Building a Community-wide Sense of Belonging
In recent months, there has been a lot of positive community activism on the issue of diversity in Barrington. In my view, here’s where we need to go:
1. Minority Recruitment: The discussion has centered in part on recruiting minority candidates for office. I’m totally supportive and will do all I can, whether I’m elected or not. Beyond elective office, we need aggressive and sustained minority employment recruitment efforts by the Barrington Public Schools, Barrington Police Department, Barrington Fire Department and for all Barrington municipal offices. To its credit, the police department has been overt in the last several months in its effort to do so. I’d encourage local businesses to do the same and if we can improve Barrington’s affordability, we can help make sure that people who work in Barrington can afford to live in Barrington.
2. Affordable Housing: I really mean, affordable living. The lack of diversity in Barrington, in part, is reflective of broader racial economic disparities nationwide. While I realize that Barrington has limited developable land, we need to be open to more affordable housing. Those opposed to such efforts may not realize that the federal Fair Housing Act allows suits against municipalities where there zoning laws have a disparate impact on people by virtue of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or disability. A hardline approach is therefore as illegal as it is undesirable to those of us who believe diversity strengthens communities. Beyond zoning, I serve on the Barrington Economic Development Commission. Local small businesses can defray some of the residential tax burden and provide employment to some residents. We need to make sure that they survive the current recession. Admittedly, the tax effect is on the margins and progress in supporting local small businesses is gradual, but it matters. Finally, I want to explore the idea of community WiFi, but do not yet know if it is feasible.
3. Affirming Our Values: The messages we send as a community matter. That’s the reason I served on Barrington LGBTQ+ Pride Flag committee, protested in support of BLM with 1,200 other people in Barrington and attended last Sunday’s event at Barrington Town Hall, following the sickening video of a Barrington resident’s racist and threatening behavior toward his neighbor. It’s also why it meant so much to me to receive the endorsement of NOW-RI. I see a lot of reason for hope. The Philadelphia Rainbow Flag will fly above our town hall and schools every June going forward, East Bay for Diversity is growing and this town will (again) decisively reject Donald Trump’s overtly racist campaign this November. Relative to the state and the nation, Barrington residents are progressive and willing to stand up for what’s right.