‘Fair and equal treatment of all:’ Fairfield approves racial equity task force mission statement

FAIRFIELD — After months of groundwork, the Board of Selectmen has unanimously approved the mission statement for the task force on justice and equality.

“The goal is to enhance and improve Fairfield’s commitment (to) systematically fair and equal treatment of all town residents, businesses, workers (and) visitors, regardless of their race,” First Selectwoman Kupchick said.

The first selectwoman said the task force would have 11 members, which will be selected and approved by the Board of Selectmen. She said the town has been accepting and reviewing questionnaires from residents interested in joining.

Selectwoman Nancy Lefkowitz, the presumptive co-chair Kupchick tasked with creating the task force, said she has been working to reach out to invested stakeholders — members of the Black and brown community in Fairfield, town Republicans and Democrats, local religious leaders and equity coalitions in both high schools.

Lefkowitz said she and Gina Ludlow, a town resident and the other presumptive co-chair of the task force, talked to potential applicants and town residents interested in working on racial equity.

“What is so heartening is how many people, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, who are really invested in this work and are invested in the, not only equal treatment, but the equality and equity of treatment of all residents here,” Lefkowitz said. “It’s a huge, herculean task, but it’s super hopeful given how many people have thrown their hat in the ring so far.”

Ludlow said there has been an excellent show of bipartisan commitment.

“I hope that, together, we can, with all voices represented at the table, move forward in a way that helps Fairfield solidify the commitment to equity that First Selectwoman Kupchick spoke of,” she said.

Kupchick started the task force in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes in May. Floyd’s death sparked thousands of protests over police brutality and racial inequality across the country, including demonstrations in Fairfield.

After the board passed the motion, town attorney James Baldwin noted participation in the work the task force is setting out to do is not limited to members.

“This is going to be a governmental, public body that’s going to be subject to meeting rules, (Freedom of Information Act) rules, postings and the like,” he said. “So, there is ample opportunity for the citizenry to be involved and attend meetings.”

Echoing that point, Lefkowitz said there is room at the table for anybody who wants to be involved. She said it will only work if they have engaged residents committed to the ideals put forth.

“Not just in the mission statement, but this idea that injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere,” Lefkowitz said. “We must have engaged citizens for this to be ongoing, effective and impactful.”