Updated May 3, 2023 at 11:57 a.m.
Sacramento City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a racial equity training requirement for elected city officials, their staff and appointed officers.
The city will develop the training over the next few months after assessing needs and consulting with officials, said Diversity and Equity Manager Aimée Barnes.
Since the racial equity committee passed a draft of the training requirement last month, the city added a commitment to expand the program to all city employees. The requirement of at least four hours of equity training every two years applies to the mayor, council members, council staff, and appointed officers such as the city attorney and treasurer.
Months after a Sacramento City Council member called for the censure of a colleague over alleged anti-Indigenous comments, the council could vote to require racial equity training for elected officials.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Council member Mai Vang proposed training requirements on Tuesday to the racial equity committee, which approved advancing them to the full council.
If adopted by the council in a future meeting, city elected officials, council staff and appointed officers would need to take at least four hours of equity training every two years. The city’s office of diversity and equity would create training covering topics such as white supremacy, microaggressions, cultural competency and anti-racism. Goals of the training include helping council members discuss and promote racial equity with their staffs and residents they represent.
Vang, who co-chairs the committee with Steinberg, said officials intend to eventually make equity training mandatory for all city staff.
“The intent of this resolution is really to start from the top because I think it’s important for our elected officials and our appointed officers to really lead the way,” Vang said during the meeting.
The committee discussion came six months after Council member Katie Valenzuela requested mandatory cultural competency training for officials as soon as possible. Valenzuela, who isn’t part of the committee and is Indigenous, requested it when she called for the censure of then-Council member Jeff Harris after an exchange they had regarding the city’s Indigenous Peoples Day resolution.
In an October press conference, she said Harris suggested the Wilton Rancheria participated in the resolution to get something out of the city and that Valenzuela presented it for a campaign contribution from Sky River casino. Representatives from native and equity organizations spoke in support of Valenzuela, alleging Harris’ comments were based on racist stereotypes of Indigenous people.
At the time, Harris said he felt Valenzuela was making false claims in the council meeting immediately after the press conference. The council didn’t take a vote on censuring Harris, whose term on the council ended in December after he was unable to run for reelection because of redistricting. He has filed paperwork to fundraise to run for Sacramento mayor in 2024, however.
Harris could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Valenzuela said she supported the mandatory training proposal the committee discussed.
“It’s critical that we center equity and racial justice in every decision we make as a governing body,” Valenzuela said in an email. “The legacy of racism continues to impact every aspect of modern society.”
City staff plan to asses the council’s skills and learning needs before developing the training, said Diversity and Equity Manager Aimée Barnes. Helping elected officials and staff understand the same baselines for equity terminology can help the city reach its goals, Barnes added.
The city’s diversity office is also working with human resources to require implicit bias training for managers and people who sit on hiring committees starting in fall 2023, Barnes said. Mandating training for employees throughout the city may require approval from employee unions.
Taking equity training is currently optional for the council, Vang said. The earliest the council could pass the proposal to require training is during its next regularly scheduled meeting on April 18.
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