Make Sure FW's Race Task Force Is More Than a Smokescreen
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In 2017, Fort Worth City Council created a Race & Culture Task Force in response to the controversial arrest of a local resident (https://bit.ly/2Ovf1fi). The Task Force has completed its assessment and issued a draft of proposed recommendations for City Council (https://bit.ly/2NKpT3I
United Fort Worth believes the work conducted by the Race & Culture Task Force:
* Is incomplete.
* Does not address root causes of racial injustice in our community.
* Lacks key elements to prevent the whole process from being “just for show.”
Some assessments were based exclusively on information from biased sources. Some vulnerable voices were silenced. And some key factors were not assessed, such as voting patterns of elected officials to determine if POC and other vulnerable groups receive equitable representation by local elected officials. Read more about our concerns here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15kBghD0lXvwRt6wfNnlw-PdcBGgckCdu/view?usp=sharing
If City Council does not amend the recommendations to address these issues before voting to approve the plan, Fort Worth's Race & Culture Task Force will be NOTHING MORE THAN A SMOKESCREEN.
The Race Task Force gave City Council the cover of "having done something" while failing to address the real problems. You can help make sure that doesn't happen!
Sign our petition asking for City Council to amend the plan according to solutions submitted by United Fort Worth:
Civilian Review Board:
• To ensure fidelity to the purpose of the board, remove elected officials from the selection process for appointees. Create a mechanism for community members who actually represent their communities to be directly nominated or elected by their neighbors.
• Remove the major limitations of the board, such as not being able to require that the officer being complained of appear before the board. Give the board as much power as possible, drawing on best practices as supported by peer-reviewed research.
• Neither Police Department officials nor leaders of the Police Officers’ Association should play directive roles in steering the board. Remove this from the recommendation. Instead, an independent staff person accountable to the board should coordinate its activities.
• Revise the measures of the board’s efficacy and other Criminal Justice reforms. Instead of looking at community members’ perceptions of police, require reports on officer-involved shootings, other complaints against officers (e.g., police brutality such as the attack on Mrs. Craig), hate incidents, etc.
Mandatory training program for all City of Fort Worth employees:
• Add a recommendation that a power and privilege-based model be selected for the training that is evidence-based, systemic (to include training for all levels of staff and Fort Worth Police Department from top to bottom) and inclusive of a measurement component.
• This training should be provided by professional trainers (not just using the train- the-trainer model), and centered on transformation, not compliance.
• The training should be required for all new employees and be offered at least annually to accommodate new hires.
• The City should emulate Fort Worth ISD’s model of a comprehensive, multiyear, consultant-based approach to planning the training. Additionally, expand the recommended funding for this item.
• Add a recommendation for mandatory training in a power and privilege-based model (as described above) for ALL City of Fort Worth elected and appointed officials, as well as all appointees to boards and commissions, by professional trainers (not just using the train-the-trainer model).
Restructure the Human Relations Unit:
• HIGH PRIORITY: Change the recommendation that the new Chief Equity Officer be appointed at the rank and salary of Assistant Director. It should not be appointed at that level.
• The job is so important that it should be on par with Assistant City Managers. It should report directly to the City Manager, and not the administrator/director of the newly upgraded Human Relations Department.
• The Chief Equity Officer should also have a support staff, substantive discretionary budget, unfettered access to all city departments, and clearly enumerated enforcement powers (for example, in ensuring non-discriminatory hiring).
• The officer should also provide regular public reports to the Human Relations Commission and full City Council.
• Add recommendations to strengthen the influence and role of the Human Relations Commission, since the Commission is the only citizen-driven accountability mechanism for Fort Worth’s elected officials and therefore it needs to “have some teeth” to hold elected officials accountable for racial justice and inequity. Recommended changes include:
• To ensure fidelity to the purpose of the board, remove elected officials from the selection process for appointees and instead create a mechanism for community members who actually represent their communities to be directly nominated or elected by their neighbors.
• Reassess the bylaws and core values of the Human Relations Commission. Specifically, reconsider the demographic designation for representation on the board. The revised demographics should ensure representation of the immigrant community on the board.
• Create infrastructure for recommendations by the Human Relations Commission to be binding, or for adoption of an accountability mechanism. For example, add a requirement that recommendations made by the Commission to City Council must be made a public agenda item.
Conduct a Government Relations Assessment:
Expand the study of disparities in services by the City of Fort Worth. This needs to include:
• HIGH PRIORITY: Conduct an audit of voting records by all current local elected officials on all issues that impact people of color for the entire duration of their tenure in the elected position (transportation, affordable housing, SB4, renaming Jefferson Davis Park, etc.).
• HIGH PRIORITY: Conduct an assessment of the amount of City budget spent in each district and what it was spent on for a 3-year period based on budget vs. expenditures per Council District. This was part of the Task Force’s original charge, but it was outsourced to the National League of Cities, which did not produce a very complete report.
• Conduct an assessment of public services in each district (parks, pools, etc.) for a 5-year period based on expenditure by category.
Conduct an Immigration Assessment:
Expand the study of disparities in services by the City of Fort Worth, as well as impact of programs/policies, specific to the immigrant community. This needs to include:
• HIGH PRIORITY: Conduct an immigrant-specific assessment within each of the committees and an over-arching assessment of disparities in city services provided to immigrants.
• HIGH PRIORITY: Obtain public input from an immigrant rights organization and/or non-biased entity on the impact of Senate Bill 4 and 287(g) to the local community.
• Add a recommendation that the City of Fort Worth and elected officials issue an acknowledgment that immigrants are part of this community and services must reflect that (a welcoming and inclusion statement).
• HIGH PRIORITY: Add a recommendation that ensures the decision to pursue an independent redistricting process is not left exclusively to members of City Council (for example, recommend that a public referendum be conducted) since members of council may have a vested interest in preventing an independent redistricting process, and they are vulnerable to power brokers in the community (campaign donors) who will push them to deny it.
• HIGH PRIORITY: Strengthen the metrics for each strategy.
• HIGH PRIORITY: Improve specificity of resources and funding.
• Add a recommendation to extend the appointment of the Task Force so that it may complete the recommended research/assessments/audits outlined above.
• Add a recommendation that the City of Fort Worth create and adopt a racial equity policy that commits the city to an ongoing process of identifying and addressing disparities.
• Add a recommendation that the City of Fort Worth strengthen its conflict of interest standards (such as for appointments to boards and commissions).
• Add a recommendation that the City of Fort Worth strengthen its sunshine laws to
• Add a recommendation that the City of Fort Worth modify its record management procedures to eliminate the possibility that elected officials may delete/destroy citizen input on matters of a public vote within a timeframe during which citizens may seek those records through the Public Information Act. The current policy allows elected officials to exercise judgement in determining which records must be kept and which may be deleted.
• Add a recommendation to implement a regular Race and Culture Task Force convening so this process does not only happen once. Or, recommend that this function be performed by the Human Relations Commission.
• Add a recommendation for the addition of significantly more investigative staff and program coordinators to the Human Relations Unit. The unit (and proposed department) will not be able to support the recommendations coming from all of the sub-committees without a substantially enlarged staff.
• Add a recommendation to create a dedicated racial equity budget for a minimum of 10 years. It is clear that Task Force members were aware of the fiscal constraints facing them, so most of the committee recommendations were overly ambitious and under-funded. The city should increase revenue and earmark it specifically for racial equity programs.
• Eliminate the recommendations for areas such as Education and Health Care so available funding can be focused on the recommendations central to the City itself. Or, make a recommendation that funding for those strategies only be allocated if budget allows it AFTER the two priority areas of Governance and Criminal Justice are fully funded.
• Add a recommendation for the City of Fort Worth to conduct a truth and reconciliation process through which formal mechanisms are created to talk openly and honestly about what got Fort Worth here. This could include City of Fort Worth-funded educational and cultural programs designed to decrease biases and increase cultural competency community-wide.
• Modify language in the report to reference “people of color” rather than “minority” or “minorities.”
The Race & Culture Task Force will present its recommendations to City Council during Work Session on Dec. 4th. City Council will vote on the recommendations on Dec. 11th. Signatures supporting United Fort Worth's platform of concerns and proposed changes/additions will be submitted to City Council on Dec. 4th.
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