Diversity task force moves to set priorities and objectives

FRUITA, CO – Members of the Grand Valley Task Force met at the Fruita Community Center Thursday evening to continue preliminary work on establishing objectives for itself and future working groups. A dozen or so residents were in attendance to observe the meeting, which was open to the public.

Anna Stout, Grand Junction City Council member and task force member, facilitated the discussions. The meeting began with calls for nominations to the executive committee, members of which can expect to meet a minimum of once a month and which will likely be the most “time-intensive” of all the task force groups. The deadline for all nominations to be submitted is next Friday, August 21. Elections will be held at the next meeting on August 27.

The bulk of the meeting, however, was devoted to selecting the organizational objectives of the task force, which the group defined as “short-term and medium-term goals that we seek to accomplish to reach our overall vision.” Stout clarified that while the task force as a whole will need to select those objectives, “the subcommittee[s] will be the one that will make sure the objectives have specific and measurable goals.”

The task force also reviewed a list of “systems within our community [that] we want to evaluate and see where people are having inequitable access, not experiencing the system positively, or in the same way others are.” Members were asked to rank the list of systems according to the priority of the group or agency each of them represented. Some of the systems on the list included (but aren’t limited to):

  • law enforcement
  • K-12 education
  • post-secondary or higher education
  • human services
  • arts and culture
  • criminal justice
  • faith and religion
  • community or society
  • mental health
  • business and commerce

Once the rankings have been calculated according to a “mathematical calculation”, a maximum of 7 subgroups will be formed to tackle those top 7 priorities.

A small group of task force members volunteered to take the list of objectives as an adhoc subgroup and craft them into concrete goals.

Throughout the meeting, Stout repeatedly invoked the importance of transparency and openness, reminding the group and the public that one of the top priorities of the executive committee is to create clear channels of communication to the public. At the moment the only forum for being informed about the task force meetings and discussions is a public Facebook page. To date that Facebook page only has 1 post, dated July 25, that outlines the group’s vision and mission statements. No calendar of events is yet listed, and no meeting minutes or notes about the previous meetings have been published.

Towards the end of the meeting, various agencies shared updates on projects they’re working on that are related to the task force’s diversity and inclusion mission.

Brian Hill, assistant superintendent of Mesa County District 51, said that the district had hired an outside organization to conduct an “equity audit” just before the pandemic lockdowns. The district is currently working on an “equity inclusion plan”, although at the moment few of that information is publicly available. Hill and district superintendent Diana Sirko said that they are working on making it public.

Ky Oday, who represents Colorado Mesa University on the task force, reported that the university has created a committee, called “Turning the Corner”, that is composed of members appointed by president Tim Foster. The committee meets every two weeks and had been instrumental in renaming the university’s soccer and lacrosse stadium, which had previously been named after Walter Walker, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and founding publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The committee is also helping to produce a series of video episodes that will highlight campus resources on diversity and inclusion.

Karen Bland of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach said her organization is reimagining their annual Empty Bowls tradition in the age of Covid with a new concept called “Empty Empty Bowls.”

“You don’t get a bowl. You don’t get soup. You don’t get dessert, but you get a ticket that, because you bought that ticket you’re helping someone eat in the valley. Very simple,” she said. Tickets will be available in September and can be purchased at churches or directly from Catholic Outreach.

Other representatives from law enforcement, the LGBTQ community, and the city shared updates as well. Stout reminded all members to ensure that information and updates are shared to the public via websites and other media channels.

As previously agreed by the task force, the group intends to rotate its meeting locations to ensure access and transparency. The next meeting will be on August 27, 2020, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Clifton Community Center, and is open to the public.