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Cranberry comprehensive plan to see diversity update

CRANBERRY TWP — Supervisors held a public hearing Thursday, May 25, introducing culture and diversity updates to the township’s comprehensive plan.

Updates included transitioning the Cranberry Area Diversity Network, CADN, into the Cranberry Township IDEA — inclusion, diversity, equity and advisory — team.

“About a year ago, a group of stakeholders came to the board meeting and talked to you all about the direction and efforts that we’re putting forth toward that section of our Cranberry plan — that culture and diversity section,” township manager Dan Santoro told the board.

According to Santoro, the township formed a steering group and, working with a consultant, drafted updates to the comprehensive plan.

Kyle Beidler, strategic planning officer for the township, said the updated plan identified 20 high-priority items that the group hopes to accomplish.

“Part of the first step — so there’s five first big steps — was kind of thinking about the CADN name, and as this group has evolved, we’ve kind of grown into a little bit new identity, of the team decided ‘IDEA.’” Beidler said. “The IDEA team reflected this shift or this evolution in diversity efforts.”

One of the next steps, Beidler said, would be appointing a main contact for the team as a township staff position.

“That’s really the point of contact for all of our partner groups — not just the IDEA team, not just the (Home Owners Association) forum or (Cranberry Township Community Chest) — whoever we’re working with,” Beidler said. “We’re going to identify that as a staff position and they’re going to serve as their contact, so we need to do that.”

Beidler said the group has begun working on diversity events similar to the recent CranFest, where the group hosted a “soft launch” of the IDEA team.

Additionally, he said the township’s website has been updated to reflect the transformation and provide information for the public.

“Then the last step will be appointing the new IDEA team,” Beidler said, “so after we adopt the plan we’re going to sit back down and figure out what that looks like, appoint leadership and identify members.”

Charles Hawkins, co-coordinator of CADN when it was founded in 2014, thanked the township leadership that helped establish the diversity initiative.

“And I think everybody here should thank them, because of what they’ve done and because of them being able to put forth a plan, we now have the IDEA team,” Hawkins said. “We now have other people who are willing to go forward and set this in motion as it should be.”

Carlen Blackstone, a member of the planning team, emphasized the importance of the plan being “more than just a document.”

“Many who live here, including some of us here tonight and our family members, have experienced that being Black, Indian, Asian, Latino, LGBTQ+, Jewish, etc. in a predominantly white, somewhat homogeneous community, is sometimes hard in ways that I can’t fully understand,” Blackstone said.

She said the board’s approval of the plan would be a means of combating those hardships.

“Cranberry Township has not always been as welcoming as we would like it be,” Blackstone said. “That said, we appeal to you, the board of supervisors and those residents who are here tonight, to affirm with us: a community that intentionally embraces diversity, aims for full inclusion and provides for equity is a stronger community because it affirms every single person’s contributions.”

The board offered its unanimous support and thanks.

“I think I said it last year when I said, ‘Maybe we haven’t listened as well,’” said Bruce Hezlep, supervisor vice chairman. “I don’t know if you guys remember that comment, but I hope from what I’m hearing is that we have been taking that feedback into consideration.”

Supervisor Chairman Mike Manipole said he was initially “shocked” when the concerns were brought to the board a year ago.

“I think it’s hard to imagine how bad society can be and how important your efforts really are, and I really admire your steps,” Manipole said. “I admired CADN when it first started, and where you guys are taking it now with your diligence and efforts, I’m thrilled. And please, if there’s anything I can do, always count on that.”

The board will vote on the comprehensive plan update next week at its meeting Thursday, June 1.

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