San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery.
San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe proposed creation of the office. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to establish an office designed to end racial disparities within city government by using racial equity guidance to ensure fairness in hiring and promotions practices, among other tasks.

The ordinance, which passed 9-0, amends the San Diego Municipal Code to establish the Office of Race and Equity and provide education and technical support to city staff, local law enforcement and elected officials in order to “recognize and eliminate systemic racism and other barriers to fair and just distribution of resources, access and opportunity,” a city staff report reads.

In June, as part of city budget talks and as protests stemming from the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis flared across the country, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe proposed the creation of the office to address some of the concerns residents have voiced with policing.

“Today, I am thrilled that my council colleagues voted to genuinely and honestly address the systemic racism that is prevalent in our region,” she said. “As we continue to identify policies that are detrimental to people of color, we must ensure the distribution of resources is equitable, fair and fosters a safe and balanced quality of life for all communities.”

The office has a large set of tasks, as defined by the city, such as prioritizing the health and economic success of communities of color, identifying measurable racial equity goals, and increasing contracting opportunities for women-owned, minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said the office was overdue and thanked Montgomery Steppe for taking the lead on the issue.

“The city needs to focus on reforming how we view and treat communities of color and low-and-moderate income communities,” Moreno said. “Many of the communities within my district have suffered inequities for decades when it comes to environmental and criminal justice.”

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget earmarked $824,752 for three full-time employees to staff the office, as well as various non-personnel costs. Additionally, $3 million was allocated in non-personnel expenditures for the Community Equity Fund.

— City News Service