Our Lakewood Progress: The Lakewood Community Relations Advisory Commission (LCRAC) Survey And What It Says About The New Post-Pandemic Normal

During the height of the pandemic last year, the world seemed to transform through lockdowns, mask mandates, jarring news reports and the long separation from friends and loved ones. We learned some valuable lessons, learned to slow down, showing kindness and care for our neighbors. Parents spent more time with their kids. For those of us fortunate enough to work from home, we turned our attention to our physical and mental health and learned to appreciate the smallest blessings we used to take for granted. Front line workers, from grocery cashiers to nurses, bore greater burdens to help keep the rest of us safe. Still others lost jobs, family members, and friends, grieving without the support we so often need in hard times. 

Yet we proved to ourselves how resilient we are as a community, and treated one another with compassion. As our country continues to race back to “normal” we are faced with the reality that the continued presence of COVID-19 means that things cannot be quite the same, and there are some critical choices we can make as a community to make sure we navigate the continuing pandemic, and thrive on the other side of it.

During the pandemic, LCRAC surveyed Lakewood residents to “advance respect for diversity, equality, and bonds of mutuality...to ensure Lakewood remains a great place to live and work for everyone.” The survey spanned a variety of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, and years lived in the city. At the same time, the most recent Census numbers show that Lakewood beat expectations and stayed above the 50,000 population threshold, ensuring that our city remains eligible for critical Federal funding. This shows that Lakewood is a place people want to be, and the LCRAC survey results help to confirm what people across our city have been saying for a long time: To continue our success, we need to focus on affordable & accessible housing, ensuring everyone can enjoy Lakewood’s public spaces and businesses, addressing racial bias while fostering appreciation for diversity, and helping our neighborhoods become more engaged.

The pandemic presents unique challenges to our future, and some of the most critical decisions that will shape Lakewood for the next decade will be made in the next four years. 

Ensuring Lakewood has affordable, accessible housing for all will ensure those that want to live and contribute to our community can. Building back better health for our residents is critical to restoring Lakewood’s public health infrastructure in new ways that reflect our new world. Helping more communities access disease-preventing care will help us manage our intergenerational health needs through the continued presence of this and future pandemics. Investing in a strategic economic focus on small business longevity and opportunities for new entrepreneurs of color will foster greater diversity and investment in our community. 

Finally, the fact also remains that the diversity of Lakewood is not represented in city leadership. Majorities of Black and mixed-race respondents report that they have witnessed racism or discrimination in Lakewood. As the co-chair of Lakewood’s Anti-Racism Task Force, I am confident in our community’s commitment to make our city a place where all feel welcome. This survey both reinforces our strengths and clarifies our opportunities. While there is much work ahead of us, I believe our work together will make Lakewood that much stronger in the decade to come. 

Laura Rodriguez-Carbone is a candidate for Lakewood City Council, At-Large. She is currently Co-Chair of Lakewood's Anti-Racism Task Force and serves on the Board of Directors for the Fedor Manor Senior Living Community. Laura is currently the Midwest Regional Outreach and Communications Lead for Combat COVID, working to increase access to treatment options and equity in clinical research in communities of color.

She and her husband, Christopher have been residents of Lakewood for six years and own their home on McKinley Avenue.

Laura Rodriguez-Carbone

Laura Rodriguez-Carbone is a candidate for Lakewood City Council, At-Large. She is currently Co-Chair of Lakewood's Anti-Racism Task Force and serves on the Board of Directors for the Fedor Manor Senior Living Community. Laura is currently the Midwest Regional Outreach and Communications Lead for Combat COVID, working to increase access to treatment options and equity in clinical research in communities of color.

She and her husband, Christopher have been residents of Lakewood for six years and own their home on McKinley Avenue.

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Volume 17, Issue 17, Posted 2:41 PM, 09.01.2021