BY JENNIFER CABRERA / NOVEMBER 1, 2019
The consent agenda for the November 7 City Commission meeting includes a request to rename the city’s Office of Equal Opportunity to the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
According to the letter from Teneeshia Marshall, the city’s Equal Opportunity Director, “Equity is a key necessity for the City to address the disparities in the community that were identified in the Friendship 7’s 2018 Racial Inequity in Alachua County Report.”
The letter continues, “Equality is about sameness. It works when conditions are the same for everyone and everyone starts from the same place. The data obtained in the [report] illustrates that this is not the case. To operate with equity means there is first an understanding that everyone does not begin from the same place. Conditions, access, and opportunities differ; therefore, what is just and fair looks different based on conditions, access and opportunities. The name change would further support the progressive vision and mission of the office.”
The Vision Statement of the renamed office is: “To become a premier resource that promotes equity and equips individuals with knowledge and cultivates a safe, diverse and inclusive community.”
The Mission Statement of the renamed office is: “To create awareness through education, tools and resources that ensure diversity, equity and inclusion for all.”
Since the City Commission approved Gail Johnson’s equity initiative last May, the city has budgeted about $470k for it in each of the next two years: $170k/year for two Equity Specialists (according to Marshall, the job descriptions are currently going through an audit process) and $300k/year to be spent at the discretion of the Race and Equity Advisory Board (which hasn’t been formed yet).
The Race and Equity Subcommittee, consisting of City Commissioners David Arreola, Gail Johnson, Harvey Ward, and Helen Warren, meets roughly every 2 weeks to discuss various aspects of city government and how the policies of each can take equity into account. At their last two meetings, they have discussed how to “include equity as a cornerstone of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan Development.”