunity. "We are striving to put in place a structure which more directly responds to the needs of Utah's growing ethnic community, and for this community to become more directly involved in dialog with our state agencies," he said. "Our multicultural communities are a significant and growing part of the fabric of our state."
To create what the Governor called "a direct conduit into my office," the new commission will be co-chaired by Lt. Governor Greg Bell and an ethnic community leader. The executive directors of seven state agencies, the Refugee Services Office director, chairs of the current ethnic advisory councils, two legislators, ethnic business leaders, ethnic chamber of commerce representatives, and ethnic community representatives are slotted to participate on the council, with formal appointment yet to be made by the Governor. The collaborative roundtable model for the new Multicultural Commission is similar to the successful Homeless Coordinating Committee that formulated Utah's acclaimed Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.
Lieutenant Governor Bell said, "I'm excited to work with our ethnic communities in a more interactive, inclusive model that takes us to a higher level to address critical issues like education, healthcare and employment. There is a great commonality in the issues ethnic communities face. The Governor and I are deeply committed to maintaining excellent ties to our ethnic community. It's essential that the ethnic community have a voice in the Governor's Office."
At the Governor's side were Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell, Dinesh Patel, Pamela Atkinson and the current chairs of the ongoing ethnic advisory councils. At the conclusion of the media announcement, the Governor added, "I recognize that there may be some apprehension in this change, but I urge you to join me in taking this first step. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, 'Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.'"
Atkinson, a special advisor to Governor Herbert, said, "This council will be action-oriented. This will make a meaningful difference."
In his remarks, Patel cited figures estimating that ethnic individuals are nearly 20 percent of the State's total population and underscored the economic impact of the growing ethnic business sector.
The restructure of the Office of Ethnic Affairs is the result of recent budget reductions which took office staffing from seven full-time employees to two full-time employees. The position of the director of the office is presently vacant and posted on the State's job listing until midnight tonight.