At the January 26 City Council meeting, Councilmember Jay Schenirer and Councilmember Eric Guerra presented a draft Racial Equity Resolution to the City Council for discussion and ongoing direction. The resolution is a significant first step by the City towards creating the accountability and metrics necessary for progress and meaningful implementation of a racial equity initiative.
The resolution is meant to:
a) acknowledge historic and recent systemic harms and racism;
b) affirm a sustained commitment to racial equity citywide; and
c) focus on the City's role in developing credibility, trust, and accountability with communities of color
As Councilmember Schenirer said of the resolution, “It’s not a single initiative…This is work about how we do business as a City, how we operate as a City, and needs to permeate everything we do. For example, how we “use a racial equity lens when we do our budget.”
The draft resolution begins with the City acknowledging “that the United States of America was founded on systems of racism and slave labor, that “Sacramento’s history is tainted with racially harmful policies and practices that affected ethnic minority communities,” including “the genocide of the native Californian population,” and the anti-Chinese xenophobia faced by Chinese immigrants in the 19th Century, “the racism manifested in Black and Latino communities in the form of racially based policy intended to over-police and over-criminalize..-” And it goes on… Read the full draft resolution (beginning on page 12).
Diversity & Racial Equity Manager Aimeé Barnes leads the City’s Racial Equity Initiative along with Allison Joe, Councilmember’s Schenirer’s Chief of Staff, and Koy Saeteurn, Councilmember Guerra’s Chief of Staff.
Barnes implore[d] the City Council to
"really think about how this work centers in your work day-to-day and what resources and how you can organize yourself as a City Council to move this forward,” and “embed this work in your decision-making so that it is really, truly an outcome.”
Lynette Hall, Community Engagement Manager for the City, stressed the need to empower the community to lead the conversation - not just partner and collaborate with the City Council on its Racial Equity Initiative - so that it is community-owned and driven.
Several members of the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community asked the City to expand the narrative on their groups’ unique racial equity challenges that have been so frequently brushed to the side in discussions about systemic racism. Others highlighted the challenges of LGBTQ community that did not appear in the resolution.
Council members were all supportive and expressed excitement over the beginning of the initiative. As Councilmember Vang said, it’s
“laying the foundation for all the work in departments and everything we do.”
She noted the need for language equity to be able to reach members of our community who need translation, while clarifying as a City Councilmember, she “doesn’t just speak for Asian Pacific Islander groups or even just the Hmong community that has so much diversity within it.” She agreed with the callers who wanted disaggregated data to be able to track progress.
Councilmember Valenzuela echoed Councilmember Sheneirer comments that the City’s community engagement efforts need to reach out deeper into communities and beyond “their usual suspects.”
Councilmember Jennings said he was excited and that the initiative “has been needed to be brought forward for years, and now we have a timeline. Are we going to commit to it? Are we going to fund it?” Good question.
Item 3 on the meeting agenda was complementary to the preceding Racial Equity Resolution item, yet its reception wasn’t received with the same excitement and positivity. Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso introduced the topic: ScaleUp Sacramento. It’s “an economic framework that guides the City’s prioritization of economic and community investments.” Basically, it's a living document meant to promote “inclusive economic growth” meaning “every person participates in, drives, and prospers from Sacramento's economic growth.”
ScaleUp is meant to follow the work of the City’s Project Prosper initiative and the regional partners work with the Brookings Institution that found that
“while the Sacramento region was relatively prosperous compared to other large metropolitan areas, it has been on a troubling trajectory related to creating an inclusive and equitable economy.”
A few key Brookings Institution findings include:
1) the region has ranked in the bottom third of 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas when measuring growth, prosperity, and inclusion
2) more than a third of the region’s residents struggle to make ends meet and these struggling adults are disproportionately people of color and people with lower levels of education
3) employers are demanding workers with higher education and digital skills although Black and Latino workers are underrepresented in medium and high digital skill occupations
Councilmember Guerra moved to pass the motion to adopt ScaleUp Sacramento while requesting that the plan’s intent of creating living wage jobs and high paying jobs be more explicitly called out in the document, and that greater intentionality be placed in connecting with and leveraging labor and workforce development partners, not just business partners.
Councilmember Valenzuela wasn’t pleased with the lack of engagement with communities that the City hopes will benefit from the initiative, and that the process had not included starting with having equity conversations in these communities. She also objected to language used in the report, which after an hours-long discussion on racial equity, were indeed tone deaf, and as she said,
“hurtful, and erases a lot of pain and a lot of stuff that happened in this community that deserve to be recognized if we’re really going to say we’re pursuing any report that warrants having the City of Sacramento’s logo on it...”
Here’s the section she quoted:
“Development and discovery have been a part of Sacramento’s DNA from its earliest days. The origins of modern-day Sacramento – the “Indomitable City” at the heart of the Golden State – are entrepreneurial: seeing untapped market opportunities and capitalizing on them. From Sutter’s settlement at New Helvetia through the Gold Rush days to its push to win the fight for the State Capitol, leaders organizing and focusing the city’s resources on new opportunities have driven its greatest successes.”
….. Yikes. Given her climate justice chops from her day job, Councilmember Valenzuela also strongly opposed the specific recommendation for increased biomass incineration as an economic opportunity in the region, before re-emphasizing the need for more community engagement from the start of the initiative.
The item ended with Councilmembers Lolee and Ashby expressing less than amazed reactions to the document and a desire for more clarity and specific action items as to how the City intends to create an inclusive economy.
After all that, the Council passed the motion, adopting the ScaleUp Sacramento plan as a living, guiding, strategic document to continue to be built upon as a first-start, foundation for economic development inclusivity.