Sherman R. Frederick
Mill Valley Herald
After issuing a scathing report alleging that Mill Valley is a racist community top to bottom, the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force recommendations were discussed at the City Council meeting this month.
Of the 62 recommendations made by the DEI, city staff told the council that 37 were “complete, underway” or outside the scope and scale of city government.
Twenty-five DEI recommendations were embraced in the staff report for ongoing action to make the city more inclusive.
But the No. 1 recommendation of the task force — that the task force be named a permanent fixture in the city with paid staff — was not embraced by staff.
City staff said that it was “under the impression that the DEI task force would continue as an official advisory group” but the group became entangled in Brown Act issues itself, resulting in the city advising the task force about meeting illegally among themselves without proper public notice.
Some on the task force took that as a threat to muzzle the work of the task force. As a result, the staff said the task force disbanded itself as of Dec. 7 of last year to become an unofficial racial justice advocacy group.
In the end, the staff recommendations were not voted on at the meeting by the Council, but the Council indicated that staff was on the right track.
In the public hearing portion of the meeting, dozens of Mill Valley residents roasted the staff report and the City Council for what many called a bureaucratic and “business as usual” response to widespread and serious racism in Mill Valley.
The former chair of the Mill Valley DEI Task Force, Naima S. Dean, compared what Mill Valley has done with the DEI recommendations to slave owners responding to slaves in the American South asking for better treatment.
“I feel like I’m begging the master not to whip me,” she said. To hold a public meeting and limit discussion to 2 minutes is “asinine.” She said “I’m sitting here dying now. It saddens me to see the walls of fear” erected following the DEI report.
“Stop with the lies. How do you sleep at night,” she asked.
Virginia Fleming of Mill Valley said “I have to say this staff report makes for discouraging reading. The overall tone of this report is one of dismissal.”
“Unconscious bias” in Marin and Mill Valley is “widespread,” she said, and so far the Council is not going far enough to make it “a real priority.”
A woman identified as Amber, called the whole process a “failure.”
“I’m not surprised by your rejection of the DEI. The DEI provides the city with a map,” which the city is refusing to follow.
Nancy, a member of the DEI task force, called the turn of events “heartbreaking”. The key elements of the DEI task force recommendations are being swept under the rug.”
A woman who identified herself as Molly, told the Council she grew up in Mill Valley and can afford to live in Mill Valley still only because she was able to buy her parents home, which they bought in the 50s for $7,000.
“I am white. I am privileged. I’ve been ashamed of Mill Valley for my whole life,” she said.
Monika, who said she was Black, said the City Council is sitting on the DEI report like the police “kneeled on the neck of George Floyd.”
The night’s meeting lasted for more than five hours. Most of the time was taken by public comment. The City Council members themselves did not engage in a lengthy discussion of the comments and allegations made in public hearing.
The staff report did not require a vote.
In a separate portion of the public hearing, speakers also told the Council that the Mill Valley Police Log was recently changed to be more restrictive with information, which they said is not in the spirit of trust and transparency. New Police Chief Rick Navarro agreed with the criticism and told the Herald this week that he’s returning to the old police log.
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