We’ve got some exciting items on tonight’s San José Human Services Commission agenda after not meeting in July (council doesn’t meet in July so we don’t meet either), so let’s get right to it!
I submitted my letter of intent to run for chair of the commission. As my lengthly blog posts probably imply, I love this commission and want to do my part to continuing to make it effective in serving our community and advising city council on human rights issues. I will be making my case to my fellow commissioners and would be honored for their support (and their votes!).
Women’s Bill of Rights (Item 1): Presentation from YWCA Silicon Valley
I am concerned that the Mayor’s budget suggests that the gender analysis survey required under the Women’s Bill of Rights can be conducted internally and non-independently. I am deeply grateful to the YWCA for taking up this issue with a strongly-written one-pager in support of a truly independent gender-based analysis of city programs, policies, and departments. More on this in the next item.
An aside on domestic violence and the YWCA in San José,: I have seen personally the incredible work that YWCA does in our communities and for people escaping violence. The YWCA recently won an $160,000 budget line item (item 2g) to create a High Risk Response Team to domestic violence in out city. Our commission received feedback from survivors of domestic violence and advocates about SJPD’s months-long response times to reports that abusers have violated their orders of protection (an order of protection is what TV cops call restraining orders).
If we have time, I will be interested to hear how this task force will work with SJPD, particularly given that — as we saw in the Independent Police Auditor’s report (page 59) — SJPD has been using one-off, unstable funding for handling domestic violence cases while using stable, city-budgeted funding for property crimes. SJPD’s seeming deprioritization of ending violence against women and other survivors of domestic violence is disturbing and I am hoping YWCA can help provide context for how it is impacting women, non-binary folks, and men in our community who are being abused.
Women’s Bill of Rights (Item 2): Formally requesting the qualifications of internal staff who may be tasked with implementing the gender analysis survey
As I mentioned above, the Mayor has requested the City Manager’s office to determine is the Human Resources Department can conduct the gender analysis survey required by the Women’s Bill of Rights using existing staff and resources. The commission has a role in determining if that is the case. Here’s how I worded it in my agenda item:
Action: Vote to request the qualifications of any staff from the city’s Human Resources Department who may be tasked with implementing the gender analysis survey required under the Women’s Bill of Rights.
Purpose: To determine the qualifications of the Human Resources staff who may be tasked with implementing the gender analysis survey required under the Women’s Bill of Rights. Specifically, their experience conducting qualitative and quantitative surveys of the kinds of large and vulnerable groups of people who receive city services; their familiarity with the needs of and experience working with LGBTQ, non-binary, and genderqueer people; their experience conducting independent reviews of city programs, policies, and departments where their findings may present a conflict of interest with their other regular responsibilities, such as representing the city in gender discrimination cases and other human resources matters.
Now, I know this is a pain-in-the-butt request, making people scramble together resumes and testimonials about their ability to do this work; it’s meant to be. I am thoroughly skeptical that the office charged with defending the city against sexual harassment claims is going to be able to turn around and conduct an independent gender analysis investigator. An image of a fox guarding the hen house comes to mind. The mayor’s suggestion looks to me like a bare-bones conflict of interest-in-the-making and requesting staff qualifications is a formal way for the commission to indicate and test that suspicion. It may seem like bureaucratic in-fighting, but sometimes that is the kind of fighting that makes for real change inside government.
Women’s Bill of Rights (Item 3): Ensuring the Women’s Bill of Rights is inclusive of transgender and non-binary people, all LGBTQ people, communities of color, and people with disabilities
This was a big project for me this summer, finishing a complete re-write of the Women’s Bill of Rights and local implementations of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). I sought and was honored to seek and receive feedback on the bill and potential language from a dozen community members, including non-binary folks, labor lawyers, transgender folks, people with disabilities, and the full spectrum of communities of color that call San José home.
This is a huge deal — if San José passes this updated language, we will have the most inclusive CEDAW implementation and most up-to-date language available. Hopefully, in coordination with Cities for CEDAW, San José’s bill language could become the new CEDAW model law, helping ensure CEDAW implementation across the US includes transwomen, non-binary folks, communities of color, and people with disabilities. This is what I believe feminism needs to look like legislatively — inclusive and intersectional. Model laws were a big way that Polaris helped change the face of how law enforcement interacts with survivors of trafficking — they can be used for good or bad purposes, but they are a key tool for scaling social change. Making San José a model CEDAW city would help our residents and communities far beyond our borders.
Here is the current draft of the annual report; it should be filling-out significantly by the end of the meeting.
2018 – 2019 Fiscal Year Work Plan
If you’ve made it this far down in this blog post, you are a full-on civics geek like me, so I won’t be shocking you when I say that this may be the most important item on the agenda for the commission as a body. Work plans, like agendas, are the priorities of elected bodies. They make sure everyone is singing in the same key. Last post, I highlighted some issues I would be interested in focusing on.
One of the items I am proposing if I am elected chair, is to structure each of the next 10 agendas around the items in the work plan, so the chairs of each ad hoc committee has a designated space and time to move that plan forward within the meeting. Here is what that would look like.
I’m excited to hear what kind of 3-4 issues the commission wants to spend the next 6 months focusing on (since ad hoc committees can only function for 6 months at a time under the City Attorney’s interpretation of San José’s Sunshine Law and the Brown Act). Some issues I am expecting to see come up from me and the other commissioners:
- Immigrant Rights: Investigating and reporting to city council on the impact of ICE’s behavior in San José on children and families; as part of that, continuing to request they explain their actions to the commission.
- Women’s Bill of Rights: Reporting to council on the implementation of the Women’s Bill of Rights (oversight is statutorily required)
- Inclusive language: Securing the passage of our substitute inclusive language in the Women’s Bill of Rights (if the commission votes to move forward with the language today)
- Funding: Securing funding for an independent gender analysis survey for city programs, policies, and departments
- Choosing departments/policies/programs: Conducting community outreach to determine which city programs, policies, and departments will undergo the initial gender analysis survey
- Domestic violence: Advocate for improved SJPD response-times to violation of orders of protection and investment in preventing and responding to crimes against women.
- People who are homeless: Advocacy for people who are homeless to be able to retrieve their belongings after sweeps; the Housing Department promised follow-up with us on that after a new contractor was put in-charge of the work.
- Disability Rights: Planning a celebration for Disability Awareness Day (10/4)
- Children’s Rights: Organizing the second annual Children’s Rights Celebration (maybe for Memorial Day Weekend) — I’m not sure if we can include this on the workplan given the 6-months window, but it was wonderful last year and I hope it happens again!
- Refugee Rights: Running 5 outreach events to residents who are refugees to help them get in contact with their city councilmembers to inform them of their needs with postcard writing sessions; advocate for increased access to affordable housing as a part of preserving the human rights (Saturdays and Sundays in October and November).
If you have ideas of what you would like the commission to focus on, please share them with me or the other commissioners! As always, you are welcome to come by the commission at 6:15 – 8pm, Tower Conference Room 1753, 200 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113.