In the eyes of Thornton City Council and city staff, there is a lot of progress on equity-oriented initiatives led by the city’s police, parks and recreation, and economic development departments. …
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In the eyes of Thornton City Council and city staff, there is a lot of progress on equity-oriented initiatives led by the city’s police, parks and recreation, and economic development departments.
Department directors updated the council at a June 15 planning session on the latest developments with the city’s equity ad hoc action plan. Big-ticket items included police training, the police-community team, redevelopment of the Thornton Shopping Center, and managing blight.
Last year, the council formed an ad hoc committee on equity, comprised of Mayor Jan Kulmann and Councilors Angie Bedolla, Julia Marvin and Jacque Phillips, to study inequity in Thornton and give city staff direction on addressing those issues. The committee drafted an action plan that emphasized certain projects or initiatives in the areas of policing, communications and technology, and amenities. The city was already working on many of the projects mentioned in the plan, but the plan placed a higher emphasis on them and for some, allocated additional funding towards.
The police department is undertaking several new initiatives, explained Police Chief Terrence Gordon at the June 15 planning session. Gordon started with Thornton PD soon after the equity ad hoc action plan came out, and many of the policing recommendations in the plan have materialized under his leadership.
A major one is the police-community team, a group of seven residents who will provide the department with input on policy, training and long-term strategies. The department selected members, one from each police district, in April and the first meeting is expected to occur in July. “We expect that to be a lively discussion,” Gordon said.
Meanwhile, the department is implementing new training this year and next year, around communicating with people who are not proficient in English, de-escalation, communicating with people with disabilities, and use of force.
Philips commended the chief for his efforts, saying, “This is the training that people were asking for.”
At the planning session, councilors and staff also discussed four major redevelopment projects, specifically the Thornton Shopping Center, Gateway District, Thornton Town Center and Pinnacle Center. Of those four, the highest priority is Thornton Shopping Center, explained John Cody, economic development director.
The city is in conversation with companies interested in developing on the land where the Thornton Shopping Center resides, but that won’t happen until after the property’s current owner, Jay Brown, addresses a litany of environmental and city code violations. Thornton has spent significant time and energy on the latter, especially.
“Right now, our focus is the Thornton Shopping Center, but it’s not that we don’t have focus anywhere else,” said Cody. “It’s just a hard nut to crack and we’re trying to crack it and I hope we’re close.”
After the city gets a handle on the Thornton Shopping Center, the other three redevelopment projects might be easier to work on because the properties’ owners might be more willing to collaborate with the city.
Those other three projects, Cody said, “are still very possible and are still very likely and doesn’t necessarily mean that we just have to throw money at those. All of them have potential solutions, it’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the equity ad hoc action plan directed city staff to better manage abandoned, blighted and vacant buildings. Staff plan to present a new ordinance to the council at a July 6 planning session that would strengthen city enforcement around neglected and derelict buildings.
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