LA City Council

LA City Councilmen Introduce Motion to Identify, Dismantle Systemic Inequities

The councilmen want to determine whether systemic barriers block Black Angelenos and other underserved communities from accessing benefits and opportunities in the city.

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A trio of Los Angeles City Councilmen Friday introduced a motion to have the city's Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department draft a "Racial Equity Audit" of LA's programs, policies and practices.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson want to determine whether systemic barriers block Black Angelenos and other underserved communities from accessing benefits and opportunities in the city.

"It is incumbent upon those of us who sit in positions of authority to work hard to dismantle systemic racial barriers within the entities for which we are responsible," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement Friday. "This motion is intended to be disruptive, catalytic and inclusive — it is no longer sufficient to just support diversity and inclusion initiatives, we must move to identify solutions to advance racial equity — and this is the first step."

The motion, which was seconded by Councilwoman Nithya Raman, notes that Black people, who account for 9% of the city's population, represent:

  • a third of those who are injured or killed by law enforcement, according to a 2018 report by the California Department of Justice;
  • 34% of the population experiencing homelessness as of 2019; and
  • half of those who filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk of long-term unemployment, according a 2020 report by the California Policy Lab.

"The legacy of intentional structuring of opportunity, implementation of racist policies and practices, and assignment of value based solely on skin color and other physical characteristics has created and continues to perpetuate unfair disadvantages to African Americans and other communities of the diaspora," the motion stated.

"As a result, African Americans have systematically experienced unequal access to the foundational aspects of this nation that are universally envisioned as essential to building strong individuals, families and communities."

The motion, if passed by the full City Council, would direct the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department to produce the audit and provide the report to City Council within 60 days.

The report would include findings on:

  • potential barriers that Black Angelenos and underserved communities may face to enroll in and access city services and programs;
  • potential barriers that Black Angelenos and underserved communities may face to secure procurement and contracting opportunities; and
  • the sufficiency of institutional resources that city departments, agencies and commissions have to effectively advance equity and increase investments in underserved communities.

"We have reached a critical turning point and if we are ever to reconcile with the past wrongdoings done to the Black community, it is our duty to push for measures that ensure there is a more equitable and fair distribution of services that addresses systemic inequities and erases color lines," said Councilman Curren Price. "We cannot sit back and watch history continue to repeat itself, we want to put an end to the cycle here and now."

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said:

"The city of Los Angeles has a responsibility to ensure African-Americans and underserved communities have equal access to the services, resources, and opportunities needed to thrive. The impact of economic instability can last a lifetime, and identifying the barriers to financial stability is necessary in promoting racial equity across Los Angeles.

"This motion is a step in the right direction in equipping the city with the tools needed to implement policies, programs and services that are equitable for all people.''

The motion would also have the department develop a "Plan To Address Barriers To Economic Stability Among African Americans." That plan would include:

  • recommendations for improving existing policies, processes and practices that may prevent Black Angelenos from entering and advancing city departmental career ladders;
  • recommendations for strategies that would develop and enhance culturally tailored opportunities to increase Black Angelenos' access to career pathways, encourage entrepreneurship and promote small business growth across the city.

Finally, the motion would have the City Attorney draft an ordinance to strengthen the mayor's "Racial Equity in City Government'' executive directive by:

  • establishing a Racial Equity Task Force within the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department to collect and assess data and present the findings to the City Council;
  • require all city department general managers submit Racial Equity Plans and identify at least one goal each year to strengthen the department's capacity for cultural competency and vigilance to reduce racial stigma, inequality and implicit bias; and
  • require all city department general managers to designate a Racial Equity Officer, who will create annual work plans that are made available publicly.
Copyright CNS - City News Service
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