City councils can apply a racial equity lens to key decision points outside of formal legislation. The operations of city departments can be tailored to address the structural causes of racial inequities. In many municipalities, city councils have authority over other decisions like those related to zoning, land ownership, purchasing, and hiring.
Eureka: Land Transfer Vote
In December 2018, after a four-year process, the Eureka City Council voted to pass a resolution to return Duluwat, a Wiyot village site on 202 acres of land on Indian Island, back to the Wiyot tribe by declaring the land surplus property. Before the resolution leaders of the tribe made a specific request to the City of Eureka for the remainder of the island, land sacred to the tribe and the site of an 1860 massacre by white settlers. A smaller portion of land on the island was returned in 2014. This land return represents an important opportunity to follow the lead of an Indigenous community. Considering the U.S. history of genocide of Indigenous nations, this land transfer is an example of a small step towards reparation. It will be the first such transfer of land ownership in U.S. history that was not prompted by litigation.
Asheville: Affirmative Consent for Police Searches Policy
In 2018 the Asheville City Council authorized the interim city manager and police chief to create a city policy requiring affirmative written consent for consent searches by a police officer, in cases where there is no reasonable suspicion of a crime. With a goal of lessening racial disparities in policing activity evidenced by city traffic stop data, the law intends to reduce disagreements on whether consent was given verbally and to reduce discriminatory stops and searches with insufficient probable cause. Two more new regulations on searches include reducing the reasons for which officers can deploy a consent search and eliminating a past criminal activity or “suspicious behavior” as sufficient causes. In 2018 and 2019, the policy was under development with the city manager’s office and police chief.