When Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams was campaigning for his first election, he shared a vision of unity for all the city’s residents.
The first formal collaboration of diversified citizens was launched in 2017 with the creation of The Community Relations Commission to engage the community, share information and promote participation in civic and community matters.
Members use their influence, contacts, relationships and skill sets to advance unified community and city affairs.
They work expressly to advance the vision of Arlington’s Kindness Initiative by engaging businesses, city services, social services, schools and non-profits to inject kindness into the culture of the American Dream City.
A goal of 400,000 acts of kindness was set, and each expression or action from one to another is being documented by reports from citizens that come in to the city via online or on the go using the Ask Arlington App.
The success of the program can be found on the city’s website, where descriptions of the reports are shared for all to see.
Now comes a new, companion initiative launched by the mayor and city council last month. It is a citizen-led Unity Council as the city continues its work to create, as described in its formation, “an exemplary, safe environment in which to live learn, work and play for all residents – regardless of race, ethnicity or national origins.”
The city’s news release explains its further purpose:
The Arlington City Council on Tuesday made its first appointments to the 25-member Unity Council, whose mission will be to gather community input, research best practices and recommend strategies that the City of Arlington could implement to promote and encourage greater equality across our community. The Unity Council’s work to create a racial equity plan is part of the City’s commitment to equality, inclusion, and the elimination of institutional racism and other forms of discrimination in its policies and practices.
From police reform to the planned adoption of a racial equity plan by next year, Mayor Williams said the city will advance a number of short, medium and long term goals that aim to build unity in the community and improve life for all.
“It will be a continual journey, yet we are trying to work so we are able to make progress all along the way. This isn’t a situation where we are trying to put off things, but neither are we trying to move too fast,” Williams said. “There are some things that are real clear cut that we can do to make a difference in our community. We are working toward equality and justice so we can live in unity. That is the goal.”
The city council also unanimously adopted Racial Equity and Equity Related to COVID-19 resolutions and the charge for the Unity Council, which is based on a framework provided by the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership initiative.
Community conversations are already under way. Last month, Pastor Kennedy Jones invited members of the Arlington Police Department to participate in the Equal Protection and Justice Under the Law Summit at the Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church last month.
Kennedy was among those appointed to the Unity Council that also includes the 15-member Community Relations Commission.
Dr. Ronnie Goines, pastor of Koinonia Christian Church, called the creation of the Unity Council “a major stride in the right direction” in broadening the community’s understanding of the challenges and hurdles that exist.
“The Unity Council is such a major thing because it expands all of our perspectives. When you bring in some of the best minds in Arlington – people who have a heart for the city and a heart for humanity – nothing but good can come out of that.”
Arlington is leading the way forward to ensure a quality of life that lifts all its citizens.