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A more inclusive Alexandria?

The city of Alexandria is forming a new committee to start the new year on a welcoming note - a cultural inclusiveness committee.

The committee, which has already had two organizational meetings, will advise the city council on developing policies and programs to foster a community that is "welcoming, vibrant and inclusive of diversity," according to a preliminary amendment the city council approved Monday night.

The committee includes seven members, appointed by the council, who will serve one and two-year terms. They are Oscar Bohorquez, Beatriz Hadler, Mary Ann Maameri, Steve Pederson, Marian Sanchez, LaTresse Snead and Carol Wenner.

The city's personnel director will serve as the city's staff liaison for the committee.

The committee's responsibilities include:

--Improve communications between the diverse groups and city leaders to offer broader input to community issues and to encourage discussions of differing viewpoints.

--Promote an environment and philosophy that recognizes that a neighbor is a person who is aware of other cultures.

--Establish strong communication networks between city leaders and diverse communities to promote public awareness and relationships of trust.

--Provide a process of assessment and evaluation in order to ensure that the promotion of inclusiveness continues to be a focus of the city.

--Address perceptions and realities in dealing with diversity issues.

--Explore methods to ensure that residents of all cultures are welcome in Alexandria, have equal access to city services and programs, and to encourage civil engagement of all community members.

--Support staff efforts to build relationships with cultural groups and leaders.

--Investigate cultural inclusiveness related study issues for the city council's consideration.

Council member Owen Miller suggested the committee change its name to a "cultural advisory committee" to allow it to address more options. His suggestion will be passed on to the committee before a second and final motion is approved.