Mayor Catherine Pugh on Monday moved Baltimore one step closer to the creation of a fund aimed at promoting racial equity across the city.
Pugh’s spokesman confirmed that she plans to sign off on the legislation sponsored by City Councilman Brandon Scott and unanimously approved by the rest of the council.
Voters will decide in November whether they support the measure, which would enshrine the equity fund into the city’s charter.
The equity fund bill will join a ballot crowded with charter amendments. Last week, Pugh gave her signature to two others: One would allow the public funding of local election campaigns and another is aimed at creating an independent inspector general’s office. The City Council also fast-tracked another charter amendment, which would make it illegal to sell or lease the water system.
Voters typically have approved ballot questions unless there is aggressive opposition. In 2016, they approved all 10 charter amendments and proposed bond issues.
Scott initially asked the city to create a $15 million racial equity fund. As part of negotiations to get the bill approved, he agreed to strip the dedicated funding from the legislation.
In addition to the equity fund charter amendment, Scott sponsored companion legislation requiring all city agencies to study whether they engage in discriminatory practices. That kind of analysis is necessary, Scott has argued, to understand and ameliorate Baltimore’s history of segregation and inequity.
The equity assessment program would compel agencies to “develop policies, practices and strategic investments to reverse disparity trends based on race, gender or income.” Each agency would have to implement an “equity action plan.”
Baltimore joins a growing movement of cities committing to this kind of work.
Before ultimately agreeing to sign the legislation, Pugh expressed doubt about whether a racial equity fund was necessary. She argued that she is constantly mindful of equity, and has emphasized the hiring of black- and women-owned firms during her time in City Hall. She said she supports efforts to ensure all city decisions are made using an “equity lens.”
“Central to my administration’s focus is creating education, job and economic opportunity for all citizens, while eliminating disparity wherever it exists,” Pugh said in an emailed statement. “As such, I welcome the City Council’s partnership in working with us to erase barriers and improve the prospects for any who have been denied equal access and opportunity.”
She met with Scott on Monday to discuss the legislation. The councilman thanked her in a tweet for signing “these important bills.”