Takoma Park joined GARE as a core member in May of 2017. The month before, City Council passed a resolution—which was introduced by Councilmember Jarrett Smith—committing the Council to systematically and deliberately apply a racial equity lens in decision-making.
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and Councilmember Jarrett Smith wrote the following letter explaining why the City is committed to focusing on racial equity:
“This past January the Takoma Park City Council held its annual retreat to discuss priorities and to take a step back from weekly meetings to look at long term goals for our community. This year, as part of the retreat meetings, the Council invited a speaker from the National League of Cities to present and facilitate an open and honest dialogue about racial equity and the way in which the Council could proactively address issues of racism and inequality in our community.
During the retreat, the Council discussed the history of racism in our country and how this has led to current day disparities in education and job attainment, housing, and many quality of life indicators for people of color. In particular, the Council examined how racial inequity today is not just overtly racist talk or action but rather racial inequities have come to be ingrained and institutionalized in policies and practices, even those believed to be race neutral. The Council acknowledged that it must disrupt and unpack seemingly neutral policies and practices to see if they are contributing to inequity. Specifically, when we discuss racial equity, we mean the development of policies, practices, and investment in the community to reverse racial disparity trends, dismantle institutional racism, and ensure that outcomes and opportunities for all people are no longer determined by race.
The City Council plans to institute methods that have worked in cities around the country to update, eliminate, or create government policies, practices, and programs specifically to dismantle existing racial disparities. Our goal is to commit ourselves to applying a racial equity lens to decisions across government, and thereby continue to build an inclusive, equitable community and ensure a vibrant and healthy community for ALL Takoma Park residents.
As stated by the Government Alliance on Race & Equity “the goal is not to just eliminate the gap between white people and people of color, but to increase the success for all groups. Racial equity develops goals and outcomes that will result in improvements for all groups, but the strategies are targeted based on the needs of a particular group. Systems that are failing communities of color, are actually failing all of us. Targeted universalism will increase our collective success and be cost effective.”
To demonstrate our commitment, the Council began including a “Racial Equity Impact Statement” on all Council agenda items effective Wednesday, April 5th, 2017. We look forward to this first step and to working with members of the community and staff as we continue to find ways to adopt a racial equity framework in our city and ensure we are building a strong, inclusive, and healthy community.”