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SLO City Council to consider spending $160,000 on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force

Posted at 11:56 PM, Jul 06, 2020

San Luis Obispo's City Council says it's received more than 1,500 pieces of correspondence asking them to address "systemic racism" within the city.

Their response is potentially spending $160,000 on a new task force.

The city's newly proposed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force is going to be an advisory committee that looks for ways the city can improve in areas like diversity and inclusivity.

Nearly every day since the death of George Floyd, demonstrations both big and small have been taking place across San Luis Obispo. Monday afternoon, a few people gathered outside of Santa Rosa Park.

"I really wanted to spread awareness about the racial injustices that have been going on and I wanted to spread awareness about how we can help and spread racial equality," said protestor Nia Taylor.

As momentum in the fight for justice builds, city leaders are now working toward creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force.

"We are a very predominately White community and so many people are saying, 'I want to help! I care about all people but how do I [help]?' So in the 'how do I do that' we need to bring in the experts and share the work that they're doing and expand the work they're already doing," said San Luis Obispo City Council member Erica A. Stewart.

The city plans to spend $160,000 on the task force, with money being spent on things like grants to local organizations and potentially temporarily hiring extra staff for additional expertise.

"I think it's necessary because San Luis Obispo has some work to do still in terms of becoming more welcoming, inclusive, and to hopefully attracting more diversity and retaining it specifically when we talk about Black, Indigenous and other people of color," said Courtney Haile, Co-Founder of R.A.C.E Matters SLO. "We need to create a community where we can all thrive and feel like we belong here and that requires change on systemic levels and cultural levels."

Haile says she'd like to see some of the money for the task force go towards creating a cultural space.

For some members of Take Back SLO, a group aimed at restructuring the leadership of San Luis Obispo, they say this price tag is way too high and argue the task force could cause more divisiveness.

"I can tell you right now it's probably not going to unify our city; it's probably going to divide people into thinking 'you' got something better than 'I' did," said Take Back SLO member Mechell Vieira.

Vieira says she doesn't believe systemic racism is an issue in San Luis Obispo.

"I am super offended that people think there's systemic racism in San Luis Obispo," Vieira said. "I don't believe my fellow citizens are systemically racist. I think before June 2nd, the current leadership was focused on homelessness, mental health, and housing and now all of a sudden we have created this alphabet soup of a task force."

Vieira says it is hard to believe the city will spend the money on fixing this issue when she says they have not spent all of the money set aside to address homelessness.

"I think we have to change our attitude and I don't think you can do that by throwing money at it," Vieira explained. "The Millionaire's Tax was passed several years ago, earmarking three million dollars to take care of mental illness, a real issue we all see everywhere we go, and that money goes unspent year after year. To put $160,000 towards this is just misguided."

The city council meeting addressing the task force is on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and will be held virtually.

If approved, the city will open up the application pool to join the task force until August 15th.

Once it gets underway, the city says this task force will likely continue until January 1st, 2021.