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Progress update: Race and Culture Task Force recommendations

Posted Oct. 28, 2019

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City staff continues to make progress on implementing more than 20 wide-ranging recommendations from the Task Force on Race and Culture.

In 2017, the City Council appointed the 23-member task force to examine issues related to race and culture in Fort Worth. Seven subcommittees studied racial equity and bias in several areas: criminal justice, economic development, education, health, housing, municipal governance and transportation.

Here are progress reports for some of the recommendations. View a complete outline of progress on the 22 approved initiatives.

Implementing all of the recommendations is estimated to have a $2 million impact on the fiscal year 2020 city budget and will add 24 staff positions.

Criminal justice strategies

The City Council agreed to create a police monitor function in the City Manager’s Office. Candidate interviews will be conducted this fall, and the police monitor position should be filled in early 2020.

The task force urged the city to adopt a method for independent oversight of the police department to increase the community’s trust in the department. One of the first tasks for the person hired for the police monitor position will be define the processes and models associated with independent oversight of the police department.

The Police Department plans to reinstate a Police Cadet program and target students in majority-minority high schools as a way to potentially recruit more minority applicants to the ranks of the department.

The Police Department will soon begin crafting a diversity hiring plan for all positions with respect to race, ethnicity and gender. A recruitment plan is expected to be presented to the city manager in early 2020.

Economic development strategies

In an effort to expand the capacity of minority-owned businesses to secure contracts and achieve success, the city and The Beck Group, an integrated architecture and construction firm, launched a construction program for Minority Business Enterprises. The program features a series of eight training sessions to help MBEs increase their knowledge of the construction industry and to be competitive in bidding on projects.

Realizing that lack of viable transportation alternatives can be a hindrance to maintaining steady employment, the city has partnered with Workforce Solutions to enhance job fairs and training opportunities.

City staff is identifying occupations with labor shortages, then will work to increase training opportunities for these occupations.

Education strategies

The task force recommended efforts to improve child care in minority neighborhoods in cooperation with the Early Learning Alliance. In the coming months, the city will work with a consultant to conduct an organizational assessment and develop an equity plan based on that assessment. That plan will enable the city to apply an equity lens when creating, changing or eliminating policies related to children’s well-being.

To improve the college and career readiness of African-American and Hispanic high school students, the city has established a working group with several partners to examine GO Centers — campus and community facilities that aspire to help students see pathways to careers and college — and develop a plan to rebrand the centers to expand their reach into the community.

Governance strategies

A new diversity and inclusion director will soon be hired. The director will manage the newly created Diversity and Inclusion Department, formerly known as the Human Relations Unit of the City Manager’s Office. This department is responsible for coordinating implementation of the task force’s recommendations and promoting equity in the provision of all municipal services.

City employees have been undergoing training on diversity and mutual respect. A Values Summit for supervisors was conducted recently, and front-line employees will receive training early in 2020.

Health strategies

As part of ongoing efforts to increase residents’ participation in walking, cycling and other forms of exercise, sidewalk gaps and streetlights gaps have been identified in certain neighborhoods. An addition to the capital planning process for the next five years is an effort to evaluate infrastructure maintenance and investment based on equity. For example, $1 million per year is proposed to address the lack of street lights and suitable streets in majority-minority neighborhoods, among other initiatives.

Increasing residents’ access to healthy foods is a vital part of improving well-being in minority communities. The city has developed educational information about retail food business opportunities in food deserts to distribute to existing and would-be entrepreneurs. Other efforts underway include working with Blue Zones Project to find a location for healthy convenience stores in the Northside and Diamond Hill neighborhoods; assisting a farmers market in becoming a SNAP retailer; and establishing a food recovery pilot program that decreases waste of fresh produce at grocery stores and redirecting it to Fort Worth residents.

Housing strategies

To help provide affordable-housing incentives, the city is finalizing the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan with specific action steps, among other initiatives. The city’s Economic Development staff is examining its tax abatement policy for multifamily projects.

Several communication pieces have been prepared to increase residents’ awareness of housing resources. These include a brochure summarizing all information on city housing assistance program, a presentation on the dangers of lead-based paint and the availability of city repair programs, and a comprehensive Neighborhood Services brochure in English and Spanish that was presented at a workshop series last summer.

Transportation strategies

A transportation equity policy and five-year action plan will result in more equitable decisions about how resources for transportation improvements are allocated. There will be opportunities for the public to provide input on the plan.

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