Benicia passes historic resolution, takes action on Black Lives Matter

City Council debates, weakens and passes a nontheless historic anti-bias resolution

By Roger Straw, August 28, 2020

Benicia city staff and the Benicia City Council heard from Benicia Black Lives Matter residents and passed a resolution on August 25 requiring the hiring of a part-time Equity and Diversity Manager and giving birth to a number of other measures to combat unconscious bias and overt racism in Benicia.

The Resolution was accompanied by a 6-page  Staff Report and Recommendation, clearly outlining the need, documenting significant steps already being taken by Police Chief Erik Upson, and detailing a multi-pronged emphasis aimed at recognizing black lives in Benicia and taking actions to address unconcious bias.

After hearing from multiple members of the public, almost all of whom were supportive of the measure, Councilmembers debated the staff recommendation at length, downgrading the hiring of a new Equity and Diversity staff, but approving all other recommendations.

Some egregiously dismissive comments were made by several Councilmembers during the discussion.  More could be said, but today I will focus on the excellent outcome.  Benicia might be the first and only small city (27,570 residents) to take such positive steps in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.  Kudos to City staff and electeds for taking this profoundly important action!

Here are the proposed items from the resolution, with outcomes in red:

  1. Create & fund a part-time Equity & Diversity Manager – Council amended the resolution to reduce from 3/4-time @ $133,000 to 1/2-time and “temporary” at $89,000/year and requiring extension after 6 months.  Also requiring that the Manager place first priority on item 6 below.  See also the DRAFT Job Description.
  2. Join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and explore National League of Cities’ Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) Initiative. GARE membership at cost of $1,000 – approved as recommended.
  3. Mandate anti-bias training for all City employees and elected and appointed officials – approved as recommended, at a cost of $8,000.
  4. Recognize Juneteenth as a City holiday – approved as recommended.
  5. Establish Benicia Library program related to BLM – approved as recommended.
  6. Commission an Equity Indicators report, similar to one prepared for the City of Oakland. (https://cao-94612.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/2018-Equity-Indicators-Full-Report.pdf) – approved as recommended at a cost of $75,000 for consultant costs.
  7. Create Council subcommittee and liaison relationship with BBLM similar to BUSD liason committee – approved as recommended.
  8. Enhance civic engagement efforts and remove barriers to allow broader community inclusion in City business – approved as recommended.
  9. Support business opportunities for Black residents—seek opportunities for BBLM to work with the Chamber of Commerce and Benicia Industrial Park Association and other business organizations and consider holding City workshops to assist. Consider re-evaluating use of the Commanding Officers Quarters as a business incubator to support this effort – approved as recommended.
  10. Create a webpage with resources for those interested in learning about the City’s actions related to BLM and with appropriate resources provided – approved as recommended.

Stay tuned for more on this!