WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's diversity and racial equity committee Monday talked about how it should process reports it receives from other boards and committees in town government.
In 2020, town meeting passed a warrant article that, in part, stated that "town employees and public office holders" should submit quarterly reports to the then unnamed "race and equity advisory committee."
According to Article 37, which passed overwhelmingly at the meeting, those reports, "should include types and vendors of equity training and policies and procedures created to advance access for traditionally under-represented groups."
Article 37 did not specify what the advisory committee, now known as the Diversity, Inclusion, Race and Equity Advisory Committee, ought to do with those reports.
On Monday, DIRE Committee members noted two issues with the documents, referred to as Article 37 reports: only a handful of town boards have submitted the documents, and DIRE never has created a formal process for evaluating the reports.
The first problem has been a source of frustration for committee members for years and recently was referred to by Jeff Johnson, a former DIRE Committee member who now serves on the Select Board.
The second issue was raised by DIRE's Andi Bryant.
"We've had three submissions," Bryant said. "We haven't touched them. I want to bounce around the idea of having a subcommittee of DIRE. … I'm kind of imagining a group of five, two out of this committee and three volunteers from the community, to look over these Article 37 reports, find a way to categorize things, get them out for the public to see.
"I'm not all comfortable with two things. One is [Article 37] sends them to us, but there's no resolution. It takes so much time and effort and thought. There are some groups that are really working hard and taking the time to put this together. We're not giving them, currently, the attention they need. They should be treated with respect."
Shana Dixon said she shared Bryant's concern.
"We get the library's right on time, consistently," Dixon said. "I see them, and I'm like, 'What exactly are we supposed to do with them?' I really don't know, and we haven't gotten that far to understand what we are trying to express from receiving those."
Randy Fippinger suggested that the DIRE Committee could distill the reports it does receive into an annual report to the town. Noah Smalls indicated that review of the reports could be part of a discussion with the town manager about the committee's budgetary needs, along with a desire often expressed by members to hire a note-taker to help the panel keep up with its minutes.
"What Andi is pointing to is things that probably should be budgeted for," Smalls said. "Things that we do not as a committee, even at full strength, have the capacity for."
The DIRE Committee has been operating with five members for months. The committee's first iteration had nine members; the updated charge for the advisory group approved by the Select Board last month said it should have seven appointees.
On Monday, the committee did not take action on Bryant's suggestion of a new subcommittee, but Dixon asked her colleagues to read through the Article 37 reports in hand so they can be discussed by the full committee at its Dec. 19 meeting.
Another topic suggested on Monday for that agenda is the town's process for hiring a new permanent police chief.
Smalls expressed concern after hearing an update from Fippinger about details of the search discussed at the most recent Select Board meeting. Specifically, resident Janice Loux used the forum at the Nov. 28 meeting to criticize the town manager for saying in October he had advertised the job with five entities, like the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, that serve traditionally marginalized law enforcement officers.
After Loux complained that she could only find the listing on the websites of two of the groups Robert Menicocci referenced, Menicocci clarified in an email to iBerkshires.com that, "Some postings may have lapsed by the time [Loux] looked or courtesy postings we requested on free sites may have never been posted."
Loux told the DIRE Committee on Monday that the town should have hired a consultant to help insure the hiring process was reaching a wide range of potential candidates and that the process employed by the town is a sign of white supremacy in the community.
"Randy has proposed we agenda this for an upcoming issue, and I think that's really smart, giving it the full time it deserves" Smalls said. "I just wanted to specify the need to discuss this further, especially around understanding more specifically and transparently as it is being communicated that there was a faltering in trying to provide an equitable search and coming up with a diverse array of candidates, which is, really, frankly a very difficult thing to do.
"Just wanting to make sure we're all on the same page and can expect the kind of sincerity and transparency from those communicating what these processes are and highlighting the critical importance of everyone's integrity on these matters."
The committee Monday deferred a couple of topics given the fact that Andrew Art was unable to attend. The four members in attendance agreed that the DIRE Committee's efforts to foster community with a table on Spring Street during last Saturday's Holiday Walk celebration was a success in spite of foul weather that cut into attendance at the annual event.
Fippinger then raised a separate seasonal issue: municipal displays of holiday cheer.
After noticing a decorated artificial tree in the lobby of town hall, Fippinger asked if the town also could display a menorah, he said.
"The answer was, ‘No,' in that they did not want to get too deeply into making a political statement, and the tree was meant more to be a holiday tree and not representing Christmas," Fippinger said. "I don't want to detract from the tree, but I wish – and this is a discussion that comes up every single year – I wish there was a way to be inclusive of all communities that celebrate this month as opposed to saying, ‘If you can't have this, then you can't have that.'
"I don't think we should take away."
Smalls challenged the idea that a town's holiday display can be called a "holiday tree."
"I don't think you can do that anymore," he said. "I don't think you can put up a Christmas tree to celebrate Christmas, call it a holiday tree and say, ‘That's for everybody.' I think we're too far along in the respect and recognition of everybody's cultures to suggest that a Christmas tree is not a Christmas tree and we can use a Christmas tree to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and any other holidays that people might be observing during this time of the year.
"I also think that once you go down the path of any of them, it does help to make a platform and a pathway by which other holidays and traditions might be respectfully observed."
The committee discussed putting the holiday display on the Dec. 19 agenda, but given the two-week lag also agreed that a couple of DIRE Committee members could have a discussion with the town manager about the subject prior to the next full committee meeting.
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Clark Art Screens Experimental Animation Short Films
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — On Feb. 2 at 7 pm, the Clark Art Institute screens a selection of short films covering experimental animation from the 1960s and '70s in its auditorium.
The showing is the third event in the Clark's Film and Drawing series, inspired by the exhibition, "Promenades on Paper: Eighteenth-Century Drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France," on view through March 12.
According to a press release:
In the midst of the Cold War, animation artists explored alternative realities. Their artistic explorations enabled them to venture outside of the ideological boundaries of international politics. Some of these realities reached back to fairytales, like the animations of the Soviet Union's Yuri Norstein. Other artists, like the Canadian-Scottish animator Norman McLaren, pursued abstraction, looking for basic first principles that might be shared across the animation frame.
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The non-profit conservation trust succeeded in November in convincing the Select Board to assign the town's right of first refusal on the property, which has been conserved under the commonwealth's Chapter 61 program since the 1980s.
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Five years after the Select Board lent its support to a planned medical cannabis facility, the proprietor still is working toward obtaining a license to be a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center in the commonwealth. click for more