Stressing that these actions are but the first steps in “examining and owning” the racist aspects of their city’s history, the Piedmont City Council on Monday approved a formal repudiation of racism, embracing what they see as an ongoing journey toward a more inclusive and equitable city.
Monday night’s resolution (see at bottom) also calls for the Black Lives Matter flag to fly at City Hall – in place of the City of Piedmont flag – for the month of August, starting as soon as possible. In the longer term, the resolution also calls for a review of city policies, procedures, ordinances, values, goals and missions as viewed “through an anti-racism lens.”
“I hope this is the first step of many,” Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh said before Monday’s unanimous council vote. She and others expect some of these upcoming conversations to be uncomfortable ones.
“I expect to make several mistakes myself,” said Cavenaugh, who like more than 70 percent of Piedmont residents is white, “and I look to the community to call me out on it.”
Piedmont’s actions come in the midst of a social justice awakening set off by the death in May of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. It’s an awakening the likes of which the United States hasn’t seen since at least the 1960s, or perhaps ever.
This work, a city report says, will involve “examining and owning” the city’s history, which, as in many Bay Area cities has included dark chapters, including real estate “redlining,” racially restrictive housing covenants and the sad story of Sidney Dearing, acknowledged as Piedmont’s first Black homeowner. He was forced to sell his Wildwood Avenue house to the city in 1924 after he and his family were mercilessly harassed and threatened, including by the city’s police chief. Councilman Tim Rood suggested a public monument of some sort be created telling Dearing’s story.
City Administrator Sara Lillevand said Piedmont officials are searching for an outside consultant to help develop goals for, and pathways to, “a more equitable and less biased community.”
Several public commenters praised the city’s resolution as a needed first step. Jill Lindenbaum of Piedmont said she hopes her city’s future efforts include more equal opportunity regarding housing – and that means creating more affordable places to live.
“It’s easy to say we don’t have the ability to do that,” she said. “But we do.”
Joyce Hicks, a Black woman and a 33-year Piedmont resident, told the council, “I think it’s important that you, as a legislative body, begin to heal the wounds of past oppression.”
Council members seemed eager Monday night to get that process going.
Vice Mayor Teddy Gray King said, “I wholeheartedly believe it’s the right thing to do.”
A Resolution Unequivocally Rejecting Racism
WHEREAS, recent and historical incidents of violence against Black people highlight the overt and institutional racism that affect the lives of our community members of color; and
WHEREAS, these incidents have led many in our community to reflect again on our values, who we are as City leaders, and who we are as Americans, noting that while we may have differing backgrounds, lived experiences, and beliefs, we each at our core, value diversity, respect, and inclusivity; and
WHEREAS, systemic and institutional racism, spread and perpetuated through overt actions and unconscious bias, has taken a large toll on Black people in our community and across the nation; and
WHEREAS, many in Piedmont have recently come to understand that in order to do our part to unravel systemic racism we must take a proactive anti-racism stance; and
WHEREAS, we must listen to those who have endured centuries of discrimination and exclusion as they share the truth of their lived experiences; and we must seek solutions to remedy racial harm; and
WHEREAS, we are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and civil community through our policies, our programming, and our leadership; we stand firm in our collective belief that a safe and civil environment for all across Piedmont is paramount; and
WHEREAS, we stand in support of all in our community, honoring and protecting every person regardless of race, creed, color, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity; and
WHEREAS, we acknowledge Piedmont is a predominantly White community, with a high socioeconomic status; and
WHEREAS, we affirm that Black Lives Matter and recognize the need to place focus and intent on racial equity as we work to change the culture within Piedmont to ensure that all persons are welcome and valued; and
WHEREAS, by focusing on our shared values of respect and inclusivity, as well as to acknowledge historical racism in Piedmont and to examine existing systems through an antiracist lens, we have an opportunity to come together to strengthen our community in support of equity and justice for all;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council does hereby resolve, declare, determine and order as follows:
1. The City of Piedmont acknowledges, apologizes for, and condemns all racially motivated, discriminatory or exclusionary aspects of the City’s history, and deeply regrets the pain or suffering such policies have caused to any person.
2. The City of Piedmont unequivocally rejects racism is all its forms.
3. The City of Piedmont City Council and staff will engage in individual and collective work to understand bias and the historical role racism has played in Piedmont and the community at large in order to better lead a city which is a safe, welcoming, and equitable place for all people.
4. The City of Piedmont will promote inclusion and equity, and will stand up to bigotry, hatred, intolerance, racism, and violence.
5. The City of Piedmont will strongly enforce all laws and policies prohibiting discrimination, hate-motivated incidents and hate crimes, hazing, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive or violent behaviors in our city.
6. The City of Piedmont will review and revise its policies, procedures, ordinances, values, goals, and missions through an anti-racism lens to foster an unbiased and inclusive environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, and negative stereotyping toward any person or group.
7. Staff is hereby directed to fly the Black Lives Matter flag throughout the month of August 2020 in the manner as described in the agenda report.
[END OF RESOLUTION]
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