Roosevelt Williams

The revamped Roosevelt Williams Park in Banning includes native landscaping.

The city of Banning strongly feels that systemic racism is a public health issue, and decreed it such at its last city council meeting.

The ordinance aligns with the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which state that “Racism is a public health issue that must be addressed.

“The City of Banning recognizes that racism and oppression has unequally affected the populations who experienced slavery, genocide, discrimination, forced relocation, forced labor, deportation and continues to contribute to intergenerational/historical trauma” in this city and elsewhere.

According to an ordinance approved at their June 23 meeting, city council assured its belief that “racism is a public health issue affecting our entire state,” and promised to strive “to promote equity through all policies approved by the City Council and enhance educational efforts aimed at understanding, addressing and dismantling racism and how it affects the delivery of human and social services, economic development and public safety.”

The ordinance calls for ongoing racial equity training for city staff and administration, and to encourage similar training among its community partners, vendors and contractors.

The ordinance was pulled from the consent agenda by Councilman David Happe, who felt it merited more attention than merely being a line item.

“It’s a resolution of monumental importance … everything that’s stated in the resolution I believe is at the core of some of the most dramatic and important central issues” in recent days, said Happe, who participated in the meeting remotely.

He expressed his belief that the topic should be discussed regularly within the Police Department, and requested that the ordinance be read aloud into the record because of its importance.

Colleen Wallace requested the item be added to the agenda as a member of the Riverside County Alliance of Black Elected Officials wants “to make racism a public health issue” that directs the city manager to ensure every city department comes up with a plan to eliminate systemic racism within their divisions, and to come up with a means to measure progress, to be shared and monitored before the city council every six months.”

“It needs to be brought out. People don’t talk about this,” Wallace said, noting that she has been the subject of racial profiling “right here in Banning — not just in Banning, everywhere.”

Art Welch said that “I thought about wanting to discuss this … my concern is that we’re not giving enough emphasis on the importance of this; and we’re asking a group of people to put together a plan without really understanding everything that it would include.”

Welch supported the measure, requesting more definitive guidelines for city staff from the committee that implemented the ordinance; Wallace countered that the proposed ordinance, which had been inspired by language drafted by the Center Against Racism & Trauma, had been revised and had already been scrutinized by her committee.

City Manager Doug Schulze noted that there would be a fiscal impact in requesting staff’s — and possibly city attorney’s — time to come up with a policy for eliminating systemic racism, as well as for creating a matrix as to how to measure any progress as a public health issue.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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