Summary of Objective Implementation Status
With 3 FTE employees at the time of its establishment, the Office of Equity (OoE) relied on the Government Alliance on Race and Equity’s (GARE) guidance to expand its operational capacity by launching the creation of a Core Team. As part of the selection process for the Core Team, the OoE conducted interviews with each applicant to better understand their role in advancing Racial Equity in their department, as well as supports needed from the newly-created OoE to continue this work. The OoE established the Sonoma County Equity Core Team in late Spring of 2021, with 76 members representing 25 County Departments. The Core Team learning community became the basis to expand the Office’s capacity to begin its work in alignment with the Racial Equity and Social Justice pillar of the County’s 5-year Strategic Plan .
The Office of Equity does not currently have funding or staff to continue to provide facilitated Affinity Spaces, to bring facilitation support to regularly convene the full Core Team in multiracial space, and to support the administrative work associated with coordinating and scheduling work for the group of 57 Core Team members.
Key Milestone Update
Over the last 15 months of work (July 2021 – October 2022), Core Team members have reported more than 3,110 hours of training together. Unfortunately, while the Office has seen most Core Team members thrive and get more comfortable with their skills having and leading conversations about race, the Core Team has also lost 19 members. Some of the most common reasons for attrition in the Core Team include lack of capacity for participation, leaving the County for other employment, and retirement. Currently, the Core Team is made of 57 participants representing 15 County departments and agencies:
• Auditor-Controller-Treasurer- Tax Collector
• Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
• Agriculture/Weights & Measures
• Board of Supervisors – District 3
• County Administrator’s Office
• Child Support Services
• Community Development Commission
• Clerk-Recorder-Assessor-Registrar of Voters
• Emergency Management
• Health Services (DHS)
• Human Resources
• Human Services (HSD)
• Office of Equity
• Sonoma County Regional Parks
• Sonoma Water
Core Team Steering Committee and Racial Equity Action Plan
As the Office launched this phase of its work, staff recognized the need for a smaller guiding body of trained Core Team members to develop and coordinate the work of the Core Team in the form of a Steering Committee. The Core Team Steering Committee will act as a group of strategic leaders that will support relevant work such as the implementation of several goals and objectives of the Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) Pillar of the County’s Strategic Plan through the creation of a Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP). According to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), “Racial Equity Action Plans can lay out the approach to operationalizing” jurisdictions’ commitments toward racial equity. In this case, the REAP will create a roadmap to achieving “meaningful and measurable results” articulated in the RESJ pillar of the County’s Strategic Plan and will include other strategies identified by Steering Committee members.
The creation of a REAP, with the leadership of the Core Team Steering Committee and the support and involvement of all County departments, is critical to ensuring that the responsibilities to embed racial equity across our government process and actions is clearly articulated so as to ensure those responsibilities are shared across all departments to positively impact communities of color across County service provision and employment opportunities.
On February 1, 2022, the OOE received $240,000 in Strategic Plan funding over 3 years for this effort and entered into an agreement with Equity First Consulting, LLC on June 13, 2022 to support the work needed to advance equity initiatives across all departments through the creation of a REAP.
Since then, the consultant has supported the OOE in designing a process to select Core Team Steering Committee members, who will be leading the creation of the Racial Equity Action Plan. Through an anti-racist approach, participants submitted applications sharing information about the level of support they receive in their department, the different skills and lived experiences relevant to this leadership role, learning experiences in the changing roles they have had as equity champions, as well as ideas to effectively embed racial equity across County service provision. The OOE relied on an Advisory Committee made up of Core Team members to provide recommendations as to the best configuration for this leadership group as they were making the selection. Ultimately, 13 members were selected for the Steering Committee presented below in alphabetical order:
• Anna Yip – County Administrator’s Office
• Audrianna Jones – Community Development Commission
• Christel Querijero – County Administrator’s Office
• Denia Candela – Department of Health Services
• Josephine McKay – Human Services Department
• Lauren Reed – Department of Health Services
• Leslie Lew – Ag and Open Space
• Michelle Revecho – Human Services Department
• Nora Mallonee-Brand – Department of Health Services
• Oscar Chavez – Human Services Department
• Ryan Pedrotti – Sonoma Water
• Shawntel Reece – Human Services Department
• Victoria Willard – Human Resources
Steering Committee members represent the Office of Equity, and demonstrate the curiosity, humility, and focus on healing necessary to successfully operationalize equity principles at the County. Steering Committee members will have a demonstrated commitment to and investment in equity work, the capacity to dedicate time to the work, and the ability to connect their role in the Steering Committee to the responsibilities of their day-to-day work in their departments.
The group will take part in hands-on professional development and leadership training opportunities where they will continue to learn, practice, and contribute to building an authentic community that is centered on anti-racism. Steering Committee members will serve for a minimum of 12 months, and can expect to spend 4 hours per week on work related to racial equity for the Core Team or Steering Committee. These leaders, supported by Equity First Consulting, will take the first steps towards the creation of the Racial Equity Action Plan, beginning in January 2023.
Coordination and Partnership Update
This objective is grounded in collaboration and partnership across departments. It has a few intersections with Organizational Excellence and Healthy & Safe Communities. Collaboration could be facilitated through OoE/Core Team member engagement with those departments, department heads, and pillar leads through monthly meetings and the creation and utilization of an equity tool for introduction and use at the end of the training program (Summer 2023); however, currently the Office of Equity has no capacity to support this additional collaboration, as multiple requests for staff have not been fulfilled. The Office has requested two Program, Planning, and Evaluation Analysts to support this and other partnerships with the Human Services Department’s Upstream Investments, the Department of Health Services, and Health Action Together. The OoE currently has no capacity to coordinate work outside of the County or to engage in any external community engagement outside of the ARPA allocation process. With the ARPA-funded Community Engagement Plan, the OoE will bring both fiscal and substantive recommendations to the Board to support and strengthen County community engagement efforts.
Community, Equity, and Climate Update
The expectations of Core Team members include deepening connections between their work and the communities they serve. In that way, Core Team members will be bringing the perspectives of the communities they serve into their daily work.
The Core Team was initially organized into racial affinity groups to facilitate Core Team members to be able to engage in the creation and maintenance of safe and brave spaces to support equity work; however, requests for support to continue facilitating and supporting racial affinity groups have not been fulfilled. The OoE is currently without resources to facilitate or support the full Core Team or its racial affinity groups.
The Core Team was designed to ensure that the full value of BIPOC staff and leadership is brought to the work of public service at the County of Sonoma. The Core Team was designed to disrupt traditional hierarchies; to acknowledge and celebrate the value of lived experience in our professional work; and to unlock this skillset for daily use in public service to transform and strengthen the sense of belonging of BIPOC staff and leadership and the communities we serve.
The Office of Equity is funded completely by the General Fund.
Office of Equity staff salaries are fully funded within its approved budget, and the creation of the Core Team has not yet required additional funding. However, the creation of the Core Team was controversial and difficult. Many departments did not have unrestricted resources to support their staff’s participation, and interested staff were not authorized to participate in Core Team membership. Ideally, equity work is embedded in everyone’s job as a public servant in the County of Sonoma. Practically, many departments require additional resources to begin this work. For example, creating and funding dedicated equity analysts to serve each department would assist each department to have the support and resources inside of their departments while maintaining a central, coordinated hub.
Currently the Office of Equity has no capacity to seek external funds. We would need a grant writer to allow us to seek external funding to leverage County funds. (The State of California has funding for health equity work but almost no other places do.)
On February 1, 2022, the OOE received $240,000 in Strategic Plan funding over 3 years for the Core Team Steering Committee and Racial Equity Plan (REAP) effort and entered into an agreement with Equity First Consulting, LLC on June 13, 2022 to support the work needed to advance equity initiatives across all departments through the creation of a REAP.