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Politics and Government

There’s a divide between diversity in north metro Denver communities and their city councils

About 49% of residents in Brighton, Commerce City, Thornton, Northglenn and Westminster are non-white, according to an average of 2020 Census data. Meanwhile, about 18% of members of the various city councils in the north Denver metro area are non-White.

Thornton City Council and city staff gathered for the June 29 council meeting. (Liam Adams, Colorado Community Media)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The 2020 Census revealed that cities in the north Denver metro area have become more diverse in the past decade, but representation on local city councils has not kept up.

About 49% of residents in Brighton, Commerce City, Thornton, Northglenn and Westminster are non-white, according to an average of 2020 Census data. Meanwhile, about 18% of members of the various city councils in the north Denver metro area are non-white.

But it’s not just about statistics, say current city council members of color. Residents from minority communities who serve on city councils bring a unique perspective that others might not have.

When Northglenn City Councilor Julie Mullica ran for the council in 2017, she said she wanted to represent all of her community.

“But as I continued to move around and talked to people, it definitely turned into a higher issue for me,” Mullica said. “I realized, `Wow, this is a really important perspective and voice that I am bringing to council that I think is important for the city of Northglenn.’”

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On the campaign trail, Mullica, who identifies as Chicana, said constituents of color shared with her stories about experiencing racism in the city, she said. Having someone on the council that looked like them might promote a greater spirit of inclusivity, the residents told her.

And when Mullica joined the council, she saw opportunities to address that. A major priority for her was establishing a diversity, inclusivity, and social equity (DISE) board, which the city established in 2020.

That was one new idea from the diverse perspective Mullica feels she has brought to the table. She also noted other initiatives that former Councilors Antonio Esquibel and Jordan Sauers suggested, such as making sure city events featured more Latin music bands or city movie nights included Spanish subtitles.

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Though Sauers and Esquibel no longer serve on council, Shannon Lukeman-Hiromasa is another city councilor of color in Northglenn. Mullica and Lukeman-Hiromasa are running to stay on the council in the upcoming November election.

With Mullica and Lukeman-Hiromasa, the Northglenn City Council is 25% non-white, though the city is 48% non-white, 2020 Census data shows.

Thornton is 49% non-white, while the council is 22% non-white. Commerce City is 60% non-white and its city council is 33% non-white.

About half of Brighton is non-white, but only one city councilor is non-white.

In Westminster, a city about 36% non-white, is represented by an entirely white city council.

Read more at coloradocommunitymedia.com.