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Press Releases - County Council

Council President Nancy Navarro holds press conference and introduces legislation to create a Racial Equity and Social Justice Policy for Montgomery County on Sept. 17

For Immediate Release: Friday, September 13, 2019

County leaders, social justice advocates and community members join in support of Racial Equity and Social Justice Act on
Tuesday at 11 a.m. 

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 16, 2019—On Tuesday, Sept. 17 Council President Nancy Navarro will hold a press conference and introduce Bill 27-19, the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, to create a Racial Equity and Social Justice Program for Montgomery County government. Council President Navarro will be joined by Councilmembers, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith, Montgomery County School Board President Shebra Evans, Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard, Montgomery Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson and community and youth leaders for a press conference at 11 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Council Office Building in Rockville (100 Md. Ave., Capital Crescent Room). This group has been engaged in an ongoing and formalized dialogue with community members since March to determine how county government can better meet the needs of all residents. The Racial Equity and Social Justice Act will institutionalize the norms of equity and social justice into the work of county government.

“Addressing issues of racial equity and social justice is not only a moral obligation but it’s also a socio-economic imperative, if we are to ensure the continued economic vitality of our county,” said Council President Nancy Navarro. “While Montgomery County has a proud history of, and is known for, embracing its diversity, disparities continue to exist in education, employment opportunities, health care and housing across races and ethnicities, income levels, genders, and English language proficiency.

“The Racial Equity and Social Justice Act reinforces our commitment to being a welcoming community where all of our residents are treated with respect and dignity and provided with opportunities to succeed. Although not unique to our county, many of our community members suffer from stark disparities linked to hundreds of years of institutionalized racism, and this will persist without intentional intervention. Bill 27-19 will ensure that county government is working to dismantle inequity on an individual, institutional and structural level in an organized way with established goals and ongoing benchmarks to evaluate our progress.”

Council President Navarro will introduce Bill 27-19, which has been cosponsored by the full Council, to establish a Racial Equity and Social Justice Program that will be implemented across county government by a new executive branch Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice. The Executive will be required to adopt a county-wide racial equity and social justice action plan by regulation. Also, each county department and office must develop a racial equity and social justice action plan. The Council and the Executive will monitor the progress of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Program.

“Today marks a significant step forward as we work to address racial equity in Montgomery County,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I have been encouraged by the amazing conversations we have engaged in with people and communities throughout this county over the last few months. This bill is an example of Montgomery County’s commitment to viewing the world through a racial equity lens, which will guide the creation of our policies and procedures.”

In addition, Bill 27-19 requires that legislation, public policy initiatives and government programs, supported by budget requests, include a racial equity and social justice impact statement. The bill also will establish a Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee that will include public members.

Since land use plans and policies are major drivers for shaping communities, Bill 27-19 requires the Montgomery County Planning Board to consider racial equity and social justice issues when preparing master plans that are submitted to the Council. These plans include recommendations for land uses, transportation and public facilities such as schools, libraries, community and recreation centers, parks and fire and police stations.

Work on the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act officially began in April 2018 when the Council passed a resolution spearheaded by Council President Navarro, to create the framework to develop a racial equity policy. Since that time Council President Navarro, Councilmembers and the County Executive have met with community members throughout the county on racial equity and social justice issues.

Formal community conversations on racial equity and social justice, which were co-hosted by Council President Navarro and County Executive Elrich, began in March. These conversations in Silver Spring, Germantown and White Oak, and a youth meeting at Gaithersburg High School, were attended by more than 750 community members. Various community groups also hosted individual meetings at nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, community centers and in private homes.

These conversations centered around the fact that decisions are being made by local government on issues like education, housing, health care and transportation without a full picture of how these decisions impact under-represented communities experiencing inequities across the county. A Racial Equity and Social Justice Program is needed so that county government decisions can be made through a racial equity lens.

In addition to community outreach, Councilmember Navarro tasked the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) to evaluate the impacts of racial inequity and to inform local leaders. OLO produced two reports—Racial Equity in Government Decision-Making: Lessons from the Field and a Racial Equity Profile for Montgomery County These reports found ongoing and persistent disparities for people of color.

For example, “gross rents exceeding 30 percent of household income, unemployment, arrests, no health insurance, child poverty, and out-of-school suspension rates were higher for Black and Latino residents when compared to White residents.” OLO’s evaluation of local data also showed, “That despite high rates of high school completion (70-98 percent) and employment (73-78 percent) among all racial groups, Blacks and Latinos were more than twice as likely as Whites to be unemployed and have household incomes below the federal poverty level.”

Councilmembers and other County leaders have also taken part in racial equity training through the Racial Equity Institute and future training sessions are scheduled for October.

Public hearings at the Council on the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act are scheduled for Oct. 29 at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Residents can begin signing up for these public hearings on Sept. 20 here.

To read the Council staff report and Bill 27-19 visit:
https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/ondemand/index.html

For background information on racial equity and social justice in English and Spanish visit:
https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/EquityMatters.html

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Release ID: 19-295
Media Contact: Ikhide Roland Ikheloa 240-777-7824