Sixth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is my 6th San José Human Services Commission meeting. I came down a little early to write this at the noodle shop across the street from City Hall, so if you’re attending the meeting, come on by and help me finish this glorious pile of egg rolls.

Tonight’s agenda is a mix of moving forward the major issues we’ve been working on, including funding and properly implementing the Women’s Bill of Rights; protecting our community from how this administration is choosing to run our already-broken immigration system, with a special focus on ICE’s impact on children), new ideas, like leveraging the Neighborhoods Commission’s Quality of Life subcommittee to address how Law Enforcement treats and communities women in commercial sex in South San José); and process, defining the Work Plan for 2018-2019 and figuring out who will be Chair and Vice Chair next year. Below are my thoughts!

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy

This is my item. CORRECTION: A previous version of this post reflected my understanding of the current budget situation, but the news is actually a lot better! To avoid misinformation spinning out into the aether, I’ve updated the language to reflect what I know now.

  1. Funding: After the Human Services Commission recommended back in April that the City Council allocate $300,000 for a consultant to manage the gender analysis of city departments, programs, and policies, and Vice Mayor Carrasco asked for $150,000, the Mayor supported her request (page 8 of the pdf); according to staff from the City Manager’s office, that means the budget for an independent consultant will be real once council approves the budget!
    My thoughts: This is a huge win for women, non-binary people, and men in San José. A truly independent gender analysis will provide much-needed data on whether we’re investing equitable in women, non-binary people, and men in our community. I’m so proud of our commission and every community member who stepped-up to support this request. Budgets are statements of values and this shows a real commitment to this work.
  2. Inclusivity: Here’s the draft bill, based on this best-practice research! Feel free to leave comments if you have feedback. I’m hoping to get feedback from my fellow commissioners tonight, then at our August meeting (we don’t meet in July) to bring an item before the commission for the commission to recommend to city council they pass the amended version.

Presentation: Mental Health and Immigrant Children; Wilson Cheh, Uplift Family Services

Given how much the horrorshow of our immigration system’s impact on children has been in the news, the necessity of this presentation shouldn’t require too much explanation.

My thoughts: when I worked at Child Advocates — CASA of Silicon Valley, one of the mentor trainers was a nurse who wrote her master’s thesis on the positive impact CASAs can have on the mental health of children in the foster care system. One of the facts she had uncovered in her research that has stuck with me is that, in California, the act of removing a child from their parents results in a 2 year developmental delay. That may be in addition to any other delays caused by the trauma that caused social workers to step-in to remove them; but the removal itself, for any length of time, is in and of itself so severe a trauma a 4-year-old may begin acting like a 2-year-old, losing words, losing motor skills, losing hard-won emotional control. When children are removed from their parents because of how this administration is choosing to enforce federal immigration laws.

New Chair & Vice-Chair Selection Preparation for August

We’ll be having an election for chair and vice chair at the August election. As I’ve been learning as Vice Grand of the Mountain View OddFellows lodge when I stand-in for the Noble Grand (a position equivalent to the Chair of a Commission), Chairs get to be facilitators, time-minders, negotiators, follow-upers. It’s a vital part of the process and a serious responsibility.

Generate Annual Report Outline/Language

I’m excited to hear more about this — annual reports are a big way that commissions whose members rotate in-and-out can create continuity and build power for the communities they serve.

My thoughts: Perhaps it would be a good part of the onboarding process for future commissioners that they get to read a few years’ worth of past annual reports, to give them a sense of the flow of the work (I just read through the past year of minutes before joining the commission, but it’s not quite the same).

Preliminary FY 2018-19 Work Plan Discussion

This one item I’m also excited about! Work plans, agendas, minutes and vote-counts are the prep-work of democracy — like pre-heating the oven, laying out the mixing bowls and spices, reading the recipe twice, and cleaning the counters before baking a cake, they make the policy advising we do work properly. Here is our current work plan (approved by City Council). Below are some wish-list items I have for our 2018-2019 work plan:

  1. Topic: Protect Immigrant Communities
    Goal: Decrease the number of people being deported from San José and increase the real legal security of members of our immigrant communities.
    Details: Work to increase access to civil immigration legal aid in San José, support community social services relating to the needs to impacted communities, and raise community awareness outside of the immigrant community of the damage the current federal immigration system is doing to families and communities in our city.
  2. Topic: Women’s Bill of Rights Improvement and Implementation
    Goal: In the next year, an independent body will have conducted a gender analysis on 3 programs, policies, or departments that were recommended to city council by the commission, as required by the Women’s Bill of Rights.
    Details: Continue to work to ensure the gender analysis required under the Women’s Bill of Rights is funded and implemented independently; continue to work to improve the inclusivity of the language of the bill to ensure it considers the impact of ethnicity in the gender analysis, and that transgender and non-binary residents are counted.
  3. Topic: Law Enforcement and Community Interactions
    Goal: Meaningfully decrease the number of women in commercial sex picked-up in sweeps and increase access to services; ensure the Independent Police Auditor’s Office has more data on the gender and ethnicity of those involved in law enforcement interactions for their May 2019 Annual Report; ensure the San José City Council is informed and engaged on ensuring SJPD serves all residents faithfully and equitably.
    Details: Improve how human trafficking survivors and women in commercial sex are treated by the San José Police Department, in active collaboration with the Neighborhoods’ Commission’s Quality of Life subcommittee; support the Independent Police Auditor’s Office in their work to evaluate and improve SJPD, including seeking the kind of quantifiable data that will help systematically improve the department; monitor and highlight to city council issues around bias in policing in San José.
  4. Topic: Protecting the Human Rights of People Who Are Homeless
    Goal: Change the policies and practices that are preventing homeless people whose stuff is being taken during sweeps from getting it back; running 5 outreach events to residents who are homeless to help them get in contact with their city councilmembers with postcard writing/phone call sessions; advocate for increased access to affordable housing as a part of preserving the human rights of unhoused people.
    Details: Continue to work with the Housing Department on the policies and practices around the treatment of the property of homeless people; work with local service providers and visiting encampments to help elevate the voices of people most hurt by our lack of affordable housing in San José: our neighbors who are homeless; in active collaboration with the Housing and Community Development Commission, regularly advise City Council on how the housing crisis in our city is impacting the human rights of people how are homeless.

Work Plan/Ad hoc Final Reports

I tend toward grim-faced, steely-eyed determination when it comes to human rights issues, but my fellow Commissioners are teaching me the many ways that we can involve the community in the protection of our fundamental rights in a way that’s fun (and I’m talking actual fun, not my idea of fun, which involves rocks and/or committee reports).

Last month, Commissioner Thi Ly ran a freaking amazing Children’s Rights Showcase at the Seven Trees Community Center about a mile and a half from my house. I ran the face-painting table and 10 great organizations provided free services and gifts to the hundred-or-so children who attended with their families.


She’s going to tell the rest of the commission about it and I am so proud to have gotten to help out.

Collaborating with the Neighborhoods Commission

My councilmember hosted a cool event a few weeks ago, where all of the commissioners from the different commissions representing our district got together over snacks to talk about our experiences on the commissions.

One of the issues we all raised was that many of us have been told we’re not allowed to work on issues that may be in the wheelhouse of other commissions. We’ve faced this with working for the human rights of people who are homeless, as the Housing and Community Development Commission is the one supposed to focus on that issue in general (though I have, and will continue, to argue that the commission focused on human rights should have a voice there as well).

One way to not duplicate effort while avoiding stifling siloing is to be in regular, friendly conversation with our fellow commissions; this is another role a good Chair can fulfill.

To experiment and see if this is a good solution to this process problem, I asked us to write a letter to the Neighborhoods Commission on the issues which we’re both working on, to try to see what collaboration we can include in our work plans next year. As you can see in my proposed topics, we have a lot of work we could do together.

That’s it for now! I’ll post my notes after the meeting — hope to see you there!

Fifth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is will be my fifth Human Services Commission meeting with an agenda focused on the needs of women, interactions with law enforcement, and continuing to work to support immigrant communities being targeted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Police Annual Report
Aaron Zisser, Independent Police Auditor
Purpose: to provide the Commission background on the IPA process and data with a gender overlay of the history of complaints made of the San Jose Police Department.
My thoughts: I asked if Mr Zisser could attend and I am excited to hear from him as I’ve heard good things about his work in the community. Below, I’ve pulled together the context that could help make our time together productive. In my time on the commission, we’ve interfaced with SJPD on 4 major issues:

  1. Hiring/retention of women and people of color in SJPD. We heard from Heather Randol back in March about her efforts to increase the recruitment of women in SJPD.
  2. SJPD handling property of homeless people. We have been working through a request from Anthony King of De-Bug Silicon Valley to see if it would be possible for SJPD to handle the property of homeless people when it is seized during sweeps; Vanessa Beretta of the Housing Department has asked us to wait on recommending that change to City Council to see if the new contact with HomeFirst and Tucker Construction (or whoever wins the relevant bids) improves the current situation.
  3. The gender analysis portion of the Women’s Bill of Rights. You probably know this, but the Women’s Bill of Rights is our local implementation of the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and was passed by city council unanimously on December 17th, 2017.

    In the bill, the Human Services Commission is required to 1) recommend which city departments, policies, and programs should undergo a gender analysis, 2) oversee the gender analysis (here is more on what a gender analysis entails).

    As part of that, we wrote to city council requesting they include $300k in the FY19 budget for the gender analysis and several local women’s organizations have also sent letters in support. Last I heard, Vice Mayor Carrasco included a BD for the gender analysis, though I am not sure at what price point.

    Whether the funding comes through or not, the bill requires the commission to recommend to council who will undergo the gender analysis first. Sita Stukes of the Cities for CEDAW taskforce requested that the commission advise city council that SJPD should be one of the first departments to undergo a gender analysis; SJPD has told the City Manager’s office and the Vice Mayor’s office that they prefer to not to undergo a gender analysis this year. We’ve been receiving community feedback from survivors of domestic violence and their allies requesting the SJPD undergo the gender analysis soon rather than later.

    This third issue is the one that led to me if Mr Zisser could join us, as I’m hoping you could help us understand how best to time and manage the competing requests the commission is getting on this issue.

  4. 280 women in South San José arrested for commercial sex. In January, Councilmember Tam Ngyuen’s staff liaison to our commission reported to the commission about an operation SJPD’s vice team ran in South San José in the last 6 months of 2017 that involved arresting 280 women for involvement in commercial sex (after some disagreement, I confirmed that was the correct number with Sgt Richard Galea back in March).

    As a rough estimate, according to a number of folks in law enforcement I checked-in with, arresting that many women takes about 280 officer hours, that is, about 7 full weeks of work.

    The commission connected with Community Prosecutor Josue Fuentes and Sharan Dhanoa of South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking (notes from their presentations here) to get a sense of whether those women were sex workers or survivors of sex trafficking; we heard only 2 were identified as survivors and that they knew of, none had been referred for the Valor diversion program (though this isn’t 100% clear).

    I connected with the nonprofit that generally coordinates services for survivors of trafficking in the county, and they said they hadn’t seen a major increase in referrals.

    I checked with friends who work in law enforcement in Oakland and another friend worked in California Department of Justice’s on human trafficking policy issues and both said that 280 women in 6 months is a huge number for a city San José’s size; given that I have found no one who provided any of these women services, and none seem to have been prosecuted (though, again, this is not entirely clear), it is not clear to me who benefitted from these arrests.

    Why this matters: whether someone is a sex worker or a trafficking survivor, having a prostitution arrest on her, his, or their record makes a wide range of employment outside of commercial sex immediately and permanently unavailable and so causes lasting and quantifiable harm to those arrested.

    (As a bit of personal context for newer readers — my first job out of college was running online advocacy for Polaris, the organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. As part of that, I worked directly with survivors, advocated for comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, and worked to increase law enforcement training in dozens of states,, so I have some depth on the complications and intricacies of this issue).

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy
Purpose
: to determine what city departments will undergo a Gender Analysis under the Women’s Bill of Rights.
Action: Vote to recommend to city council that this Human Services Commission be allowed to create a 3-year task force to fulfill its obligations under the Women’s Bill of Rights, modeled on Santa Clara County’s CEDAW Task Force. This San José City CEDAW Task Force should formally include members of the public as well as commissioners. Here is the CEDAW Final Ordinance.
My thoughts: We’re waiting on the City Manager’s office to finish translating the survey we wrote 5 weeks ago into Vietnamese and Spanish; in the meantime and as mentioned above, we have received feedback from survivors of domestic violence hoping that SJPD will undergo a gender analysis sooner rather than later. We don’t currently have a recommendation on which departments, policies, or programs should be reviewed first, but if you have thoughts, please comment!

Two other items on this:

  • We are moving forward in securing funding for the gender analysis; we will know more when the Mayor’s office gets back with their estimate.
  • I’ve started redrafting the CEDAW legislation with the help of a wide and wonderful range of community groups, using the research I did here. If you have feedback, you can provide it by email or by commenting on the Google Doc of the draft legislation.

Commissioner resource deployment to support the Rapid Response Network
Purpose: to look at the Commissioners own networks to find places to amplify the message and information about the Rapid Response Network Action: Discussion only. Here’s more on the City’s Rapid Response Network.
My thoughts: I went on my first Rapid Response call last month and believe increasing the number of volunteers (particularly in East San José and Gilroy) who can monitor ICE and support community members being targeted will increase the safety of those communities.

 

Ensuring Local CEDAW Ordinances Protect Transwomen and Non-Binary People

Most weeks, the night before my San José Human Services Commission meeting, I see my friend M. M is part of group of friends of mine that gets dinner mosts weeks, loves trashy space opera as much as I do, is a budding Java programmer, and is nonbinary. M is private about their gender because it’s not safe for them to be out to their family, so I’ll be clear here that the letter M exists nowhere in M’s name.

M is not my first nonbinary friend, but I know not all of my readers and fellow residents might not know anyone who is living a gender different from the one on their birth certificate. So in this post, when I write about making sure people outside of the gender binary are counted and served by our local laws, think about M: M who gave me a shy, big hug, when they heard one of my poems will be getting published this summer; M who ate a massive slice of my celebratory rum cake along with their corndogs, and was not sorry about it at all; M, who deserves to have their human rights protected because those rights are inalienable for everyone.

Background

About 8 weeks ago, when I was first looking into how to best support the implementation of San José’s Women’s Bill of Rights (our local implementation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW), a member of Together We Will – San José posted a reply to a post I started, and what she said stuck with me:

 

 

 

 

Posted with permission. At the time, I replied:

Good point! As a queer woman, including our genderqueer and non-binary brothers and sisters is important to me as well. Would you be willing to speak to the commission about including more than M/F options in the gender analysis next month if I can get it on the agenda? I think we could propose to city council that they amend the Women’s Bill of Rights to include non-binary and genderqueer people; also, to modify the language in the Duties and Powers section to consistently refer to gender, rather than switching to sex halfway through like they were synonyms. Here’s the text of the bill: http://sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/74224

[Quick update here: when I posted the language above I noticed I’d used not-great language for being inclusive of non-binary people and I wanted to remind myself to be accountable; this left some readers confused, since I didn’t actually point out that between writing this comment on Facebook and posting this blog post this weekend, I’ve gotten better (I hope) at using inclusive language. Regular readers will remember the many discussions of how much our language set around gender is evolving and this is a solid example of where I can do better. I should have said: “non-binary siblings” or “non-binary brothers, sisters, and siblings,” since I know some non-binary folks who are femme non-binary or masc non-binary and wouldn’t object to the gendered family language. Ok, back to the original post.]

And then I started asking around — our local CEDAW task force, other cities, our county. No one had heard of a local implementation of CEDAW that explicitly included transwomen and nonbinary people. That changes today.

After spending the evening reading through all 38 cities’ CEDAW ordinances, I found that Pittsburgh, PA’s language seems to be as inclusive as I could hope for. I’m going to spend the next few weeks shopping it around to see if there are ways to make it better, but unless I’ve very much mistaken, I think following Pittsburgh’s example in this bill language would solve the important problem highlighted on that Facebook thread and that’s been bothering me ever since.

Still a Women’s Bill of Rights?

Now, I believe there is value in highlighting cis and transgender women’s rights within the overall human rights conversation. This post isn’t about how to turn a Women’s Bill of Rights into an Everyone’s Bill of Rights (that already exists and has since 1948, or 1791, or 1215, depending on your definition of “everyone”); this post is about making sure that the gender analysis portion of a local implementation of CEDAW isn’t a missed opportunity to include the needs of nonbinary and transgender people. There is a lot of potential for it to be a missed opportunity, because most of the bill language I found refers exclusively to “women” and “men” as if the entire Venn diagram of human existence could be fit between those poles.

What’s the Harm in the Current Language?

Now, this may all sound very abstract. But we can’t track — and we can’t fix — what we don’t count. Here is an example of where counting nonbinary people’s experiences could have revealed important information for local policymakers and service providers. This is a quote from the University City, Missouri CEDAW resolution:

WHEREAS, in Missouri, just over nine percent of seniors are in poverty, two-thirds of whom are women, and overall the gap between elderly men and women in poverty is 3.7 percent, but in some counties this increases to 8.0 percent; and

What is the gap between cisgender men and nonbinary people? Between cisgender women and transgender women? From how this is framed, no one knows; that that should bother all of us, whether we’re cis or trans, identify as men, women, or use another term entirely, because our governments should serve their residents, not just those of us who fit into dueling check-boxes.

Another from Miami Dade County’s implementation of CEDAW (I’m sorry for the cruddy resolution and even sorrier for the fact that this bill was posted in an unsearchable format):

Another example, this one from San Francisco’s groundbreaking CEDAW ordinance, from the definitions section:

(e) “Gender” shall mean the way society constructs the difference between women and men, focusing on their different roles, responsibilities, opportunities and needs, rather than their biological differences.

This language assumes that gender is a binary, when for it is really more of a bimododal distribution:

An image of a bimodal distribution — I did not color this pink and blue; Wikipedia did.

[Note: a reader pointed out that between some and many non-binary folks do not consider gender a graphable distribution at all; I do, which is why I wrote this post this way, but I wanted to give space to that view here.]

If you’d like sources on this, that gender isn’t as simple as tab-A or slot-B, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll drop you some of the excellent studies and stories; or just take this as a premise and go out into the world tomorrow and test it yourself; or just think about M, and about whether you think it would be ok for anyone in our community to be uncounted because of their identity.

My Methodology

  1. I used this list of all 38 US cities with a CEDAW ordinance in the United States, using the Cities for CEDAW list.
  2. I searched those bills for the following terms: “binary,” “trans,” and “queer,” (because I wasn’t sure whether people would spell “nonbinary” and “transgender” and “genderqueer” the same way I would, because as I’ve mentioned before, the terminology in this space is still evolving.
  3. About half of the cities’ ordinances and resolutions were posted in a non-searchable form (like Kentucky’s example at the top), so I read through them with my own two eyes, looking for language inclusive of transgender and nonbinary people.

Below is a spreadsheet with links to each ordinance and resolution I reviewed, courtesy of Cities for CEDAW. I found only 2 that mentioned transgender or nonbinary people, and only one city has that language in the operative part of the ordinance, as opposed to an executive office directive or unfunded resolution:

A Quick Note on Blame

I’m not listing these cities to shame them. Many of these cities — including San Francisco most notably — passed their version of CEDAW decades ago; not before trans and nonbinary people existed, since trans and nonbinary people have always existed, but before trans and nonbinary people had voices in most halls of power, had someone in the room making sure they were included. If you’ve found this post because your city is listed here, a great next step would be amending your local ordinance to match Pittsburgh’s solid language and then get to work implementing those changes at home.

Full Summary of CEDAW Ordinances in the US and Whether They Explicitly Include Transgender and Nonbinary People

City Name Any mention of transgender people being protected by the bill text Any mention of nonbinary/genderqueer people being protected by the bill text Is the bill a searchable pdf or did I have to read with my own 2 eyes?
Boulder, Colorado Resolution No No PDF
California State Senate Resolution No No PDF
Cincinnati, Ohio Resolution No No PDF
Cincinnati, Ohio Ordinances No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Columbia, South Carolina Resolution No No PDF
Daly City, California Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Durham County, North Carolina Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Edina, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
Eugene, Oregon Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Honolulu, Hawaii Ordinance No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Kansas City, MIssouri Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Kentucky House Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Lafayette, Colorado Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Long Beach, California Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Los Angeles CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Los Angeles Mayor’s Executive Directive Yes Yes Not searchable, but I read through it
Louisville, Colorado Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Louisville, Kentucky Resolution No No PDF
Miami Dade County, Florida Ordinance No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Minneapolis, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
Mount Vernon, New York Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
New Orleans, Louisiana Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Ordinance Yes Yes PDF
Rapid City, South Dakota Resolution No No PDF
Salt Lake City, Utah Resolution No No PDF
San Francisco CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
San Jose CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Santa Clara CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Santa Monica, California CEDAW Resolution No No PDF
St. Paul, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
St. Petersburg, Florida Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Sarasota, Florida CEDAW FAQ No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Tampa, Florida Resolution No No PDF
University City, Missouri Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
US Conference of Mayors Resolution in support of Cities for CEDAW No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Washington, D.C. Ordinance (proposed) No No PDF
West Hollywood, California CEDAW Resolution No No PDF
2017 Gender Equity Resolution Adopted by the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) No No Not searchable, but I read through it

Note: in reading through these, I found that Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center proposed doing Miami Dade County’s Gender analysis for $18,270; Cincinnati set-aside $8,000; which is in the low-end of the range I’ve heard but is another good datapoint from back in 2015.

Conclusion

I’m going to be shopping this language around to see where we can improve it; if you have ways you would like to see it changed, please let me know!

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