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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

County Supervisors declare racism a public health crisis

Board Chairman Fletcher and Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas made the proposal on combating racism.
Credit: KFMB
San Diego County Board of Supervisors 2021

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The county Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that declares racism a public health crisis.

Supervisors also directed the chief administrative officer to solicit community input in creating policies designed to tackle systemic racism, with the stated goal of "catalyzing change for just, safe and healthier communities." They also plan to:

  • Revise the statement of values, mission, vision, and strategic plan to represent equity and inclusion as a core principle of the county government and Board of Supervisors;
  • Incorporate a section titled "Equity Impact Statement" for all county departments, along with standardized guidelines; and
  • Enhance data collection to identify racial disparities among programs and services meant to improve health, social, economic, educational and criminal justice circumstances, along with prioritized funding.

To meet the goals, county CAO Helen Robbins-Meyer will present a plan to the board within 90 days.

Board Chairman Fletcher and Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas made the proposal on combating racism. In a joint statement, they described Tuesday's vote as "an important step forward that begins to move our county in a new direction... This legislation is more than just a statement of our values. We are backing it up with substantive policies designed to tackle systemic racism, and remove the barriers that prevent diversity, equity and inclusion."

Before voting, supervisors heard from over 30 public speakers, nearly all in favor of the resolution.

Many mentioned how systemic racism has harmed people of color when it comes to health, job opportunities and law enforcement, with the COVID-19 pandemic being one of the biggest examples.

Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said her organization supported the proposal.

Recognizing racism "is essential to this county's full and equal recovery," said Chavez, adding that numerous other counties across the U.S. have recognized racism as a public health threat.

Alexander Han, a member of the nonprofit Sunrise Movement, said it was interesting to read submitted comments on the proposal, with some claiming the measure was divisive.

"We say this country is a melting pot of all cultures and races, therefore racism doesn't exist -- but that's obviously not true," said Han, who offered his support.

Drucilla Willis, an official Service Employees Union Local 221 chapter, said while the declaration was a step in the right direction, it also seemed to be another opportunity "for politicians to make promises."