Bedford will soon embark on a year-long process to plan and implement a racial equity action plan for municipal and school employees, at no cost to the town.
The program, awarded competitively, is called REMAP, an acronym for the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan. It is sponsored by a collaboration among three government entities: the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Funding for the consultants involved will be covered as a technical assistance grant. The six recipients were announced this week.
The first four months will focus on “tailored” training, reflection, and self-assessment. Beginning in February, the town will turn to developing a starting to implement a racial equity municipal action plan.
“It is going to be wonderful to have such valuable consulting that we would not normally be able to get,” stated Town Manager Sarah A. Stanton, who said she will be the point person for execution and implementation.
She said the process will focus on “working with staff and some elected officials to put together policy initiatives.” The agenda includes examining current guidelines and procedures and creating an action plan for the next steps.
The outcome could include upgrading municipal hiring and funding priorities, addressing disparities in a transparent way, and following other routes toward improving diversity, the town manager said. There also may be opportunities to interface with other cities and towns to address shared challenges and learn from best practices.
Stanton said she began applying for assistance almost a year ago. “One of the Select Board’s goals this year is diversity and how we can have a more welcoming community and workplace,” she said. “This is an opportunity for making the environment more equitable. We are really committed to implementing the changes in the action plan.”
The granters estimate a 255-hour commitment, “and that’s heavy lifting in the middle of a pandemic,” the town manager acknowledged. “You have to really want to do this work to agree to do it.” She noted that it is difficult to put a monetary value on a year’s worth of nationally-regarded consulting services.
The other five winners, among 22 applicants, were the towns of Natick and Stoughton and the cities of Framingham, Lynn, and Revere, all with a larger and more diverse population than Bedford.
According to the MAPC, applications were evaluated on criteria including a commitment to implementation, the ability to measure or quantify improvements, a commitment to regional collaboration, and valuing racial equity.
“If successful, the program will help municipalities achieve tangible community-level economic and administration improvements and address institutional and structural policies and practices that contribute to racial inequity.”
In their letter inviting applications, the sponsoring agencies said that “the public has raised critical questions about municipal hiring, decision-making processes, and funding priorities. Cities and towns are looking for ways to address racism in an up-front and effective manner.
The collaboration, they wrote, is an effort to support localities through the process. “The ways forward to address the root causes of inequality and to make effective change are not always clear, and strong differences of opinion within individual communities can bar the way to progress,” the letter said.