The Marin Board of Supervisors recently approved a proposed plan to close racial and social equity gaps in our county.
The plan was the work of the 2020 Racial Equity Planning Committee, a 20-person countywide panel reflecting broad representation of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to come up with an “action plan” to address the disparities in access and delivery of county services and local goals.
The key word is “action”.
By praising and approving the work of the committee, it is now up to the county – workers and supervisors – to focus on making progress on the plan’s recommendations.
This is not one of those many plans that are written and approved and never heard from again.
It should not be filed away and forgotten.
Its goals, such as improving access to mental health services or expanding educational opportunities and professional development programs, will require making these elements a priority in future budget decisions and actions.
In a predominantly white, affluent county with exaggerated, if not impossible, housing prices for many minority households, Marin has its communities racially and economically marginalized. The plan aims to dismantle those barriers, pointing out that per capita household income in Marin White is more than double that of blacks and Latinos.
“There are deep-rooted pockets of poverty throughout the county as many residents struggle with income inequality and housing affordability,” the plan says, recalling that Marin was ranked as one of California’s most racially diverse counties.
Every home that sells for over a million dollars is another home that is out of reach for many Marin residents, some of whom end up being out of our county or struggling to stay.
Even decisions about local taxes, rates and fees should not be exempt from this litmus test of racial and socio-economic disparity. Have any reached levels where they may still be minimal for affluent residents, but become financial impediments for many other residents?
Although the plan was presented as a clear roadmap, it will take leadership to follow the recommended directions.
While Marin’s political leaders and voters embrace progressive agendas in theory, on the ground and in too many homes, racial disparities continue to grow.
The plan is an important step in that direction, but one that needs to be diligently followed by many others. It should be recorded and monitored and its progress regularly reviewed and updated.
Over the past few months, as the county has worked to roll out COVID-19 protections and vaccinations, it has faced obstacles related to local racial and economic disparities. Working hard to close these disparities has taken focus and community effort leading to a county that has one of the highest vaccination rates and the lowest death and hospitalization rates in the state.
This is an example of what can be accomplished.
Local disparities remain in life expectancy, housing, health, wealth, graduation rates and incarceration.
Gradual success in effectively closing these gaps will require commitment, greater community awareness and buy-in across cultural divides, work, and most importantly, regular evaluation and accountability.
To its credit, the plan not only details local needs, but it also recognizes where progress is being made.
The plan is a great start, not only holding up a mirror for Marin, but it outlines a possible “action” that helps point the way.