LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive directive June 19 to address racial equity in Los Angeles by requiring city departments to plan for the reinstatement of affirmative action in California and for city employees to take implicit-bias training.
“We have a lot of work to do to correct the inequities that are baked into a system much bigger than just the city of Los Angeles, but L.A. will — make no mistake — we will be the ones to march into a better future,” Garcetti said. “If there’s one thing that the demonstrations for racial justice have done, it’s to lay bare the urgent and overdue demands and structural racism and to right the wrongs of the past.”
Los Angeles departments will not be able to implement the affirmative action changes unless Proposition 209 is repealed, which since 1996, has outlawed government and educational agencies from considering race, gender and other factors when hiring people.
The California Assembly voted 58-9 last week to put on the November ballot the question of repealing the affirmative action ban. The question would be added if the state Senate approves the measure by June 25.
“This entire City Council, and with the lived experiences and dedicated leadership provided by council members of color, is focused on taking definitive actions to bring about real change and racial and social justice for people of color,” City Council President Nury Martinez said.
The City Council last week voted in favor of a supportive resolution to repeal Prop. 209, which Martinez said is “built on a false narrative that racism magically did not exist in 1996. It wasn’t true then and, as demonstrations throughout the world have shown, it is not true in 2020.”
Garcetti said he is also calling for a charter amendment on a future ballot to allow Los Angeles to implement affirmative action if Prop. 209 is repealed to allow for preferential contracting.
“With this change, if ratified by voters, we will give preference to minority-owned businesses and other underrepresented groups in our city for contracts,” Garcetti said. “That will extend the reach of opportunity to all of our communities.”
The executive directive will require that every department general manager and head of city offices to name a racial equity representative who will be tasked with developing and overseeing their respective department’s racial equity plan.
Each plan would outline the department’s policies on recruitment and hiring, training, retention, promotions and contracting, as well as describe efforts to promote and hire from “a robust pool of qualified candidates to promote diversity,” Garcetti said.
Departments and city offices will be encouraged to consider additional factors in hiring, like the adversities an applicant has overcome, whether they’re a first-generation graduate in their family, neighborhood demographics, leadership potential and other circumstances.
“Simply put, we can’t leave brilliance on the sidelines,” the mayor said. “We can’t keep perspectives away from the way we plan our city, and there are departments that have been working very hard in the past few years together with me to do just that.”
Garcetti said the city’s Planning Department, for example, has taken steps to ensure planners are hired from across all areas of the city.
The implicit-bias training will be headed by the city’s Personnel Department, and it will be required to be attended by every city employee, the mayor said.
Garcetti also announced Brenda Shockley, who has worked in his office as the deputy mayor of economic opportunity, will be the city’s first chief officer of the recently established Office of Racial Equity.
“I welcome this opportunity to continue to fight for racial equity and equal opportunities and against systemic racism and injustice,” Shockley said. “Racial equity in city government is a much-needed and valuable tool and a way to truly identify and measure progress toward a fair and equitable Los Angeles.”
Shockley said the directive also ordered a study on hiring data, which will be used as the baseline to track how the city hires its employees.
“I’ll be looking at what [departments have] done … to advance racial equity and justice inside their department and in our city,” Shockley said. “Each year, we’ll be looking at the baseline studies that we do, whether it’s wages in our internal operations or impacts of our city policies.”