diversity, equity and inclusion
Updated: Apr 3
At the August 2020 Town Meeting, Williamstown, I was proud to support, Article 36, Not in our County and Article 37, Equity Pledge that were passed almost unanimously.
Article 36 commits our community to "work to acknowledge, address and act in response to all forms of intended or unintended exclusion, hate, bigotry, intolerance and bullying."
Article 37 commits the Town Administration to specific actions to address bias in our policies, to examine our practices, to develop affordable housing and zoning that supports people from a wide array of racial and economic backgrounds, to train our employees and to report progress.
The full text of Articles 36 and 37 are noted below.
Since that time many committees have prepared reports noting progress toward goals (including Affordable Housing, Library Trustees, Select Board, Planning Board); training has been conducted; the Human Resources manual has been revised; among many other initiatives.
The Planning Board is currently developing warrant articles that are intended to relax some zoning regulations and encourage the development of more affordably priced housing - allowing manufactured housing in the General Residence zone, allowing 3- and 4-unit housing by-right in all residential zones and reducing lot frontage in General Residence. But more needs to be done.
I look forward to working with our DIRE Committee, and Town Committees and Boards, Town Administration and you to build upon and expand this work. You can review the Planning Board's 2023 report here.
How can we more solidly integrate our reporting into the day to day practice of Town Governance?
What policies other than zoning can we employ to support housing development?
What strategies can we adopt to increase financial support for housing?
Can we examine opportunities to more equitably distribute our tax levy?
What physical infrastructure changes should we consider?
And, most importantly, what steps can we take to make our community welcoming to all?
You can find committee Article 37 Reports by clicking on the links below. (this is not a complete list):
Sustainability and community resilience along with diversity, equity, and inclusion have been identified as overarching frameworks for the Envisioning Williamstown 2035 Comprehensive Plan. Over the next few months we will be exploring with our community how to build the future Williamstown that meets our needs. We will be questioning our traditional ways of thinking, and inviting our community to share their vision of Williamstown's future. I hope you will all take part.
Follow along here and sign up for the Comprehensive Plan email list to keep abreast of the news.
Building a safe, inclusive community requires working on a number of fronts - policy, infrastructure, financing, revenue, economic development. Being able to understand, persevere and balance many objectives will take a skilled and steady hand.
I am ready to work with you and for you to build a community that is welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds, where everyone feels valued and safe, and has ample opportunities to flourish.
Article 36 “Not in Our County Pledge”
Whereas, the Town of Williamstown is committed to providing equality, access, and opportunity for all its residents, and believes in the vital importance of a diverse community; and Whereas, a national call for racial justice has necessitated the affirmation of the Town's commitment to the ideals of equity and inclusion, particularly concerning the effort to assure the safety of black-identifying people of color; and Whereas, the Town of Williamstown wants to be a welcoming community and a safe and enjoyable place of residence for people regardless of background,
Now, therefore, be it resolved that
1. The Town of Williamstown and its representatives are fully committed to upholding the following Not in Our County Pledge. As an institution, organization, or local business, we commit to working together with our constituents, employees, employers and stakeholders to create a safer, more integrated Berkshire County. As an organization we respond with best intention and practices to not stay silent in the face of intolerance or hate based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, country of origin, ability or any other factor. We work to acknowledge, address and act in response to all forms of intended or unintended exclusion, hate, bigotry, intolerance and bullying. We pledge to renew our commitment to this work every day and to respond to all incidents in a timely, collaborative manner.
2. The Town of Williamstown, as well as its representatives and agencies, will report a representative and unbiased picture of any and all hate, exclusion, or intolerance they may witness as being directed towards an individual or group based on any of the above demographics. They have the responsibility to uphold the values of justice and inclusion, and therefore pledge to combat and speak out against any infractions to the above pledge.
Whereas, urgent structural change is vital in the effort for an equitable and welcoming Williamstown; and, Whereas, it is of utmost importance that all community members are enfranchised regardless of personal identity; and, Whereas, the level of accessible housing in Williamstown can determine the socio-economic, and in some cases racial diversity of the town; and, Whereas, education and training can successfully be used to undo remnants of structural oppression,
Therefore, be it resolved that
1. The Town of Williamstown recommends that fellow Williamstown boards, committees, and agencies, in particular the Planning Board, critically reexamine and continue to create their policies and practices according to a commitment to accessible living.
2. The Town of Williamstown asks boards and committees to reflect on areas including housing and zoning and make changes that actively allow for a town more supportive of a wide array of racial and economic backgrounds.
3. The Town of Williamstown encourages such bodies to heavily consider community input, especially from traditionally marginalized groups, both directly during meetings and in collaboration with the recently instantiated Race and Equity Advisory Committee, or similar name.
4. The Town of Williamstown commits to providing equity training for Town employees and public office holders. The training should prioritize trainees who interact with the public. The training should include information on local instances of structural racism and should prioritize strategies to serve traditionally marginalized and under-represented people. It should emphasize breaking down systemic inequities in our community rather than personal conduct and personal bias.
Quarterly reports should be shared with the Race and Equity Advisory Committee and community members to address progress towards the above goals. These reports should include types and vendors of equity training and policies and procedures created to advance access for traditionally under-represented groups