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Gainesville equity fetish infects Alachua County

Dr. Diedre Houchen

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

The anti-liberty virus infecting the City of Gainesville has metastasized and spread to the county commission. The County’s new Equity and Community Outreach Director, Dr. Diedre Houchen, openly admitted during the August 24 Alachua County Commission meeting that the County’s equity plan is about equality of outcome and treating citizens differently.

Three hours into the eight-and-a-half-hour county commission meeting, the commission pulled the expected bait-and-switch from last year’s “equity” charter amendment (start 3:05:40 in this video). Many who voted for the charter amendment probably didn’t realize they were authorizing redistributive Marxist policies.

What did voters approve?

Here is the question that voters saw on the November 2020 ballot: “Shall the Board of County Commissioners annually examine policies for all County operations and endeavor to eliminate all elements of racial and gender bias in both the design and delivery of County programs and services?”

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The amendment passed with almost 74% of the votes, adding the following language to Alachua County’s charter: “The Board of County Commissioners shall examine policies for all County operations for elements of racial, economic, and gender bias in the design and delivery of County programs and services. The County will identify and act to mitigate and improve upon the effects, patterns, and disparities imposed by said biases.” (Both the ballot question and the charter amendment language are found in the minutes of the June 9, 2020 meeting of the Alachua County Commission.)

Houchen included the following quote in her presentation of the Alachua County Equity and Community Outreach Plan: “The County officially acknowledges existence of potential racial and gender bias in County policies and the delivery of programs and services the impacts of racial and gender bias are pervasive and increase disparities and inequality to the detriment of the citizens of Alachua County; and the elimination of racial and gender bias in County programs and services will demonstrate the County’s leadership in treating all of its citizens fairly; and, racial and gender bias particularly disadvantages low-income communities, communities of color and other vulnerable populations that have fewer resources to withstand negative impacts of such bias; and the County officially acknowledges the need to annually examine policies for all County operations and endeavor to eliminate all elements of racial and gender bias in both the design and delivery of County programs and services.”

The source of this passage is uncertain; the footnote says it comes from Alachua County’s Charter Amendment ballot submission, but that language is above and does not match the language in the presentation. We requested the source of the quote from Alachua County’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, but we did not receive a response.

Comprehensive Plan 2019-2040

Even before the Charter Amendment was passed, the County had already approved a new Comprehensive Plan in 2019; according to Houchen’s presentation (page 2), that plan defines “social equity” as a “principle of fairness, with attention to provision of opportunity to those portions of the community that are less well off; as applied to Comprehensive Plan, related issues include the provision of affordable housing, economic opportunity, and choice of living environments for all members of community without regard to sex, race, age, religion, ethnicity, national origin, etc.”; “health equity” is defined as “everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”

So we went from a charter amendment authorizing the elimination of “all elements of racial and gender bias” to a goal of actively providing “affordable housing, economic opportunity, and choice of living environments” and removing “poverty, discrimination and their consequences.” In short, the County switched equality before the law to equality of outcomes. In addition, “policies related to reducing disparities” already exist within the Land Use, Solid Waste, Capital Projects, Economic, Energy, and Community Health Elements of the Comprehensive Plan.

Strategic Guide

The County’s new Strategic Guide FY 2022 says “Equitable means striving to treat everyone justly according to their circumstances, providing opportunity and access for everyone, while focusing on closing existing equity and access gaps.” So we will deliberately treat people differently, which likely means differentiating by skin color. The federal and state constitutions and civil rights laws, of course, prohibit any discrimination based on protected classes, meaning that these policies must be written very carefully to avoid violating the law. That ends up looking like preference systems that give “extra points” to certain vendors in winning contracts, for example. The very people complaining about systemic racism are actually inserting racism into the system.

Houchen warned that “the majority of the plan is going to sound very technical,” but it just reads like a Dilbert jargon generator sprinkled with obligatory equity terms like racism, privilege, intersectionality, and environmental justice. It includes mandatory indoctrination for employees, all provided by “professional services contracts” (i.e., grift). It’s the same method the City of Gainesville used to install “equity officers” throughout the government. In the Soviet Union, they were called political officers, but they serve the same function: enforced loyalty.

At least Dr. Houchen gave a statement of faith at the start of her presentation: “I absolutely believe that equity ultimately means improving the life outcomes of the individuals in our community who are most in need.” Nothing like belief as a basis for the remaking of all of County government.

The meaning of “equality” has changed over time

This bait-and-switch talk about equity has been around for years. In the 1980 book, Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman dedicated an entire chapter to the evolution of the term “equality.” They argued that the concept meant “equality before God” at the start of our republic. That concept resulted in equality before the law, so that no individual or group could impose their will on another individual.

It was not lost on our country’s founders that this view of equality was directly contradicted by slavery. That’s why one of the original grievances against King George in the Declaration of Independence was “He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.” Sadly, this section was removed in order to get a unanimous vote from all 13 colonies; two colonies had balked because their economies were so dependent on slavery.

By the 1860s, “equality” began to mean “equality of opportunity,” which the Friedmans said “is not inconsistent with liberty; on the contrary, it is an essential component of liberty.”

By the start of the twentieth century, however, equality began to mean equality of outcome. The Friedmans warned: “Government measures to achieve ‘fair shares for all’ reduce liberty… If all are to have ‘fair shares,’ someone or some group of people must decide what shares are fair–and they must be able to impose their decisions on others, taking from those who have more than their ‘fair’ share and giving to those who have less.”

“Equality of outcome” never leads to equality of outcome

Not only is equality of outcome contrary to the concept of liberty, it does not work. The Friedmans described how British “domestic policy [had] been dominated by the search for greater equality of outcome.” Instead of achieving equity, they developed a new class of people in the bloated bureaucracy that were required to manage all the new laws so that there was “a vast redistribution of wealth, but the end result [was] not an equitable distribution.” The new class created by the equity plan will include the new equity officers and equity trainers, money spent that will not benefit those “most in need.”

The Friedmans’ conclusion was dire: “A society that puts equality–in the sense of equality of outcome–ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

Alachua County citizens were duped into voting for the pleasant-sounding charter amendment that talked about eliminating bias, but they opened a Pandora’s Box to radical activists with redistributionist, utopian ideals. Sadly, we will learn the hard way that “equity” will not help those “most in need” but will further enrich those with political power while reducing liberty for everyone else.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
-George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

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