Frisco council discusses goals to improve social equity and inclusion
FRISCO — Officials are diving deeper into talks surrounding new social equity initiatives that could help to promote better diversity and inclusivity in the community.
Earlier this year, the Frisco Town Council adopted a strategic plan update, which outlined the creation of an inclusive community as one of the town’s major goals moving forward. Local protests and community conversations on the topic earlier this year have helped to spur the town into action, with initiatives like the Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street and the facilitation of internal conversations about how to best address community concerns on topics like race, equity and inclusion.
Officials have voiced a dedication to keeping social equity issues at the forefront of their policy-making decisions and to continue seeking out gaps in town operations and programs to ensure Frisco is building a culture that supports residents of all backgrounds.
Frisco recently launched into social equity discussions that brought together town staff, elected officials and community members to share their thoughts on proactive steps the town could take to improve inclusivity. Loli Respini-Pollard, Frisco’s human resources manager, provided council members with insights into those conversations during a work session last week, highlighting some of the community’s biggest concerns and providing recommendations on how to move forward.
“What I heard at the beginning (of these) talks is that we didn’t want to be reactionary and that we wanted to take the long view on this,” council member Melissa Sherburne said. “While a lot of the events this summer have settled down, the protests and all that, systematic change will take years or decades. We don’t know what we don’t know, and this is a pretty meaningful first step for our community.”
Among the work group’s biggest takeaways was a need to promote the history and existing diversity in town. The group recommended several new campaigns targeted at getting to know others in Frisco and providing educational offerings like book clubs and art installations where residents could learn about other cultures. An emphasis was also placed on town-facilitated conversations on diversity, publicizing information in multiple languages and making meetings easier to attend for minority groups’ by assisting with child care and scheduling issues.
The group also pushed recommendations that would help minority populations better engage with the community more holistically. They noted a need for more affordable housing opportunities to support lower-income families working in town and highlighted ways to get individuals involved in the area’s recreational activities by offering increased capacity for after-school programs, free Nordic ski and snowshoe days and developing a “gear library” where locals could check out recreational equipment to try out new sports.
Finally, the group asked town officials to be clear and open about their intentions to create a more diverse and inclusive community in Frisco.
“Who is Frisco, who do we want to be?” Respini-Pollard said. “…How do we create policies around it, and how do we welcome everybody from any background and any race, and let them know they’re here safely — the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, senior citizens. … The recommendations were all coming from the community members. … Those three meetings gave us a lot of ideas, and a lot of things we can work with to make Frisco even more attractive.”
Town Council members said there were some easier ideas they could start working into existing plans, like starting the gear library — potentially partnering with local rental shops to provide equipment — or making plans for a new basketball court in town in hopes of bringing people together.
“Some of our best friends are those we met on the bleachers at gymnastics class at Silverthorne Rec Center,” council member Dan Fallon said. “Where else are you going to meet people under that kind of context? Families have a chance to sit and talk while the kids play basketball or ice skate. So those are the kind of things that really create that, and you can do it at a fundamental family level.”
Officials also will be seeking out expert help. The town budgeted $30,000 to be used on social equity initiatives in the budget next year and plans to spend some of that money contracting with the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership program.
Officials said the group would be able to provide guidance to thoughtfully implement the local recommendations, look into new policies, conduct training and more.
“A lot of other places and towns doing the same thing jumped right into the first consultant group they liked or that met their budget,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. “We jumped into meetings with our town, citizens and folks who are living what we’re not, and started there. They’re not plugging us into their formula. They’re going to help us look at ourselves and guide us through that with their knowledge.”
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