Moorestown’s Better Together Task Force presented results and recommendations from its community survey at the township’s council meeting on Feb. 7.
“In February 2021, Moorestown council members unanimously agreed to the formation of a diversity, equity and inclusion task force whose mission would be to explore how Moorestown can better protect and celebrate diversity among our residents, businesses and visitors while promoting an innovative, engaged and informed community,” said Deputy Mayor Sue Mammarella.
In September 2021, task force member Barbara Schwartz presented the survey to council and it was then launched to the public.
“Since then, this task force has analyzed the results and continue to research and come together frequently, spending many, many hours on continuing this effort,” Mammarella said.
Survey questions focused on personal experiences in Moorestown and were analyzed by demographics, including race, sex, age, ethnicity and income. Rev. Thomas Holmes of Moorestown’s Second Baptist Church reviewed key findings:
Questions regarding fair treatment in Moorestown received the strongest positive response; two-thirds of the 305 comments were negative; Hispanic and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (Questioning), Intersex, Asexual and (Agender) (LGBTQIA) respondents are notably more negative overall to survey questions, and the lowest scores came across all demographic groups for the following statement: “I feel safe to freely express my point of view and will be treated with respect by others, even if my opinion may differ.”
“The recommendations that we’re putting forth on this night is to establish a permanent diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) town council committee,” Holmes said. “We will continually plan and take action to foster and sustain a culture where all groups feel welcome in our town, and work to celebrate the strength of our diversity and to ensure that communities are well represented in policy decisions.”
Better Together Moorestown’s findings are that a committee of 12 to 15 diverse members will demonstrate the township’s commitment to DEI; coordinate and focus DEI action planning to enable positive change; enhance communication; and align ongoing efforts from other township groups, lending credibility and consistency across efforts.
“What I’ve seen through my life is that this particular initiative in Moorestown is unique in that we are looking at everything together and I believe that this committee and these proposal recommendations will help us set the pathway to being better together,” Holmes said.
Initial committee goals include creating a community action plan for the first year, further analyzing data across all questions, holding Moorestown’s first community event to celebrate its diversity and creating partnerships across Moorestown organizations to bring awareness to the importance of diversity and inclusion.
“We certainly have a lot of work to do but I’m proud of the fact that we have taken what the world has given us … we’ve chose to do what we can to be better as a community,” said Councilman Quinton Law.
Mayor Nicole Gillespie explained the committee’s process of formation will require a second discussion.
“What I would ask my colleagues to do is look through that again and think about ‘Do we have questions of this task force or things we’d like them to help us with on the way to creating that committee?’”
Earlier in its meeting, council proclaimed February Black History Month in Moorestown and recognized residents Colette McLean-Lamidi and Austin Haynes.
“We are truly better when we celebrate our differences, and I’m just thankful and really appreciative of the honor,” McLean-Lamidi said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the changes we make in the future, and I’m very confident that town council will be able to do so,” Haynes remarked.
Better Together Moorestown’s council presentation, survey results and comments are posted on www.moorestown.nj.us.