Baltimore Councilman Proposes $15 Million Fund to Help Eliminate ‘Structural and Institutional’ Racism
Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun, April 16, 2018
Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott plans to introduce legislation Monday that would force each city agency to study whether it is engaging in discriminatory policies — and create a roughly $15 million annual fund that would go toward eliminating “structural and institutional racism.”
Scott, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, spoke of the city’s history of racist zoning laws and restrictive housing covenants.
He said much work needs to be done to make sure city government is treating people fairly regardless of their race, gender or socio-economic status.
Scott, a candidate for lieutenant governor on Democrat Jim Shea’s ticket, introduced the proposals in two bills.
The first bill would establish an equity assessment program that would require city agencies to “develop polices, practices and strategic investments to reverse disparity trends based on race, gender or income,” and to “develop and implement an equity action plan,” among other requirements.
He said city officials are doing a better job of hiring talented people from diverse backgrounds, but “have to make sure they aren’t operating off policies that are written 20 or 30 years ago.”
The second bill is a proposed charter amendment that would create an “equity assistance fund” for the purposes of “assisting efforts that reduce inequity based on race, gender or economic status.” If the council approves, it would be put before the voters in November.
The fund would get the equivalent of 3 percent of the police department’s budget each year. This year’s police budget is larger than $500 million, meaning the fund would receive more than $15 million.
The money could be spent on providing equity in housing, education, addressing past inequities in capital budget spending or eliminating structural racism and other forms of discrimination.
More than a century ago, Baltimore was one of the first cities in the country to pass an ordinance that forced black residents into segregated neighborhoods. Other government policies deepened the economic divide between races. In the 1930s, for instance, the federal government encouraged home loans to whites — particularly those of British, German and Scandinavian descent — but not to black residents.
A city planning department analysis of $670 million of budgeted capital projects in Baltimore last year found that predominantly white neighborhoods were slated for almost twice as much spending over the past five years as mostly black parts of the city.