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Marin racial equity team details $1.7M spending plan (Marin IJ)

Posted on Category Press Coverage
By  | | Marin Independent Journal

Marin County will spend $1.7 million over the next three years in an attempt to increase racial equity in the areas of economic opportunity, mental health and housing.

County supervisors received a presentation Tuesday on how the money, which was diverted from the sheriff’s department budget in 2020, will be spent.

“I’d love for us to take a collective breath and really take this moment in,” said Jamillah Jordan, the county’s equity director. “This is the culmination of many long days and long nights.”

Jordan said the spending plan was put together by a 27-member team that included community members and representatives from nonprofit organizations, municipalities and the county.

“Almost every indicator of well-being such as maternal child health, income and even life expectancy, for example, show troubling disparities by race,” Jordan said. “With the help of our facilitator, Nicole Anderson and Associates, the team unpacked some of the root causes of these inequities, rather than just look at the symptoms.”

The county paid Anderson $92,000 to facilitate and document the work of the race equity team.

“We did deep dives into how we could transform the systems and structures that hold these inequities in place,” Jordan said, “looking at policies and resource flows, power dynamics and really mental models that we need to shift in order to change the system.”

Heather Bettini, a leader at Community Action Marin, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce poverty, presented the spending plan for addressing economic opportunity.

“We live in a culture entrenched in white supremacy and our implicit biases manifest in our institutions and our systems, our education systems, political systems and penal systems,” Bettini said. “So what can we do? We can build power with people, and you’ll see examples of this woven throughout our strategies.”

Bettini said the team is proposing an expenditure of $250,000 to hire a “microenterprise support coordinator” for two years and a $316,000 outlay to develop a marketplace with a commissary kitchen at the Marin County Civic Center.

Bettini said another goal of the team is to see an $18-an-hour minimum wage implemented in Marin this year, although it didn’t allocate any money toward that end. Supervisor Dennis Rodoni has stated that will be one of his priorities if he is reelected in March.

Presenting the team’s spending recommendations on housing, Lucie Hollingsworth, an attorney at Legal Aid of Marin, said implementing rent stabilization throughout the county would be a major goal. She said $200,000 would be spent toward achieving it.

Hollingsworth said an additional $266,000 would be allocated for the creation of a countywide land trust. It would be dedicated to creating affordable housing for low-income communities of color.

Hollingsworth said the county will know its housing efforts are working “when we start seeing at least a 15% increase in home ownership by individuals and families of color in Marin.”

Stormy Miller Sabia, director of student services at College of Marin, presented the team’s mental health spending plan. Sabia said the team is proposing spending $310,000 to support the licensure of psychotherapists of color through tuition scholarships.

Sabia said another $30,000 would be allocated to explore the development of a capacity-building institute to identify and overcome barriers to mental health access; $50,000 to support a College of Marin equity-in-mental-health symposium for two years; and $166,000 to pilot a “healing arts” program to address the mental health needs of youths in Marin City, the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael, western Marin and Novato.

Sabia said drama, painting and other modes of art are alternative mental health therapies that “can have a tremendous impact.”

Jordan said the next step will be for county staff to “co-lead” the implementation of these actions.

“We’ll return to your board with more detail around the specific allocations and the timing of those requests,” she said.

Jordan said that developing accountability mechanisms will be “critical to the success of our implementation process.”

“We plan to co-design a community dashboard with data metrics that really center racial equity and support improved policies and service delivery,” Jordan said.

Supervisor Katie Rice questioned whether that approach would be effective.

“I think it’s going to be very, very hard to connect the dots on some of these because there’s cumulative impact, positive or negative, depending on the policies we adopt here,” Rice said. “I’m just wondering to what degree a dashboard can actually be that specific.”

Jordan agreed and said she is still trying to figure out how to evaluate the effectiveness of the equity spending.

While generally supportive, Supervisor Mary Sackett expressed some concern about the recommended spending on “rent stabilization.”

“If we’re talking about rental control then we need to name it,” Sackett said. “There are so many sides to that issue. I don’t want it to be wrapped up into something that sounds simpler than it frankly is.”

Rodoni asked if the racial equity team will be looking for additional funding to pursue its agenda.

“There are several actions that you don’t have dollars associated with that look like they may at some point need to have a budget,” Rodoni said.

Jordan said, “We acknowledge that this is not the end, this is really just the beginning.”

Jordan said she has been talking with County Executive Matthew Hymel about “how we can build this in on an ongoing basis.”

“Because that $1.7 million can go fairly quickly,” she said.

Used with permission by the Marin Independent Journal.
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