Oakland approves new city Department of Race and Equity; funding amount to come

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks

Brooks’ proposal ultimately win unanimous approval

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposed Department of Race and Equity, after months of ups and downs, was given the green light Monday night by the Oakland City Council. Exactly how much is allocated in the forthcoming fiscal year budget starting July 1, however, is not yet known.

“Race is the issue that is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about or address,” Brooks said during the special council meeting. In late January, following a spate of nationally-publicized police brutality incidents, Brooks first proposed the creation of the new department to monitor the city’s policies toward equity for all residents. A second new department will debut in Oakland sometime this year. Mayor Libby Schaaf is proposing a new Department of Transportation.

Despite months of uncertainty among Brooks’ fellow councilmembers about the need for expanding the city’s bureaucracy, Monday’s vote was unanimous. The amendment to the city ordinance was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan Anne Campbell Washington.

Whereas, the mayor’s budget released April 30 allocates just $150,000 toward elements of Brooks’ proposed department, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney’s budget proposes $500,000 to fund two full-time equivalent positions for an executive director and analyst. The City Council will decide how much to allocate toward to the new city department before the June 30 deadline for the next fiscal year budget.

Councilmembers Abel Guillen and Noel Gallo, in recent months, both questioned whether the new department would duplicate the city bureaucracy already working on race and equity. Guillen offered an amendment to Brooks’ proposal Monday night asking the city administrator to provide a report on how each city department would collaborate with the new department.

Brooks, however, called the amendment “not friendly” and urged for its defeat. “He is effectively trying to slow down the start of this dept,” said Brooks. Guillen denied the characterization and later withdrew the motion.

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