City budgets are important places to prioritize racial equity through targeted investment. Acknowledging inequities and race-based root causes allows cities to make revenue, procurement, and contract decisions intended for improving local governance. Cities are both conducting regular racial equity assessments of budget decisions and making decisions driven by a desire to address inequities and systemic racism.
Austin: Police Union Contract Form
In 2018 the Austin City Council approved a new police union contract and an ordinance establishing a new Office of Police Oversight (OPO). OPO will replace the Office of the Police Monitor and expand its ability to operate independently.
In 2017 the Council rejected a proposed police union contract in order to allow for more time for a process involving community members. The resulting union contract adjusted the schedule of automatic raises for police officers and made significant changes to civilian oversight. It allows the public to submit complaints anonymously and allows the new OPO to publish recommendations with case details for critical incidents and sustained misconduct. It also offers a close-out meeting with results to anyone issuing a complaint and requires the police chief to respond publicly when a civilian oversight recommendation or policy change will not be implemented.
The union contract grants civilian oversight the opportunity to conduct a preliminary investigation with full direct access to police files. Further, the new contract includes a provision preventing the reduction of officer suspensions and requiring that suspensions are considered in future promotion and discipline decisions. The changes to the contract expand the authority of the city under Texas local government code to provide stronger oversight as a means to address public concerns about racial disparities in police conduct.
Dallas: Housing & Development
In May 2018 the Dallas City Council unanimously passed a new comprehensive housing package to build 20,000 new homes in select neighborhoods, to meet goals for revitalization while simultaneously addressing the challenges of displacement. The package creates and maintains affordable housing across the city by increasing fair housing choices through a rental voucher sublease program (which gives incentives to landlords and developers to rent to voucher holders), and by tackling patterns of segregation through incentives and requirements for housing developers.
Richmond: Office of Community Wealth Building
In 2014, the city of Richmond, Va. created the first Office of Community Wealth Building in a city. This was in response to the recommendations of a community-based, anti-poverty commission in the name of a Black business developer and wealth builder. The office uses nearly $4 million in funding to perform a number of functions dedicated to building community wealth amongst residents who have been affected by systematic disinvestment based on race. These include aligning across sectors as a collective impact hub, coordinating the implementation of services and philanthropic dollars to provide a consistent ladder out of poverty and providing comprehensive workforce assistance through the Center for Workforce Innovation.
Charlottesville: Equity Package
Led by Councilmembers Wes Bellamy and Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville City Council passed a $4 million equity package in 2017 specifically for marginalized communities to fund public housing redevelopment, GED training for public housing residents, scholarships for low-income and public housing residents, a park, a black male achievement staff person, and the African American Heritage Center. All targeted funds were aimed at bridging the gap between outcomes for residents of color and white residents.
Baltimore: Racial Equity Funding Charter Amendment
In November 2018 voters in Baltimore passed a charter amendment by ballot referendum to create an equity assistance fund to support efforts embedded throughout city government to reduce inequities based on race, gender, and economic status. The charter amendment dedicates revenue specifically to support and augment programs and activities to advance equity. It ensures that the fund is of a continuous nature and authorizes funding to support dismantling structural and institutional racism and other forms of discrimination, promoting equity in housing, improving access to education, and redressing past inequities in the capital budget.
For more analysis, see this CitiesSpeak blog.