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Feeling optimistic - Sac City's Racial Equity Committee!

Shout out to SJPC's own Community Outreach Coordinator, Sarah Rabanales, for her report back on this meeting!

Sacramento City Council's Racial Equity Committee met on January 24th, 2023 to outline their plans for the year of 2023.

First, a quick summary of this committee's history

The Racial Equity Committee came into being in 2021 as an ad hoc committee (read more about it), and a few months ago transitioned to a standing committee. The Committee is made up of Co-Chairs Mayor Steinberg and Councilmember Vang, alongside Councilmembers Jennings and Maple (yikes - read more about Maple's support for police militarization).

The formation of the Racial Equity Committee was prompted by the hard work and advocacy efforts of the Racial Equity Alliance, which is a stakeholder group dedicated to embedding and operationalizing racial equity policy within government systems.

During the pandemic, The Racial Equity Alliance came together to push Sacramento to implement & operationalize racial equity beyond the occasional anecdotal statements, performative gestures, and platitudes. The goal was, and remains, to ensure that racial equity serve as a foundational principle when it comes to government policy making.

During the summer of 2020 meetings between the Racial Equity Alliance and the Sac City Council took place, and were followed by the City contracting with Race Forward (learn more about them) to help build what would become the Racial Equity Committee. The Racial Equity Alliance remains a partner in this work to build the committee and operationalize policies.

Through the Racial Equity Alliance, a Racial Equity Council was created in Sacramento, composed of a diverse group of 12 community members dedicated to pushing Sacramento City to fully embody racial equity values and ensure their incorporation into City decision making processes. These Council members will be working with the Racial Equity Committee, and the City Council as a whole, on community facing projects. The Council will serve as an accountability partner to the City and help to guide setting City priorities and implementing policies as they relate to racial equity in the Sacramento community. The idea here is that this Council will have the teeth it needs to actually ensure accountability - which would be something truly transformational for the pursuit of racial equity within Sacramento.

Here's a quick breakdown of what the Racial Equity Council will do:

◦ Guide the City in their work to achieve racial equity

◦ Elevate the vision and priorities of communities of color and be held accountable

◦ Influence the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages of the work

◦ Be accountable to the Network and communities of color

Now, let's get into the meeting's content!

The discussion kicked off with Item 2, which provided an overview of the development of the Racial Equity Committee, and highlighted their mission and purpose.

According to the oral report delivered, the purpose of the Racial Equity Committee is:

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This was followed by a brief presentation of the stated committee goals, which included short, mid and long term goals:

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Once this was established, the committee then heard short oral reports for Item 3, 4, and 5.

The purpose of Item 3 was to give an update on the Racial Equity Committee since being officially formed several months ago, and to outline their priorities and goals for the City Council. This oral report was given by members of Race Forward and the Racial Equity Alliance. According to the brief oral presentation given, the Racial Equity Committee has been working hard to create a plan to help the city achieve institutional racial equity and procedures that will ensure accountability regarding said plan.

As explained, this plan includes four phases. These phases will lead up to the creation of an action plan that focuses on community needs, measures the work being done, and keeps representatives in the City accountable to racial equity goals.

Based on the brief oral report presented, here is a summary of the phases that will be included in their work for 2023:

Stay tuned for updates on the development of this plan!

Item 4 provided a presentation on the efforts to integrate racial equity practices into the city’s ARPA Food Justice Grant Program, the lessons learned from this program, and what improvements may be needed. The presentation included background information, grant development, awards, grant implementation and lessons learned.

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Basically, this presentation explained how racial inequity connects to the greater food insecurity faced by POC communities in Sacramento, and what the city is doing to combat it. When looking at this program, the structure of the selection process and the grant itself have been shaped by the IRRT (Interim Rapid Response Tool). As explained in the oral report, the IRRT tool is a set of driving questions that the city applies to ARPA projects/programs. These questions are intended to help staff stay intentional and impartial when dealing with food justice issues, and they were utilized in the development of this program.

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When the city appropriated $1 million to an ARPA fund for food justice, the ARPA Food Justice Grant Program was created. Food assistance organizations from all over Sacramento were encouraged to apply for this grant, and 18 grants were awarded. Five of these grants were Tier 1 Grants (up to $5,000) and twelve of them were Tier 2 Grants (up to $200,000) (see more at details at the City's food justice page).

Some of the lessons learned and changes that will be implemented in the future are pictured below.

Last up was Item 5 - a Policy Memo on Mandatory Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Training for Elected Officials - which was brought to the committee by Co-Chairs Councilmember Vang and Mayor Steinberg. As explained by Councilmember Vang, the memo was sent out by Vang and Steinberg to recommend and present a requirement for the Mayor, Councilmembers, and their staff to complete anti-racist and racial equity training on a regular basis. The committee voted unanimously to take this to the City Council for presentation and an eventual vote.

Implementing these trainings would be a really positive first step towards ensuring accountability around racial equity, and it's great that these trainings would be required for the elected officials themselves.

So how does this relate to social justice?

When watching this meeting, I felt very hopeful about the work being done by the Racial Equity Committee. The people involved seem to be highly qualified and really looking for tangible solutions to deal with the racial inequities faced in Sacramento. With that being said, the Committee has no ‘teeth’ or authority to implement policy change without the support of the full City Council, so it’s incredibly important that as a community we hold the Council accountable for their stated goals of utilizing this Committee to reduce racial inequities in Sacramento. We need to urge them to listen, and take this work seriously.

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