JACKSON, Wyo. — The Town of Jackson moved forward with creating an Equity Task Force during the Aug. 30 Special Town Council Workshop.
Susan Scarlata, Community Engagement Specialist for the Town of Jackson, presented the plan for the task force, first defining equity. Equity is the concept of trying to ensure equal outcomes for everyone.
“There is a difference between creating equal access where everyone gets the same thing versus creating equitable access where an individual’s different needs and capacities are considered planned for and barriers are removed,” Scarlata said.
The goal of the task force is “to create a more livable community and more equitable inclusive local government that better reflects our community’s demographics.”
The Equity Task Force will consider existing policies and programs, and create new policies and regulatory changes.
Aspects the task force will consider include aspects of the Comp Plan, partnering to develop events, checking with dispatch to see if callers are asked if they need mental health assistance, town policies, capital projects and infrastructure updates.
According to the Economic Innovation Group, Teton County has the greatest wealth disparity in the nation.
In Nov. 2021 the Town will release a call for applications, the Council will be presented with seven potential members in Feb. 2022 and the task force will meet in April 2022. Members will serve two-year terms and attend three-hour-long monthly meetings.
Staff suggests that each of the seven members of the Equity Task Force is paid $450 per month to participate in monthly meetings, work on committees and prepare for meetings. The breakdown is 15 hours at $30 per hour, Scarlata explained.
“Staff finds that it’s definitely an incentive and with segments of the community we are hoping to engage we really think this could be the difference of taking on a second or third job and giving the time and effort and energy,” Scarlata said.
This is not currently a budgeted expense and would require a budget amendment.
Councilmember Jessica Sell Chambers supported the stipend and discussed how unpaid government positions keep people from engaging.
“It takes a certain kind of privilege to participate,” Sell Chambers said.
Councilmember Jonathan Schechter brought up the decline in volunteerism in the United States over the last 30 years, pointing out how it is tied to equity and privilege, “I fully acknowledging the dilemma there.”
“I see this more as a one-off experimental thing to see what happens,” Schecter said.
The council unanimously voted to move the process along.