League Update: NCLM Report Calls for Broad Examinations of Policy Affecting Racial Equity

Scott Mooneyham, NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination

After several months of work, NCLM’s Task Force on the Impact of City Leaders on Racial Equity has released a report calling for broad examinations of municipal policies affecting racial equity and setting the stage for the organization to help facilitate change.

The 14-member task force was established in July by the League’s Board of Directors. Co-chaired by then-League President Jennifer Robinson, a member of the Cary Town Council, and Board of Directors member Bill Harris, a member of the Fuquay-Varina Town Commissioners, the group focused on ways that cities and towns could themselves address racial equity, rather than looking to state or federal policy changes.

The report focused on areas including housing, policing, infrastructure location, and leadership development.

“Municipalities across the state are grappling with how to promote racial equity,” said Robinson, who is now the League’s immediate past president. “The collective energy and effort of the task force members will, I hope, make it easier for all of the municipalities in North Carolina to tackle the hard conversations, take a good look at their policies and practices, and then step out to make real change.”

The report’s recommendations are:

  • Cities and towns consider an examination of their own historical practices related to redlining and other policies that may have harmed minority homeownership rates, home values, and wealth accumulation.
  • Cities and towns, as they can afford to do so, provide incentives that encourage investment in historically redlined neighborhoods or others disadvantaged by past discriminatory policies.
  • Cities and towns consider targeted approaches and strategies, such as target universalism, to address inequities created by past policies and decisions that have had and continue to have the effect of causing residents in those areas to suffer economically, educationally, socially, and from a health standpoint.
  • Cities and towns make investments in social infrastructure, like parks and libraries, in historically neglected or redlined neighborhoods, or those disadvantaged by less desirable targeted public facilities or geography.
  • Cities and towns consider assessments of their policing that examine approaches to racial equity and a shared sense of community.
  • Cities and towns create intentional spaces and forums for brave and courageous engagement about race, equity, justice, and policing.
  • Cities and towns work with the NCLM and state partners to better identify, utilize, and win the extensive grant awards available at the federal level that support better training and education for officers.
  • Establish education and training opportunities for city and town officials to establish a shared and common understanding and language from which to have dialogue at the local level.

The report was unveiled at CityVision 2021, NCLM’s annual conference, where topics examining various aspects of racial equity were explored as a part of the programming. Those included a presentation by Leon Andrews, who heads the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership program and who helped to facilitate the task force discussions.

With the recommendations in hand, the League will begin exploring how to assist cities and towns adopt measures and services that can help in those local efforts.

Harris, who was chosen as the League’s 2nd vice president in April, said he believes the report and subsequent efforts can bring greater awareness of the impacts of systemic racism and “how it affects the way elected leaders perceive themselves, and their responsibility to all citizens in promoting equity, fairness, and justice.”

“NCLM can collaborate with elected leaders and communities interested in addressing the issues of equity, justice, and fairness and provide consultation, education, and tools that will foster change,” Harris said.

Those efforts could compliment those already underway.

NCLM’s Risk Management Services, for several years, has offered a review of individual police department policies: the Law Enforcement Risk Review Process. The process is designed to assess an agency’s adherence to best practices, court decisions, and policies and procedures related to high liability activities in law enforcement, with a goal of enhancing public safety and validating that critical areas of the departments are meeting industry standards. RMS also has offered trainings designed to ensure that individual rights are understood and observed during police encounters.

The task force was created following a series of deaths of unarmed black civilians by police across the country, sparking protests in cities and towns throughout the United States, including North Carolina. In this state, the protests occurred in both large cities and small towns, demonstrating the extent of the calls for change.

NCLM Executive Director Paul Meyer said he hoped the report recommendations could be a catalyst for that change.

“These are not easy times or easy challenges that we face. They are tough. And we need the support of one another to find the best means to move forward,” Meyer said.

Robinson echoed those comments.

“It’s common for many governments to be working independently to address the same challenges as each other. The League says, ‘Hey, you don’t have to go at it alone. We’re in this together.’ The collective energy and effort of the task force members will, I hope, make it easier for all of the municipalities in NC to tackle the hard conversations, take a good look at their policies and practices, and then step out to make real change,” she said.

In addition to the co-chairs, other task force members who helped develop the report findings and recommendations are Newport Mayor Dennis Barber, Wilson Council Member Michael Bell, Fletcher Council Member Preston Blakely, Greenville Council Member Monica Daniels, Charlotte Council Member Malcolm Graham, Sedalia Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Jones, Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore, Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly, Winston-Salem Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, Durham Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton, Morrisville Council Member Steve Rao, and Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor.

The full report can be found at https://www.nclm.org/RacialEquity.