Litchfield Connecticut Equity Statement 2021
WHEREAS, Litchfield is a northwestern Connecticut hill town whose residents value:
1. life in this small, rural town whose cultural, manufacturing, and agricultural past is still evident in its historic buildings, local businesses, and farms;
2. its town meeting form of government, its four volunteer fire departments, and its two volunteer ambulance squads;
3. the beauty of its natural environment and its many outdoor recreational activities;
4. its well-performing PreK-12 school system; and
WHEREAS, the Town of Litchfield believes that:
1. an environment that is welcoming and that strives to be equitable for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, age, race, ethnicity, gender, and zip code, builds communities and schools that are inclusive, participative, and cohesive;
2. diverse voices engaged in civil discourse strengthen decision-making and enrich civic engagement; and
WHEREAS, the Town of Litchfield aspires to foster a sustainable community that is equitable, inclusive, and cohesive by:
1. maintaining its small-town vitality and local-business-friendly environment, preserving its open spaces and farmland, and acknowledging its historical roots;
2. expanding participation in town government;
3. supporting local legislation and ordinances that allow for a planning process for affordable housing that listens to all voices;
4. supporting the Board of Education’s equity and inclusion policies and its efforts to create a learning environment in which every student is supported, valued and safe; and
WHEREAS, the Town of Litchfield’s strengths in the areas of civic engagement, affordable housing, and school climate include the following:
The town is governed by its First Selectman, twenty-eight volunteer boards, commissions, and committees, some elected and some appointed. The Registrars of Voters register new voters at the high school and recruit residents to work at the three polling places.
Litchfield Housing Authority and the not-for-profit Litchfield Housing Trust, Inc. work with the First Selectman to pursue increasing affordable housing opportunities. Among Litchfield’s total housing units, approximately five percent are designated affordable. There are two senior living communities through the Housing Authority and apartments, homes, and co-ops through the Litchfield Housing Trust.
Litchfield Public Schools have a small student population and small class sizes with an advisory system to promote a positive school culture and academic success. The district offers its faculty and staff professional development on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it has revised its annual state-required survey, adding an equity module to help measure its goals of creating a more welcoming learning environment. The high school has a variety of student clubs devoted to recognizing and celebrating diversity.
WHEREAS, the challenges to achieving the Town of Litchfield’s aspiration to foster an equitable, inclusive, and cohesive community, if left unaddressed, may result in unintended consequences.
1. Vacancies on municipal boards, commissions, and committees and the difficulty of recruiting new people to fill those vacancies can limit the diversity of viewpoints and representation from the five areas of town.
2. The high cost of housing can be a barrier for low-to-moderate-income renters and newcomers, as well as residents who want to remain in their homes or downsize. Starter housing and senior housing were identified as two of the top five needs in the 2020 Town Facilities Survey.
3. Rising costs can limit farmers’ flexibility to maintain their current agricultural practices.
4. The town’s car-dependent, fifty-seven square mile community, can limit student access to after-school programs and activities.
5. Reflecting the town’s current demographics, the district’s minimally diverse student, faculty, and staff population, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, and socioeconomic status, can limit opportunities for students to learn in an environment that prepares them to interact in diverse populations beyond Litchfield.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE TOWN OF LITCHFIELD THAT:
1. for increased civic engagement, the town continue to pursue new strategies for attracting motivated and diverse voices to its boards, commissions, and committees; and explore ways to work with the Board of Education to expose young people to civic service;
2. for increased availability and affordability of housing options, the Town continue to work with the Litchfield Housing Authority and Litchfield Housing Trust to meet housing goals and continue to follow up on the recommendations of Litchfield’s 2017 Plan for Conservation and Development;
3. for the support of local farming, the Town encourage the Planning and Zoning Commission to pursue updating and adopting zoning regulations to allow accessory uses on farmland, including but not limited to farm stands, wineries, and dwelling units for farm workers;
4. for the benefit of all students and their families, the town support the Board of Education’s efforts to craft a district policy on equity and to begin examining courses and curriculum, as well as encourage the Board to explore options to enable all students to participate in after-school programs of their choice;
5. for the future, the Board of Selectmen establish a process for regular review of town practices and policies in order to revise existing ones and adopt new ones as needed to assure their alignment with a culture of equity and inclusion; and
6. for the future, the intent is that this Equity Statement evolve with changing priorities, emerging challenges, and public input.
Respectfully submitted by the Sustainable Litchfield Equity Statement Drafting Team,
August 2, 2021
Diane Field, Sustainable Litchfield Town Committee, Bantam Margaret Hunt, Sustainable Litchfield Town Committee, Litchfield Charles Conn, Community member, Northfield
Priscilla Jeffery, Community member, Bantam
Colin McDermott, Community member, Litchfield
Carol Powers, Community member, Bantam
Kim Simmons, Community member, Litchfield
Matthew Tobin, Community member, Litchfield