CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 25, 2022) — The Charlotte City Council on Monday formalized its approach to evaluating city policies and determining if and how they are equitable for residents.
The Equity in Governance Framework will help council members and city staff address systemic inequities in new or existing city policies and practices for the purpose of promoting economic opportunity and fairness in civic engagement and government services, especially for residents who have been historically disenfranchised.
In Charlotte, those inequities often follow racial lines because of the harmful effects of segregation, redlining — a 20th century federal policy that designated some neighborhoods, typically with Black residents and other people of color, as risky investments for mortgage lenders, thus preventing homeownership and wealth accumulation — and other actions like the mid-century "urban renewal" projects that decimated Brooklyn, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Uptown.
Six questions make up the core of the framework:
What does the policy seek to accomplish?
Have the people most impacted been engaged and how?
Who benefits or could be burdened by the proposal?
What benefits or adverse impacts could result from the proposal?
How was addressing racial or other inequities considered?
Will the proposal reduce disparities?
The questions will guide city staff members as they research a given issue and recommend potential solutions to the City Council. The questions will also give City Council members a place to start as they review the staff's recommendations and will help them know what additional information they need before voting on policies and allocating money to projects and programs. The equity questions may be particularly featured in the discussions of
City Council committees, where council members refine key projects and initiatives and make policy recommendations to the full council.
Federico Rios, who leads the city's
Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration, said that every question may not be relevant to every policy and decision, but the questions act as a springboard.
"The questions are simple on purpose, and they address the basics of equity in policymaking, but they are not a checklist," Rios said. "They should lead to more questions and require more data be collected, so we know that our polices are better considering and serving all residents."
Evaluating how city policies and programs promote equity is not new for the council; members traditionally make it a point to discuss equity as they deliberate and vote on a policy or issue. The Equity in Governance Framework now brings structure to that discussion by offering the six questions, as well as a
purpose statement and diagrams outlining the roles and responsibilities of City Council members, city staff and residents in the process.
he briefed the City Council on the framework approach on Oct. 10, Rios pointed to a recent example of the council using equity as a lens through which to view a policy, prior to the framework's adoption.
In June, the council
voted to not require a petition signed by homeowners and property owners before a speed hump or multiway stop could be added to eligible residential streets. Prior to the change, the city required a resident to submit a petition indicating support from 60% of property owners within 1,200 feet of the speed hump or stop. This placed the burden of traffic calming on the public, and it could be difficult in neighborhoods that are not formally organized or have a high number of renters.
"You all, after being brought this item by community members and by the wonderful people at Charlotte Department of [Transportation], along with collecting data and listening to those residents, were able to review and change the policy and make it more equitable," Rios said. "We're asking you to do this over time with all the policies that you undertake to look at or to create, by really embedding this framework."
The Environment, Engagement and Equity Committee, which is no longer in session, created the framework and, in April, recommended it to the full council for adoption. Moving forward, and under the current committee structure — all four committees meet the first Monday of each month and members brief the full council on their discussions later the same day — equity will be a common theme and thread through all committees.
Additional steps to measure and promote equity in Charlotte are still under consideration. The city is looking into how it can collect equity-related data points and display them using tools such as online, interactive maps and dashboards, without unnecessarily duplicating similar resources that already exist in the community.