Marin County, Community Should Take Hard Look at Equity

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 2.05.23 PM.pngSan Rafael, CA – Marin County’s poorest residents have much different needs from their local government than those more financially fortunate. For instance, there aren’t as many construction permits filed for home additions in some ZIP codes, and there aren’t as many applications for food assistance in others.

The County of Marin knows that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the inequity in Marin County and that it’s a complicated and sensitive topic. However, addressing equity and leveling the playing field is one of the top ongoing priorities for the Marin County Board of Supervisors. The topic will be the focus of a May 1 Board workshop at the Marin County Civic Center, and the public is invited to attend or watch a live telecast and webcast.

Starting at 9 a.m. in the Board chamber, County staff members from several departments will provide an overview of the County’s equity efforts and discuss a path forward to align community and the County around equity. Specifically, they will review the recent Race Counts analysis that ranked Marin as No. 1 among all 58 California Counties in racial disparity.

Only 5 percent of Marin whites live below the poverty line, whereas the percentage is much higher for other races. Median household incomes for African-Americans and Latinos is about half of what it is for whites.

“I look forward to a robust discussion on some of the most difficult issues we face in Marin,” said Damon Connolly, President of the Board of Supervisors. “I know there are further opportunities for collaboration, which I hope will be identified by the public, nonprofits and our County departments. I welcome the public to share their ideas as we align our vision on equity and establish concrete steps to address inequities head on.”

To undo racial inequity, the County must take intentional actions. The County has singled out “Diversity and Inclusion” as a focus area in the County’s 5 Year Business Plan, adopted in 2015. The County enrolled two groups of employees in a race equity collaborative, Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), and the employees attended conferences and training about working on equity within local government. In 2017, Marin was one of the first counties in California to adopt a Racial Equity Action Plan to set tangible goals and gauge progress on racial equity. Goals of the plan are to commit County staff to achieving racial equity, make the County an effective and inclusive government that engages the community, and make the County workforce demographics reflect the demographics of the community it serves. The plan clearly lays out requirements for success which include community partnerships, initiatives, metrics and deadlines in reaching equity goals.

As an additional part of the racial equity plan, the County implemented an eight-hour training program on cultural intelligence and structural racism for every employee, and it is well received thus far. Programs are underway to increase gender and ethnic diversity on hiring boards and to and to ensure that there is diversity in candidate pool, including openings for top administrators.

The rest of Marin appears on board with the improving racial inequity. A public forum in March, hosted by First 5 Marin and the Marin Communication Forum, was a robust discussion about the ominous and sobering Race Counts report. The event attracted about 350 people, including many County staff members.

“At the May 1 Board workshop, we’re looking forward to celebrating existing projects, having an honest conversation about the current state of equity in the County, and starting a process where we align equity partners to improve the conditions for all in Marin,” said Assistant County Administrator Angela Nicholson.

The workshop will take place in the Board chamber, Suite 330, of the Marin County Civic Center at 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. It will be webcast live through the County’s website and be televised live on Comcast Channel 27 for Comcast and AT&T subscribers. If you miss it, you can watch replay on TV or view the archived webcast anytime after April 27.

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Comment Melanie Nathan: Where are my neighbors?

My question is will the community REALLY take a hard look at this?
I was at that March forum mentioned above and it seems that it was attended by those who tend to work in the fields of equity and social justice and some government workers. I believe the notion reflected in the above Marin County Press Release is off the mark when it comes to community. Indeed 350 people care – and maybe more- thats why we work in the field. But this Forum in essence was preaching to the choir.

Notably my general neighbors were nowhere to be seen and several Supervisors not here, with some sending staffers.   I refer to those  of you who I see everyday in Safeway or Good Earth or parked outside White Hill Middle School or at the Corte Madera malls!

My comment at the forum reflected my belief  –  I believe that the elephant in the room is the fact that so many in Marin, a county declared one of the most liberal in the US, votes out of one corner of its mouth, while living their lives out the other corner of their mouth.   I truly believe that Marin does not walk its talk, as a general rule. I hope that more of my neighbors attend and participate in local events and forums to learn about the issues that face all people in Marin. Sadly,  I don’t believe the majority in Marin would like to see anything change here, thereby fostering the inequity, through silence and inaction.

13537741_10209328713390171_8282725518331626905_nMelanie Nathan
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