Trumbull diversity task force establishes mission
TRUMBULL — The town’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force lived up to its advanced reputation during its inaugural meeting.
The group finalized its mission statement, began planning a public hearing, and at one point, even had a Jewish member taken aback by the sensitivity the others showed toward the town’s Jewish population.
The task force formed over the summer in the wake of the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests. The seven members shared a common characteristic of being relative newcomers to serving on town committees.
The exchange occurred as members were planning a special meeting to solicit feedback from the public. The hearing was originally planned for the committee’s December meeting, scheduled for Dec. 17. But committee member Lincoln Johnson pointed out that date fell during Hanukkah.
Jonathan Tropp, who is Jewish, replied that the holiday was a minor one on the Hebrew calendar, and nothing prohibited Jews from participating in meetings on any of the eight nights the holiday is celebrated, he said. Newly elected Chairman Tara Figueroa began to proceed with a roll call vote to approve the hearing date when committee member Amanda Wagner spoke up.
“I want to hold this hearing as soon as we possibly can, but I am going to stand on the side that this is also during a Jewish holiday,” she said. “I am not Jewish and I can’t pretend to understand the significance of this holiday for them. But I, personally, would like to move this hearing to January, if possible, to be able to be more inclusive. So if we do decide to go to a roll call, I will be voting ‘no’ for that reason.”
Melissa Usseglio agreed.
“Not only is it a Jewish holiday, but there’s a lot of things going on,” she said. “I feel if we wanted to give people as much time to prepare as possible and be as available as possible, January might be better.”
Tropp agreed to reschedule, commenting “I hadn’t anticipated having this happen in this particular meeting.”
With inclusivity satisfied, the members went on to approve holding a public hearing in early January, with the date to be finalized at the group’s November meeting. Speakers will be allowed to address the task force on issues of their choice, subject to Figueroa’s discretion and with a two-minute cap on comments.
The task force’s other significant actions during the meeting were nominating liaisons to speak with school Superintendent Martin Semmel about programming options with the school system’s newly formed social justice group, and possible outreach to the Arts Commission for joint programming.
The members also approved a revision to the group’s mission statement, adopting wording that the task force “seeks to foster a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Trumbull” and will engage with community members, support educational initiatives and advocate for inclusivity “for all identities, including but not limited to identities based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status and ability.”