Council Votes to Strengthen Racial Equity Legislation

The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to require a racial equity and social justice impact statement for every new zoning text amendment.

The aim of the legislation, that was voted on during council’s Dec. 1 meeting, is to ensure that all zoning decisions undergo evidence-based assessments on how they will impact minority residents and communities. It is an amendment to the county’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, which was adopted in November 2019.

“It is clear that we have an extraordinarily diverse county with a lot of different particular issues that are impacted by racial equity and social justice,” councilmember Nancy Navaro, the bill’s lead sponsor, said during the council meeting.

“We know that our work is not complete—the fight to achieve more equitable structures necessitates learning from our actions,” Navarro wrote in a press release.

The bill adds two public members to the county’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee and authorizes the county executive to at least one task force to study and make recommendations on issues pertaining to racial equity and social justice. Additional committee members are needed to ensure that the county is “able to get as much input from the community as possible,” Navarro explained during the meeting.

Under the amendment, the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight must consult with the planning board before submitting a racial equity and social justice impact statement for a zoning text amendment. It sets the effective date at Sept. 21 2021 to allow for the next county budget to include funding, Navarro explained.

It would require the county executive to provide impact statements concerning Montgomery County Public Schools’ budget.

The Racial Equity and Social Justice Act requires every county department and office to develop a racial equity and social justice action plan. It also mandates that legislation, public policy initiatives and government programs, supported by budget requests, include a racial equity and social justice impact statement.

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