Park City Latino community ‘doesn’t feel safe,’ official says |

Park City Latino community ‘doesn’t feel safe,’ official says

A member of the Park City Council at a recent meeting indicated the Latino population does not see itself as being safe as a community nowadays, describing the situation in a manner that did not broach the politically polarizing issue of immigration or President Trump’s hardline stance on the topic.

Tim Henney’s comments were made as Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council held their first formal discussion about the ideal of social equity, something that Park City’s leadership plans to press in coming months. Henney spoke amid continuing concerns of Park City’s Latinos about the administration’s policies, made more urgent after a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation that netted four people, wanted on felony counts, in February. Henney said at the recent meeting social equity is broader than Latino issues and instead involves the entire city. His comments, made toward the beginning of the discussion, were some of the most notable of the meeting, and other elected officials seemed to refer to them as they spoke later.

“This will segue into how do we engage all segments of the community. We make them feel welcomed. I think we make their input valued and we make them feel safe. I think those are the three things: welcomed, valued and safe,” he said. “And the Latino community doesn’t feel safe. And if you don’t feel safe because of the fracturing of society around you, how are you going to feel valued? How are you going to feel welcomed? So that’s our challenge with that particular segment and demographic.”

The talks about social equity are expected to be wide ranging as they unfold in the next year, but the recent meeting likely provided a preview of the level of support the topic will garner even as the lineup of elected officials changes in early 2018. Andy Beerman, now a City Councilor, ascends to the mayor’s office and two new City Councilors take their seats next year. The recent discussion did not dwell on details. Those will likely be addressed as officials hold talks about individual policies or programs that fall under the umbrella of social equity. The mayor and City Council at the recent meeting instead wanted to express support for the overarching ideals of social equity. The ideals encompass topics of importance to the Latino community as well as other segments of the population, such as affordability.

Beerman also provided some crucial comments at the recent meeting, touching on some of the topics raised by Henney. Beerman said City Hall must set a “very high bar and that we show a high moral ground here.”

“It’s something that’s expected from our community, and we have the ability to do that,” Beerman said, adding, “Whatever we do I think we need to start looking at social equity as a lens by which we evaluate everything. I think Tim put it really well with that ‘welcome, valued and safe.’ Every action we take as a city we should ask, ‘Does this make all of our residents feel welcome, valued and safe?’”

Some activists are monitoring the early City Hall talks about social equity and others are expected to be involved later. The elected officials at the meeting received testimony in support of the discussions about social equity.

Rachel Barnett, who works in community outreach for the People’s Health Clinic, a not-for-profit organization that provides medical services to the uninsured, provided stark testimony. She said the politics of today move quickly and said the Latino population reports depression more than other groups. She received applause from the crowd. Barnett said the elected officials “have to show them and us that we matter, because the politics changed in a way that we can’t control.”

“You guys set the example of what is a priority. Make the marginalized a priority,” she also said, emotionally, adding, “On behalf of my clinic, my patients, please push it through, quickly.”

The elected officials are scheduled to continue their discussions about social equity at a meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building. Public input will be taken. The City Council could decide to move social equity from a top priority at City Hall to a critical one, a step that would shift additional municipal resources to the issue.

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