The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution laying out its next steps to promote racial equity countywide.
The resolution was developed throughout a six-month process that involved the input of about seven committees and coalitions, according to David Canepa, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
Among the priorities laid out in the resolution are to develop a system for stakeholders and community members to engage with the county's equity effort; to continue the chief equity officer position; to create an "Office of Racial and Social Equity" with an action plan for it to implement; to use equity-based performance metrics in the county's budgeting process; and to report the equity impacts of policies that supervisors consider alongside financial impacts.
Highlighting the impacts that supervisors' policy decisions will have on matters of equity was an appealing part of the proposal for Supervisor Warren Slocum, who represents District 4, which includes North Fair Oaks, East Palo Alto and part of Menlo Park.
"One of the things I'm most excited about in this board resolution is that hopefully we're going to ask our department heads to include in all of their memos to the board, regardless of the topic, an equity impact analysis, similar to the fiscal impact statements we have in our current board memos. ... I think that will be very beneficial," he told the other board members Sept. 14.
About 64% of the county's residents are people of color, and about 35% of the county's residents are foreign-born. Twenty-one percent of the immigrant population is undocumented, and 46% speak a language other than English at home, according to Shireen Malekafzali, chief equity officer for San Mateo County.
Inequities by race are pervasive in San Mateo County, noted Malekafzali in a presentation to the Supervisors.
In the county, the median household income for white and Asian households is two times that of Black and Latinx households, while the life expectancy gap between Black and white individuals is four years, according to Malekafzali. In addition, countywide, overcrowding is more than 11 times higher in Latinx and Pacific Islander populations, and between two times and five times higher in the Black, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native populations, compared to the white population, she added.
Currently, Malekafzali said, white supremacy may not look like it used to, in the form of things like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazism and individual acts of hate and violence; it can also take the form of sociopolitical systems and structures in which white people carry certain advantages over people of color.
Ways that people of color can be disadvantaged can be small or large, but range from people's ability to wear their hair naturally or covered with a scarf, or the potential to be profiled by law enforcement officials based on implicit bias. Race continues to be a key determinant in many life outcomes, even when factoring in economic and educational differences, she added.
The resolution, she said in an email, is a codification of the Board of Supervisors' commitment to advancing racial equity.
"San Mateo County is committed to building a deep sense of belonging for BIPOC (an acronym referring to people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color), where everyone can seed families and extend roots for generations to come with stability, having authentic power to advance aspirations, influence decisions that impact their lives, and be a fully empowered part of the fabric and narrative of the county," the resolution states.
The next step is to create an internal, interdepartmental Core Equity Team to start creating a Racial and Social Equity Action Plan, according to Malekafzali. That plan will likely involve crafting a tool to assess equity impacts, an inventory with data and sources related to equity, strategies to hire and procure resources in an inclusive manner, a tool to develop equity-focused community engagement, and opportunities for staff to gain training around equity-related issues, she said in an email.
Later this year, the county also plans to develop a community advisory body to work on ironing out the details related to the county's new Office of Racial and Social Equity, she added.
Slocum also suggested that the county manager review the titles for the various equity efforts going on within the county and try to figure out a way to clarify the purposes of the different efforts.
"We know this work is urgent and are doing what we can to advance the work as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. We are building something new in the County and we’ll be learning as we go. ... But we will continue to engage the community and be transparent about our plans," Malekafzali said in an email.
Read the full resolution here:
Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]