Ben Brachfeld, Brooklyn Paper, December 13, 2021
The city’s Racial Justice Commission voted Thursday to approve three proposals to amend the city’s charter, with the aim of beginning to scrub the city’s foundational document of structural racism.
The proposals, which will go before voters in the Nov. 2022 general election, include adding a preamble to the charter that establishes racial equity as a guiding principle for city government, creating several new accountability bodies and mechanisms to act as a watchdog on city agencies, and establishing a new and more holistic indicator the city can use to measure the “true” cost-of-living.
The meatiest of the three proposals establishes accountability measures and bodies for oversight and policymaking related to racial equity in the work of city agencies. If approved by voters, the city would biennially have to issue a “citywide racial equity plan” laying out “strategic priorities, goals, and programs in pursuit of equity and racial justice” which agencies should undertake. The equity plan would be enforced by a permanent Racial Equity Commission that would act as an oversight body on city agencies, while a separate Racial Equity Office would assist city agencies in pursuing its equity-advancing goals.
The commission identified several specific policies, under the jurisdiction of the city, state, or federal governments, brought up by the public in the input sessions that would advance equity, which it intends to include in its final roadmap.
At the national level, that includes studying the possibility of reparations for slavery and the establishment of a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation committee. On the state and local level, the commissions says consideration should be given to vesting the Civilian Complaint Review Board with final disciplinary authority over the NYPD, refining the Police Department’s mission and possibly creating a “Department of Public Safety” which would oversee it, prioritizing community land trusts in dispensing public land, eliminating unnecessary criminal background checks, and rethinking the structure of community boards “to be effective vehicles for civic participation.”