Breckenridge’s Social Equity Advisory Commission begins to lay foundation for what equity means in Summit County

A woman speaks during a Solidarity Talk on Sept. 19 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Following this summer's Solidarity Talk series, Breckenridge formed a Social Equity Advisory Commission, which has begun meeting biweekly.
Photo by Libby Stanford /

Breckenridge’s Social Equity Advisory Commission, the first of its kind in Summit County, has spent its first few meetings discussing goals and setting its definition for terms like equity.

Town spokesperson Haley Littleton explained that the town hired The Equity Project as a consultant to help the newly appointed commissioners get started. Similar to other town commissions, Littleton said the new commission will take care of housekeeping items, such as going over rules and regulations of the commission and assigning a chair and co-chair. Mission and vision statements also will be defined.

As a next step, The Equity Project will take feedback from the community listening session the town hosted in January to come up with a plan for what the commission can prioritize, Littleton said. As a formal advisory commission, Littleton said the group eventually will come up with recommendations for the Breckenridge Town Council.

The commission also regularly will give updates to the council as well as bring bigger project ideas to the table. The commission is meeting biweekly, and Commissioner Alexandria Carns said meetings have frequently been running over their scheduled time due to the excitement of the new members.

While the commission is in the building phase, Carns said the group is working to collaborate on the commissioners’ individual goals. She said Monica Williams, executive producer of The Equity Project, has been leading the first few meetings and provided insight on ways to be effective in leadership roles.

“We’re not just jumping in and trying to solve problems right off the bat,” Carns said. “We’re also trying to figure out ways in which we can be effective after we do jump in, because the last thing you want to do is attack these issues haphazardly. A lot of our meetings consist of really evaluating the differences between equity and equality and inclusion, and then ultimately our goal is to get to liberation. So we’re just really dissecting the meaning of those compartments in the work that we’re doing.”

Commissioner Jason Smith said the step of breaking down terms is essential in the foundational process of the commission to give structure to a group of nine strangers with a common goal of a more equitable community and different ideas for how to get there.

Carns said equity has been defined by the commission as “creating systems where everyone can thrive.” She added that equity includes the knowledge that not everyone needs the same resources to thrive, so approaches need to be more individualized to achieve equity.

“We’re evaluating what our approach needs to be to really hear individuals and hear different communities and see what it is that they need,” Carns said.

Carns said the group is evaluating barriers that need to be removed in order to accomplish liberation of marginalized populations in the Summit County community. Smith echoed this, noting that removing boundaries that keep the community from being equitable is a more sustainable solution than simply giving a “helping hand.”

“Let’s say housing: You don’t want to just give people money toward housing,” Smith said. “You have to figure out how to get rid of the challenges that are keeping them from getting housing. It might be cost, but it also might be information on how to get a mortgage. Or, you don’t just want to translate a meeting into Spanish. Let’s get some Spanish-speaking people in the meeting, so we’re not just having a meeting and then translating it so people can understand it. It’s making it so people can get involved and participate.”

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