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San Diego City Council Votes To Establish Office Of Race And Equity

San Diego City Council member Monica Montgomery speaks in an interview with K...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: San Diego City Council member Monica Montgomery speaks in an interview with KPBS, Oct. 3, 2019.

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to establish an office designed to end racial disparities within city government by using racial equity guidance to ensure fairness in hiring and promotions practices, among other tasks.

The ordinance, which passed 9-0, amends the San Diego Municipal Code to establish the Office of Race and Equity and provide education and technical support to city staff, local law enforcement and elected officials in order to "recognize and eliminate systemic racism and other barriers to fair and just distribution of resources, access and opportunity," a city staff report reads.

In June, as part of city budget talks and as protests stemming from the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis flared across the country, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe proposed the creation of the office to address some of the concerns residents have voiced with policing.

"Today, I am thrilled that my council colleagues voted to genuinely and honestly address the systemic racism that is prevalent in our region," she said. "As we continue to identify policies that are detrimental to people of color, we must ensure the distribution of resources is equitable, fair and fosters a safe and balanced quality of life for all communities."

The office has a large set of tasks, some more specific than others. The tasks, as defined by the city, include:

— prioritizing the health and economic success of communities of color and low- and moderate-income communities to assist in a communitywide effort to eliminate inequity in criminal and environmental justice;

— identifying measurable racial equity goals and collecting all relevant data to assess outcomes;

— conducting continuous analysis of outcomes, services and barriers to access to examine how current practices may be contributing to inequity in the city of San Diego;

— providing policy recommendations based on national best practices that create systemic change within government and communities to ensure that social and economic outcomes cannot be projected or determined based on race, gender, age or sexual orientation;

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— revising policies that do not meet racial equity goals;

— increasing contracting opportunities for women-owned, minority- owned and disadvantaged businesses and develop and implement policies in response to the findings of the city-commissioned Disparity Study; and

— administering a Community Equity Fund to invest in underserved communities and boosting partnerships with community-based organizations.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said the office was overdue and thanked Montgomery Steppe for taking the lead on the issue.

"The city needs to focus on reforming how we view and treat communities of color and low-and-moderate income communities," Moreno said. "Many of the communities within my district have suffered inequities for decades when it comes to environmental and criminal justice.

"The city has not equitably invested in much needed infrastructure in these communities and as a result, we have less amenities — like parks and green space — and many of our facilities are either run down or were never built at all," she said. "This office will be an enormous help in shifting the focus of the city to address these problems and also ensure that we increase funding to build projects and improve community relations with our police department."

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget earmarked $824,752 for three full-time employees to staff the office, as well as various non-personnel costs. Additionally, $ 3million was allocated in non-personnel expenditures for the Community Equity Fund.

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