By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Los Alamos County Council unanimously agreed during its meeting Sept. 8 that when it comes to ensuring racial equity– actions speak louder than words.
As a result, the council voted 7-0 to formally condemn the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others killed by police across the country, call for a national change in how police interact with people of color, declare Black Lives Matter and commit to anti-racist work moving forward.
The Council also agreed to work with County staff and community members to improve racial equity in Los Alamos County and bring an initial set of integrated recommendations, including estimates of required funding, to council for discussion in the October/November time frame.
The motion was made in response to a petition local group Racial Justice Los Alamos submitted to Council for consideration.
Racial Justice Los Alamos member Beverly Clinton read key points in the petition:
We are writing to ask Council’s partnership on forwarding several initiatives to promote increased racial equity in our community:
1) Because research shows that all people have implicit racial biases, we ask that Los Alamos County implements an annual, mandated, stand-alone training, which is separate and apart from the existing harassment training. This training addresses two goals: First, employees and elected officials will recognize how to identify their own implicit biases. Second, attendees will rethink how to create objective systems that minimize the impact of implicit bias in decisions.
2) We would like for the Council to create a county board or committee, composed of concerned citizens, aimed at identifying and proposing actions for how the County can address racial injustices. This board should meet regularly, be open and transparent, and suggestions should be given significant weight by Council in decisions.
3) We would like the Council, as a body, to actively engage in learning more about racial injustice and how it operates in our culture. We would like the Council to actively examine where the County has influence or control that could be leveraged to impact racial injustice, and we ask that the Council enact measures aimed at improving racial equity. These measures should be quantifiable. The means by which actions are taken could include the SMART Performance Management tool in order to measure the success of those defined targets. For example, the Council could start by asking the question, why is the majority of the County’s executive leadership composed of Caucasian men?
4) In the spirit of igniting inclusivity, we ask the Council to officially condemn the killing of George Floyd, along with other ongoing police killings of black and brown people in our state and country. We ask that the Council call for national change in how police interact with people of color. We also ask the Council to adopt a public declaration that Black Lives Matter and commit to anti-racism work, as the schools have done.
Clinton also offered names and contact information for three individuals she said could be valuable in putting these items into action.
She emphasized that her group is encouraging the Council to take action.
“So again, these are actionable items not just some nebulous thoughts that we created because personally I am tired of talking,” Clinton said. “I want to see where we’ve actually executed something, that we have input, we have an output (and) we can measure it.”
Council Chair Sara Scott commended Racial Justice Los Alamos.
“We appreciate this community group’s efforts as I also appreciate the commitment of other individuals and organizations in the community – this includes, but is not limited to, the leadership exhibited by Chief Sgambellone and Los Alamos police force, Los Alamos National Laboratory and their representatives and working groups, and the Los Alamos Medical Center … I look forward to building on efforts to reach out to multiple organizations and members of the community to include discussions with Racial Justice Los Alamos in this important conversation – working together we can identify specific actions we can take to increase racial equity in the community,” Scott said.
Scott also pointed out that following the murder of Floyd there was a commitment during Council’s June 9 meeting to working with the community, the County manager and the police chief to identify and implement policy changes, community outreach and support, and address unconscious bias in the community.
In addition, to retain focus, identify specific actions and monitor progress, Councilor Katrina Martin agreed to lead this effort with a goal of elucidating and recommending actions the County and Council could undertake to move forward on these important issues.
“I deeply appreciate this petition as well as the petitioners and the group they have formed,” Martin said. “I see this being a really valuable partner. I agree what we want is to take real action not just say nice words and have no real change take place. I really hope we can work together moving forward to try to come up with real things that our county can do. Already (the petitioners have) put forth valuable suggestions that we definitely can discuss as a council…”
In addition to acting on the petitioners’ recommendations, Councilor Antonio Maggiore said he would like to see the council commit to spending some money on this endeavor. Martin and Councilor Pete Sheehey agreed.
Clinton praised this thought.
“I appreciate Councilors Maggiore and Martin’s comments,” she said. “You’re actually putting your money where your money is and that is the kind of action I am looking for … what I am looking for now is demonstratively actions that we can measure.”