Citizen-Led Unity Council Presents Updates on Recommendations to Arlington City Council
By Susan Schrock, Office of Communications
Posted on September 20, 2023, September 20, 2023

Hands reaching out to each other with the title Unity.

The citizen-led Unity Council recently presented the City Council with an update on the progress of its recommendations from its 2021 report and made additional recommendations designed to continue strengthening opportunities and improve the quality of life for underserved, underrepresented and vulnerable populations.

The City Council established the Unity Council in 2020 as part of the City’s commitment to equality, inclusion and the elimination of institutional racism and other forms of discrimination in its policies and practices. The newly released 137-page report provides updates on Arlington’s work in five areas: Economic Disparities; Education and Workforce Training; Housing: Health and Wellness: Policing and Criminal Justice. These includes initiatives that touch on topics such as affordable housing, food deserts, internet access, police relations and more.

Unity Council Chair Dr. Jason Shelton reported that the City’s hiring of a chief equity officer brought a keener focus to the equitable implementation of the recommendations in the council’s original report that aimed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Arlington and mitigate disparities among racial and ethnic groups. Of those, all 57 have either been fully addressed or initiated to varying degrees through short-term, mid-term or long-term goals, he said.

Click here to read the August 2023 Unity Council Report.

The Unity Council’s update report and recommendations call for the City to consider three additional areas of disparity and inclusion that address the needs of residents who are aged 65 and older, who are intellectually or physically disabled, or who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

One of City’s next steps is to publish an enterprise equity dashboard that will provide residents with a comprehensive analysis of the efforts to foster equitable outcomes in all areas outlined in the Unity Report. The dashboard, which will be available on the City’s website, aims to provide the opportunity for residents, service provider organizations and other community stakeholders to better understand where disparities exist and to consider how the community can collectively work to address those issues.

“The success of our city and all its residents will forever be connected to our ability to share in a vision for a more unified and inclusive Arlington. A city that allows everyone to pursue their respective dream in “The American Dream City,” Chief Equity Officer Troy Williams said in the report. “I look forward to joining with each of you in this ongoing work. We are better together.”

Unity Council Report Update

General Recommendations Update

  • The City Council established the Unity Council as a permanent task force, charged with directly engaging residents, organizations and institutions on matters regarding race, ethnicity and other forms of diversity in Arlington. The initial appointment of Unity Council members occurred on Aug. 24, 2021, and the first meeting was held on Oct. 13, 2021.
  • The City hired its first Chief Diversity Officer in July 2022 and charged the role with creating various programs designed to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion citywide.
  • The City continues to expand its anti-poverty efforts through collaborations around job training, affordable housing, transportation, financial and homeownership education and access to business capital.

Housing Recommendations Update

  • With respect to finding tools to develop affordable neighborhoods, the City Council agreed to implement a modification of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit application and process to increase incentives for the development of affordable housing.
  • The Arlington Housing Finance Corporation is working with developers to ensure additional income targeting for affordable housing is achieved through development partnership negotiations that foster deeper affordability opportunities for the city’s most economically vulnerable households.
  • The Arlington Financial Stability Committee was established to foster coordinated approaches between the City, social service providers and local financial institutions to deliver financial literacy and homeownership education to residents.

Education and Workforce Training Recommendations Update

  • The Neighborhood Wi-Fi Program continues to expand across East Arlington.
  • In FY22, the City Council approved lease agreements with SiFi to support construction of the citywide broadband network.
  • The Library and Parks and Recreation Departments external Wi-Fi services have been installed across nineteen facilities throughout the community.
  • The Arlington Library continues to offer Career Chats for Teens; Job Search Jumpstart Training Series; MS Office Suite Training Series; Resume Writing Workshops; and Job and Education Fairs.

Health & Wellness Recommendations Update

  • The City of Arlington, through the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, has partnered with UTA, the United Way and other stakeholders to assess the “State of the Non-Profit Sector” to develop comprehensive service delivery frameworks for advancing anti-poverty, health and other community development programs.
  • The City of Arlington’s Public Health Nurse and the Arlington Fire Department public health team are connecting with various agencies, including John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS), Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH), Texas Health Resources (THR), Medical City Arlington (MCA), Mission Arlington, the YMCA, UTA and the Arlington Latino Resource Coalition to facilitate creative healthcare opportunities for underserved communities.
  • In June 2022, the City Council adopted an ordinance to preserve areas that are marketable for grocery stores with healthier food options.

Economic Disparities Recommendations Update

• The City of Arlington’s Office of Business Diversity has undertaken several policy and operational initiatives to increase MWBE engagement in City contracting, to include expanded program data reporting capacity; facilitating a revised RFQ process for capital projects; business diversity trainings; and business capacity development services.

• The City of Arlington has begun facilitating a Community Investment and Development Initiative whose purpose is to provide reciprocal education for the economic stakeholders, while promoting City development priorities and efforts. The execution of this work will focus on identifying barriers to investment and expanding access to capital for all stakeholders – especially underserved firms and communities.

• Information on the Arlington On-Demand (formerly Via) Non-Profit Free Ride Program has been provided to all Arlington non-profits and staff continues to encourage them to offer free rides to those in need. The Grants Unit allocated $70,000 for use by non-profits in 2021 with CDBG COVID funds (available until 2026.) The City is currently monitoring usage and program marketing.

Policing and Criminal Justice Recommendations Update

  • Youth engagement with the Arlington Police Department (APD) has increased significantly through the expansion of Police Athletic League (PAL) programming citywide; community events; police ride along programs; and connecting K-12 students with the Arlington Police Department.
  • APD has increased community knowledge and cultural understanding amongst new and experienced patrol officers by implementing cultural exchange initiatives; attendance at community events; and community immersion programs.
  • APD reviews training twice annually with the Public Safety Assessment Council to discuss training trends and available resources. The department is also in the process of establishing a partnership with UTA to conduct a third-party review of the agency’s Use of Force data.
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