City to tackle sexism in its dated code

Take a gander at Auburn’s City Code. and you’re sure to see them: pesky pronouns that refer, almost without exception – to male personages.

Since 1957 when the City wrote the code – hint, Ike was in the White House – generations of its leaders have changed it and added new sections. While some amendments morphed “he” to “he/she” or “he or she,” the results are, well, spotty, inconsistent.

On Monday, the City Council discussed bringing the Auburn Municipal Code up to date by changing gendered pronouns to non-gendered terms, squaring it with the best practices out there in code drafting.

For example, where the code refers to a council member, instead of saying “he or she,” the code would say, “the Council member….”

There is likewise an ongoing trend to change some common position titles to eliminate references to gender, so ‘Councilman” and “Councilwoman” become “Council member,” and Policeman” or “Policewoman” become “Police Officer.”

State law allows the city to “modernize” the code where appropriate, as long as the change does not alter the meaning of the original ordinance.

“I’m not saying the cost is nothing, but it’s not very much at all, under $5,000,” City Attorney Steven Gross told the council.

As of late, the City Clerk’s office has been talking to Code Publishing about moving the code to its newer platform, which staff say is cleaner and easier to search. Also, staff say, some customization options, such as storing the original ordinance and resolutions, should make it easier for residents to track the history of city laws and policies.

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