City Council discusses diversity and inclusion with Student Government


Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher at the joint city and student council meeting Oct. 23, 2019.

Finn Mcnally

The Ames City Council and Iowa State University Student Government held their semiannual joint meeting Wednesday. Their discussion was focused on diversity in Ames and at Iowa State and how inclusivity could be improved.

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher spoke specifically about the relationship between underrepresented groups in Ames and the city government. 

“When you have a municipal government that is made up of mostly middle-class white people it’s very hard to build that trust with communities of color or other underrepresented groups who we would like to bring into our decision-making process,” Betcher said.

Betcher also said it may be harder for lower-income residents to get involved in local government. 

“It’s also difficult to get them to want to be part of city government and that may be because our jobs don’t pay very well and if you have to have two jobs and have a babysitter for your kids, you can’t afford to be on City Council in Ames,” Betcher said.

Nicole Whitlock, ex officio and senior in elementary education, also touched on diversity in Ames. She said the council should be reaching out to groups such as Black Lives Matter to ensure that their interests are being represented by the Ames City Council. Whitlock said she thought Ames and Iowa State had already done a good job of being inclusive but that they could always improve.

Some ideas to improve the community’s inclusivity were suggested by Mayor John Haila. Haila said he had a conversation with a student last year about having a Latinx celebration festival in Ames. He suggested that the council could look into this as well as other festivals for minority groups.  

The other main topic of discussion was student outreach in the broader Ames community. Iowa State Sen. Abigail Schulte, who is on the Civic Engagement Committee and a sophomore in biological systems engineering, talked about a project for next year called the Amazing Race. The race would be a scavenger hunt around Ames designed to get students involved in the local businesses. She said her committee is trying to raise awareness of the services public libraries can provide for students by including the topic in the Library 160 course at Iowa State. 

The City Council and Student Government also discussed several projects around Ames such as the South Grand extension, which is intended to alleviate traffic on Duff. They also talked about a broader effort to encourage people to be outside that would include new bike trails, a kayak and canoe dock at Ada Hayden and a possible food forest in Ames.

The next City Council meeting will be March 23 over Zoom and will be accessible via YouTube, Mediacom or the city of Ames website.