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Did you know that the Sacramento City Council has a Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee?!?

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

How It Came To Be

Back in June, Councilmember Mai Vang requested racial equity training and capacity building for Councilmembers together in a workshop setting. Per usual, Mayor Darrell Steinberg had to put his stank on the request by stating “it should be a focused workshop that brings Council together in a facilitated way.”

The Racial Equity Ad Hoc was first announced during Council comments by the Mayor at the August 24, 2021 meeting “to provide a space for Council to coordinate multiple Council comments and requests regarding racial equity training, tools and capacity building for the City to develop a racial equity lens for decision making.” Councilmembers Schenirer, Guerra, and Vang would also make up the committee.

In September, Councilmember Vang highlighted the main responsibilities for this racial equity ad hoc committee:

1) bring a racial equity workshop to full Council

2) work closely with Race Forward and community in development of racial equity resolution and lens/tool for City decision making

3) ask for racial equity lens/tool or other metrics be used for America

Rescue Plan (ARP) Framework and Funding Priorities. And the Mayor asked for the Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee to meet with City staff to develop a temporary racial equity lens/tool for ARP Framework and Funding Priorities.

And of course Steinberg nominated himself to be the committee’s chair. Thankfully, Councilwoman Mai Vang was selected as this committee’s Vice-Chair at its first meeting on October 6, 2021.

Three weeks after its first meeting, the Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee held its second meeting on October 26, 2021 where Agenda Items included adopting the practice of a Land Acknowledgement statement at the beginning of meetings and to adopt the utilization of a racial equity response tool for evaluating the distribution of American Rescue Plan funds.

Land Acknowledgement

The Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee began with hearing an item to adopt a Land Acknowledgement at the beginning of every Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee meeting, with the hope to also get it in front of the city council, who would then adopt it city-wide. This means a Land Acknowledgement statement would be read at the beginning of every Sacramento City Council meeting, its subsidiary committees, boards, and bodies and so on. The Measure U Community Advisory Committee has already adopted this practice at the beginning of their meetings in an intentional and meaningful way.

Britta Guerrero, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC) and Chairman Jesus Tarango of the Wilton Rancheria Tribe presented on the significance of a Land Acknowledgement statement and the importance of intentionality in its practice.

Britta G. spit facts as she laid it out for the committee:

A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory we reside on. Land acknowledgments are not about placing blame. These statements are the first step towards building a more inclusive future where we eliminate the ongoing erasure of Indigenous Peoples’ voices, lives, and history. Land acknowledgements can be an entry point and pathway for education. Our land acknowledgement statement may be your first experience hearing about the Indigenous Peoples in the area, which provides an opportunity to seed the path for learning and for respect to blossom and grow.

Adopting a policy for Land Acknowledgements at the beginning of the Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee and moving this recommendation to the full City Council for inclusion of Land Acknowledgements at all City Council, standing committee, ad hoc, and board and commission meetings is in alignment with the City Council’s stated commitment to advancing racial equity.

Mayor Steinberg was tryin’ … but he just kept not understanding the assignment:

“This is really powerful. Just as we pledge allegiance to the flag at every full meeting, this should be at least equally important and as much as part of our tradition going forward. How do we use this to do even more? (insert White Supremacy Culture trait of ‘Progress is Bigger, More’ here) … I would like us to at least once to have an hour long history lesson from Mister Chairman or Britta about what happened to those tribes or those people, so going forward we have the context.”

This White man was asking the People of Color to do his homework for him (smdh).

Chairman Tarango, in a gentle yet firm manner, set Mister Mayor straight - letting him know that an hour is too short and the history of the Tribes is too rich, all of the tribes have a different story and there are many tribes that shared this land. “Great, let’s start with Wilton!” exclaimed Darrell Steinberg (insert White Supremacy Culture trait of ‘Sense of Urgency’ here).

In an effort to get the Mayor to move beyond the token or symbolic gesture and into deeper, sustainable change, Britta G. reminded Steinberg that ya gotta pay people of color if you want them to do your work: “There are some best practices you can refer to from Southern California, such as having a consultation policy with a local tribe.”

Britta G. went on to add that Indigenous Peoples are not just relics from the past.

We are the original stewards of this land and whose place this was historically - we’re contemporary people living in a modern society and contribute to this society currently, and despite all that has happened - we are still here thriving and persevering and sharing this space and place.

Epic mic drop.

The Land Acknowledgement Practice was unanimously passed by this committee and will now go before the full City Council for its adoption.

Did you know that Sacramento has an Office of Diversity and Equity located in the City Manager’s Office?!?

The second item deliberated by the Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee was to pass a motion authorizing the City Manager or the City Manager's designee to:

1) utilize the draft American Rescue Plan (ARP) racial equity rapid response tool as outlined in the presentation

2) utilize the City's Vulnerability Index (CVI) metrics for evaluating the geographic distribution of resources and vulnerability across the City of Sacramento.

Where has this office been?

It was created in 2016 but took two years before it was stood up to operate. Despite being around since 2018, it’s been relatively ignored until recently (kinda like the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission…). Aimée Barnes is the Diversity and Equity Manager and presented on this item to the committee, with support from Assistant City Manager Leyne Milstein.

Aimée broke it down like this: The City of Sacramento must be able to measure, using common metrics focused on outcomes, the efforts to advance racial equity through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding processes. These efforts include identifying gaps in the current understanding and application of a racial equity lens, as well as to uncover emerging best practices and opportunities for strengthening the communities hardest impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Aimée explained the importance of utilizing the proposed guiding principles to center racial equity not only in decision-making around the allocation of resources, but in the creation and implementation of policy, practice, and procedures (pictured on the left).

These principles were adapted from the City of Portland’s Equity Toolkit for COVID-19 Community Relief and sourced from best practices being elevated by equity practitioners around the country to serve as a foundation and guide for Council, executive leadership, and equity practitioners playing various roles in the ARP response and recovery operations and implementation:

  • Practice trauma-informed and healing-centered leadership.

  • Equity is our priority. If equity is only a priority in times of ease and surplus, then it was never really a priority. This is the time to show the community that we hold true to these commitments.

  • We must center efforts on populations at highest risk in this health pandemic and most susceptible to the compounding effects of the impending economic crisis, which includes setting specific racial equity goals, tracking outcomes and continuing to course-correct strategies over time.

  • Equity-based decisions happen faster when equity practitioners, subject matter experts and the most impacted communities are regularly in the decision-making spaces. Community partners should regularly be consulted as relief and recovery strategies are developed.

  • Remember that many populations have excellent reasons to be distrustful of the government and the medical/public health system.

  • Monetary relief and aid packages should go directly to individuals or community organizations reflective of lessons learned from the previous allocation of federal relief funds.

  • We will account for the systems and institutions that produced disparities and inequities as we develop our strategies.

  • Accountability is a keystone to equity work

Despite Aimée making it abundantly clear that the guiding principles are not the “tool” to evaluate decision making but the frame for how to understand and use the tool… despite this concept having been workshopped with two exploratory meetings and two practice/work sessions...Steinberg and Schenirer just couldn’t help themselves. They had to let all their white supremacy culture characteristics hang out on this one.

Schenirer stayed focused on data points: “Where is it that the Council, along with the community I guess...would establish goals so we know what we’re measuring against so we can establish progress, and see where we’re trying to get to … Moving the needle is one point but where are we trying to move the needle to?”

His sense of urgency to speak - speaking over others, the women of color who presented this item - to uplift performance indicators and expenditure patterns was not a good look.

Here’s the breakdown of the major white supremacy culture traits that the two White men on this Committee are needing to unlearn:

  • PERFECTIONISM: linked to the characteristic of one right way, where the demand for perfection assumes that we know what perfection is while others are doing it wrong or falling short

  • PROGRESS IS BIGGER & MORE | QUANTITY OVER QUALITY: our cultural assumption that the goal is always to be/do/get more and be/do/get bigger. This leads to an emphasis on what we can "objectively" measure - how well we are doing at being/doing/getting more - as more valuable than the quality of our relationships to all living beings; a narrow focus on numbers (financial, people, geography, power) without an ability to value processes (relationships), including cost to the human and natural environment

  • EITHER/OR & THE BINARY: the tendency to think of things in terms of black/white, either/or, good/bad binaries, to simplify complex issues, and to pit folx against each other. This is in opposition to using an organic, ongoing, iterative process that continues to be defined over time. This methodology is intended to spark ongoing analysis, and to connect our intended purpose with outcomes. It's important to slow things down in order to acknowledge root causes of and strategies needed to address racial disparities.

  • SENSE OF URGENCY: Need for quick or highly visible results

Co-Chair Vang eventually told Schenirer to calm down and let Aimée finish her presentation (not in those exact words) … but after thirty minutes into the presentation, it was apparent that the committee members couldn’t handle much more.

Chris Lodgson from Sac Black Biz called in during public comment to uplift the importance of racial wealth and that if Schenirer needed to have a performance metric so bad then he can take We Want To Decrease the Relative Racial Wealth Gaps Between Different Racial Groups in the City of Sacramento,” which Mr. Lodgson crafted in less than ten seconds. Another epic mic drop (ok, he didn’t say it with that tone but you know he was thinking it…)

The committee ended up unanimously voting to bring this issue before the City Council for a full workshop. Let’s hope Mayor Steinberg and Mister Schenirer do some unlearning before the next Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.


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