The City of Cedar Rapids works hard to be an inclusive and equitable place where all feel a sense of belonging. Through diversity, equity, and inclusion, we create a community that is vibrant and flourishes. The creativity that comes from engaging with people with different backgrounds and experiences benefits everyone. The City of Cedar Rapids embraces the differences in all our residents and works to build a community where everyone feels they belong.
Read about many initiatives and programs within the City that are building and expanding opportunities for everyone in our Inclusive Community issue of the Our CR magazine.
Welcoming Week in CR
Cedar Rapids is proud to celebrate Welcoming Week each September to acknowledge the many important contributions immigrants and refugees bring to our community. Our community’s success depends on making sure that all residents feel welcome. New residents are a vital part of our community — bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas, starting businesses, and contributing to the vibrant diversity that we all value.
Our community’s participation in Welcoming Week shows that in Cedar Rapids, individuals of all backgrounds can come together to create a stronger, more prosperous community. Welcoming Week is one of many initiatives Cedar Rapids supports in order to create and promote an inclusive community. Visit the Cedar Rapids Tourism events calendar and select “Welcome Week” to see a full list of community activities happening each September and to add your events.
Welcoming Week is a national recognition of immigrants and refugees, and the role communities play to foster greater welcome for everyone. For more information about Welcoming Week, visit: https://www.welcomingamerica.org/programs/welcoming-week
Diversity in the Workplace"Diversity is an integral part of the City of Cedar Rapids’ organizational objectives. Recruiting and retaining a diverse, inclusive group of employees creates a City organization that reflect the world around us, and makes our team better able to develop fresh ideas that will meet the needs of the entire community. Diversity drives innovation, increases creativity, helps to retain quality employees, and allows us to serve our residents in the most effective way possible. Increasing workforce diversity isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. Cedar Rapids is a more vibrant, inviting community when we embrace the many qualities that make us different."
Cedar Rapids City Manager
Programs and Initiatives at the City of Cedar Rapids
The following is just a sample of work being done within the City of Cedar Rapids to address diversity, equity and inclusion. Our Citywide Sustainability Plan expresses our commitment to addressing and improving environmental, social, and economic health concurrently. Our philosophy as a City is to reject ideas of separation and exclusion, and embrace equitable access to all services, for all residents.
• The Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is composed of specially trained officers whose function is to respond to incidents that involve a mental health crisis, where the officer’s specialized skills may be used to successfully conclude such an incident and to provide the individual with further assistance.
• The Cedar Rapids Police Department utilizes Mental Health Law Enforcement Liaisons trained in mobile outreach crisis intervention. The mental health professional can help effectively respond to incidents involving subjects suffering from a mental health crisis incident.
• Our work through zoning and housing programs support our desire for neighborhoods that are diverse in all aspects: encouraging the development of different homeownership options at differing income levels in the same neighborhood.
• Amended the Section 8 administrative plan by reducing the timeframe from 5 to 3 years for denial of assistance for a felony conviction from federally funded housing.
• Support of community homeless and overflow shelters.
• Affordable Housing Commission helps City staff identify the nature and scope of housing needs of low and moderate-income residents as well as recommend to the City Council effective strategies on collaborating to meet those needs.
• Police officers make regular appearances at elementary schools through the Police PAL (Protect, Assist and Listen) program. Officers visit each elementary classroom at least once a year with age-specific safety protocols on topics such as stranger danger, bullying, gun safety and Internet safety.
• The Cedar Rapids Police Explorers is a group of youth and young adults ages 14-20 who are interested in law enforcement.
• Mayor’s Youth Council provides students with an opportunity to share their opinions and ideas; learn about the role of council, boards, and commissions; and make a difference in the community.
• The City has participated in a number of Iowa BIG collaborations related to sustainability, comprehensive planning, stormwater initiatives, marketing, and more.
• Fully Involved Young Women’s Fire Academy was designed to introduce young women to the fire service, and to empower, inspire, and support strong women leaders.
• Revised Transit half fare program and “Blue Ticket” program by offering half-fare day passes and certifying more human service agencies to self-certify their clients for income-based discounts.
• Transit collaborated with the Cedar Rapids Community School District and area colleges in a subsidized student program. Under this program, students do not have to pay to ride the city bus.
• The City implemented "Ban the Box" to help provide more opportunities for residents and ensure fair and unbiased hiring practices.
• The City’s iGreenCR action plan includes goals and actions to increase diversity in staff and leadership to better reflect the community.
• City staff regularly provide school and daycare visits to help kids learn more about City services and potential career opportunities.
• The Purchasing division streamlined the process for Targeted Small Business (TSB), businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities, preference process.
• Utilities department has created a program and is partnering with HACAP to correct plumbing issues to reduce monthly utility bills for low-income customers.
• City employees receive ADA training on a yearly basis to increase their awareness about the history of the ADA, reasonable modifications and accessible services/programming, service animals, effective communication, people first language, accessibility features, and invisible disabilities.
Parks & Recreation
• The Rollin’ Recmobile provides neighborhoods activities and fun during the summer months. The van brings staff to lead activities at 13 different parks, 6 days a week.
• Playground equipment and splash pads are available in neighborhoods throughout the community to provide access to all residents.
• Coordination with local organizations including Kids on Course and Boys and Girls Club on recreation services and programs.
• Discounts for lower income families on recreation programs and pool passes.
• Developed basketball based youth development programs in cooperation with Mt. Mercy College at NW Recreation Center.
• Partnership with Trees Forever to develop their Growing Futures Program.
• Partnership with the Iowa Special Olympics to offer a variety of programs for people with disabilities including bowling, basketball, volleyball, weight lifting, cheer, soccer, and track.
• Offer senior activities at the NW Recreation Center including a free card club.
• Coordinate with multiple community partners annually for the Back to School Bash, distributing school supplies and backpacks to local kids.
• Partnered with Kirkwood Community College to build ADA accessible urban gardens at Old McDonald's Farm.
• Noelridge Farmers' Market is is certified by the Iowa State Agriculture Department to accept IFMNP checks from the WIC Program.
• The City provides funding and support for SET (The Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force) initiatives in the community.
• Applied for and received the “Gateways for Growth” award from the New American Economy and Welcoming America. This will help City leaders develop strategies to integrate immigrants, foster economic growth and promote inclusion for all residents.
• The City provides grant funds to local social service agencies to provide access to everything from housing to free health care.
• Modifications of City-owned facilities and park/recreational sites to be ADA accessible and allow people of all abilities to access participate in services and programs offered to residents.
• Installation of ADA compliant curb ramps throughout the City so residents can travel freely and safely at intersections throughout the City.
• City of Cedar Rapids Earns Perfect Score on Human Rights Municipal Equality Index.
Equity & Inclusion Liaison
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, Elizabeth Buch (she/ella), is the designated Equity & Inclusion liaison. As liaison Elizabeth serves as an accessible and open ear to the city’s underrepresented community members including but not limited to LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, communities of color, Indigenous communities, immigrant and refugee populations and all those underserved and historically marginalized. Community members are encouraged to contact Elizabeth for any questions, conversations or concerns.
Community resources and information:
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)