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Encinitas to form committee to discuss diversity issues

A "Black Lives Matter" sign hangs on a bike on June 21, 2020, in Encinitas.
A “Black Lives Matter” sign hangs on a bike on June 21, 2020, in Encinitas.
(Ariana Drehsler / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Council member-led group will advise city leaders on everything from housing to policing concerns

In effort to make Encinitas a more welcoming place for all types of people, the city will form an Equity Committee to offer advice on a wide range of issues, the City Council unanimously decided Wednesday, Feb. 10.

“We’re trying to lift up those who have historically been disenfranchised,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said as she introduced the proposal.

Blakespear, who put together the idea with Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze, said Encinitas has some two dozen groups and individuals active in diversity-related issues and the new city-sponsored committee will bring these folks together to offer the city advice on everything from housing to policing concerns.

She and Hinze said the committee will build on the community engagement and awareness that grew out of last summer’s racial justice protests, both locally and nationally. The two women said they’re envisioning a group that will consider a broad range of social topics, including everything from homelessness to environmental justice issues.

“I’m really looking forward to having these difficult conversations,” Hinze said, mentioning that she wants the group to build on the knowledge gained by the Encinitas4Equality community organization, which formed last year.

Several members of that group praised the committee proposal during the Wednesday, Feb. 10 council meeting. One of the group’s founders, Jody White, said that as a parent she believed it was imperative that the city focus on equality issues and noted that the proposal wasn’t expected to cost the city any additional expenses.

Fellow group founder Mali Woods-Drake said she believes “change needs to start locally,” and this will create a ripple effect beyond the city’s borders.

The council heard from six public speakers on the issue, and all but one supported the proposal. The lone opponent, Cindy Cremona, said she believed community organizations were already addressing these sorts of issues and said the city should focus on reducing its rising crime rate, not on “inequities that don’t exist.”

Cremona, who endorsed candidates who ran against Blakespear and Hinze in the November election, called the two women’s proposal “interestingly short on detail” and noted that the head of the North Coastal Sheriff’s Station, Capt. Herb Taft who is Black, said during a community forum last summer that the city didn’t have a problem with racial prejudice in its policing.

A suggested work plan for the group and a proposed membership list will return for a council vote at a later meeting, Blakespear said.

The committee’s purpose will be to help “create safe, healthy, accessible, and inclusive opportunities for everyone who lives, works and visits Encinitas,” a report states. It will offer suggestions on a variety of topics including public safety, city employee recruiting and retention, contracting practices, land use decisions, transportation planning and environmental justice concerns.

One council member will serve as the group’s chair, but Blakespear and Hinze will work together now to create a membership application form and a “robust community outreach” will be done to “ensure a diverse mix of applicants,” the report states.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he was supportive of the Equity Committee proposal, but would like more details — “some meat on the bones” — included the future work plan. He mentioned that he worked with former councilwoman Lisa Shaffer on a proposal to help make new immigrants feel comfortable years ago and said it was important to look into ways that people don’t feel welcome.

Councilman Joe Mosca said he was “happy and grateful” that the committee would become a reality. He said people across the nation have learned a great deal about systemic racism since last summer’s protests, but more needs to be done.

“We still have a long way to go and a lot of progress to be made in our society ... what better place to start than in our own backyard having these conversations,” he said.

— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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