Going beyond banners

Northglenn councilors grapple with making some appropriate social justice changes

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/25/20

Northglenn’s volunteer groups and committees will be discussing what they can do to support racial justice over the coming weeks, all part of an effort to make sure a plan to decorate city utility …

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Going beyond banners

Northglenn councilors grapple with making some appropriate social justice changes

Posted

Northglenn’s volunteer groups and committees will be discussing what they can do to support racial justice over the coming weeks, all part of an effort to make sure a plan to decorate city utility polls with Black Lives Matter banners is not just another empty measure.

Councilors seemed to favor a plan to decorate city light and utility poles with black cloth banners at their June 15 virtual study session meeting. City staff designed the banners after City Councilors said they want to show their support for racial justice.

But Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 2 Councilor Jenny Wilford said she wanted to be sure the city’s support does not stop there.

“I appreciate the work staff did putting this together and I think they look very nice,” Wilford said.

However, banners are a temporary display while Northglenn’s pursuit for social justice must be a permanent thing, Wilford said.

“If you create banners to be supportive for a period of time, the message might be that you are supportive during this season of Black Lives Matter but are ready to move on as soon as the noise dies down,” Wilford said.

That began a two-hour-long discussion, with councilors agreeing the city needs to make permanent changes.

“The banners are nice, but the banners are just a show,” Wilford said. “I want to see us commit to building an anti-racist city, to actually doing the work we need to be doing to break down city barriers.”

Making art

The city’s original plan called for putting up banners on 16 poles along six city streets — 112th Avenue, Community Center Drive, Huron Street, Washington Street and Claude Court. But councilors suggested making as more twice as many.

“We can let the city manager decide how many poles we can get, but between 30 and 50 would not be a problem to me,” Councilor Antonio Esquibel said.

Councilor Joyce Browns said most of the locations picked were Northglenn’s internal streets, but she’d like to see them go up on commuter arterials like 120th, where people from outside of Northglenn would see them.

Councilor Julie Duran Mullica suggested commissioning a permanent piece of art for the city’s collection with a racial justice theme, like a mural or a sculpture.

“That hit it right on the head for me because that’s what we do in Northglenn.” she said. “We have lots of art, lots of public art, and it’s something we are really proud of. I feel like committing it something like that could be a more of more permanent statement in our city. On top of that, this is going to be a really long conversation in our city, with residents and our police department. So I am committed to doing something permanent.”

Volunteer boards

Mayor Meredith Leighty said she’s interested in changes that are more permanent, too.

“I truly believe that anything we do has the potential to be seen as performative and lacking sincerity,” Leighty said.

She asked if councilors should refer the question to the city’s Citizen Affairs Board. That’s a five-member group of Northglenn residents that reviews public interest topics and advises City Councilors and staff on policies.

“If we have an organization that partners with the city, would we need to create a new one or this one we can advance and dig in a little deeper?” Leighty said. “Or do we need to have a completely separate group just for this topic?”

Wilford said it’s appropriate that all city boards and committees consider the topic.

“If the youth commission wants to engage in this area and give us feedback and recommendations, I would love that,” she said. “That would be very powerful for them and for us.”

But Wilford also called for creating a race and equity task force to discuss issues.

“One of the things on our banner says that ‘We hear you, We are listening,’” she said.” So I think it’s very important for us to actually listen.”

Leaders of color

Councilor Becky Brown said she was thinking about having public discussion hosted by Northglenn residents that are people of color.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not, but our leaders of color know much more than we do,” Brown said. “We are on-topic and I think this is a good start. But there are things I want to do that may not be rough and tough, but they make up a response. It may not be money. It may not be a sculpture or a mural. It may be funding for a program or something. So yes, I think a town hall is great and that we need to use those as much as possible right now.”

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