Council Passes Racial Equity, Social Justice Legislation

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a racial equity and social justice law that changes the way the county performs basic functions.

For example, the legislation requires the county and each county department to develop racial equity and social justice action plans, and it requires the county executive to explain how each management program promotes racial equity.

“We’re taking this step forward in making more of a reality that everyone here in our county, regardless of who they are, can get one step closer to realizing the promise of Montgomery County,” Councilmember Will Jawando said. “This county is a great place for so many, and offers so much. … I’ve always been very aware as many residents have been many of the things that we love about this place, whether it be a great education, or access to health care or housing that’s habitable and affordable, have been just out of the grasp of so many for such a long time.”

The legislation creates a new office under County Executive Marc Elrich headed by a chief equity officer, and it requires training for all county employees. Legislative analysts expect the new office to cost about $376,000, which covers the cost of the director, a senior executive administrative assistant, furniture, equipment, computers and other operating expenses.

It also requires the county’s bill analysts to submit a racial equity impact statement for each bill and that the county’s Planning Board to consider racial equity when it prepares master land-use guides.

“It’s saying that race has to be an open and transparent conversation, and we all have to have that dialogue,” Councilmember Hans Riemer said. “And it has to be an intentional part of government to acknowledge the historical forces created inequities.”

Council President Nancy Navarro, who spearheaded the legislation over the past year, called racial equity an economic issue because of what the county loses through disparities.

“It should also be something that everybody needs to embrace because it speaks to the viability of the economy of our county, as well,” Navarro said.

The legislation will affect civic participation in political campaigns.

“It will not be enough to say that we care about diversity. We will have to make sure the candidates articulating exactly how they’re going to address these issues,” she said.

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