A nine-member task force is expected to be seated by January or February to begin tackling social issues in town such as domestic violence, homelessness and diversity in an effort to create a more inclusive community.
“Council identified a need to reinvigorate civic engagement and discourse,” said Councilwoman Kathy Tilque at last week’s Council retreat. “The goal was to bring our community together.”
Tilque, who helped develop the framework, said the task force’s mission is to provide a place at the table where everyone fits and every voice is heard.
The group will focus on the Council’s priorities set in the spring financial retreat that included domestic violence, mental health and suicide prevention, homelessness and low-income challenges, human and sex trafficking and diversity, Deputy Town Manager Leah Hubbard said.
Hubbard said an applicant must be a Gilbert resident and have a passion for bettering the community. They also must attend monthly meetings. The task force will advise the Council and the terms are for two years, she said.
And, the task force members are expected to be well-versed in the town’s annual community needs assessment reports and data demographics, according to Hubbard.
“The task force would share with me the feedback that they gather from listening to citizens (who may feel they have no voice and) they would identify community partners and resources,” she said. “We want to figure out how to connect our residents to the resources and the nonprofits and the individuals that are out there able to help.
“We also want the task force to establish goals and benchmarks so that we can measure success – how are they making an impact, how are they helping the community have a positive impact?”
Hubbard said staff will use social media platforms to recruit members for the task force with an eye toward engaging teens and young adults who indicated at Listening Sessions held last year that they wanted to make a difference and help shape the future.
Hubbard said the application process will open in December and Council will select the members in January. She added that the task force will present an action plan for the Council to review no later than June 2022.
“It is a bit ambitious but doable,” she said.
Councilman Scott Anderson voiced concerns that the group might focus on one topic instead of looking at the entire picture.
“The thought was we would be looking for people to appoint who are interested in every one of those issues to ensure we look at everything,” Tilque responded.
She added that regular reports will be provided to the Council to make sure the task force is not off topic.
Council began talking about forming the task force in late 2020 after a summer of nationwide civil unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man by a white Minneapolis cop during police custody.
While Scottsdale saw its upscale mall looted, Gilbert saw weekly protests between Black Lives Matter supporters and those backing police.
The town even held Listening Sessions, a three-day event in June 2020 for residents to share their views on racism and police reforms with town officials.
Although the Council last fall discussed the possibility of resurrecting a defunct Human Relations Commission, which was tasked with addressing diversity problems in town, it eventually decided instead to expand the mission to include other social issues in Gilbert.
The commission was formed in 2000 in response to assaults in town by a white supremacist group of local high schoolers called the Devil Dogs. The commission, however, disbanded in 2017 with former members saying they were powerless to effect real change in town because their role was strictly advisory.