By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
An area organization is giving residents a proverbial red pen and asking them to give local government and elected officials marks on their performance in upholding social justice values and community needs.
Social Justice PolitiCorps for Sac County, founded by community advocate Kula Koenig, launched its first social justice report card in 2021. It followed calls to defund law enforcement in the wake of numerous police-involved deaths and the discovery that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors had given the bulk of federal COVID-19 response funds to the local sheriff’s office to balance its budget. It was a story first reported by The OBSERVER.
Local bodies and officials didn’t fare so well on the first report card. Most received D’s and F’s on issues including criminal justice reform, housing accessibility, inclusive budgets, and health equity. The Board of Supervisors received an overall grade of D+ from the community and a D from SJPC’s editorial team. The City Council and mayor received an overall grade of D+ from the community and a C- from SJPC. Individually, Mayor Darrell Steinberg received a D from the community and an F from SJPC. The Council’s lone Black member, Rick Jennings, garnered a D+ from survey participants and a D- from SJPC. The only A’s for city officials went to Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang, both women of color.
SJPC seeks community input for its second survey.
“The 2021 SJPC report card increased awareness of what decisions Sacramento city and county representatives are making, offered a better understanding of what’s going on in local government, and further encouraged our community to work to hold representatives accountable for the impacts of their policy decision-making,” community outreach coordinator Sarah Rabanales said.
“SJPC staff, as well as members of our base, have received consistent feedback from the broader community that the 2021 Social Justice Report Card helped them to gain a better understanding not only of our local elected officials and government bodies, but also specifically about how their decisions and actions have historically aligned, or not aligned, with social justice values.”
Organizers are specifically focusing outreach toward populations whose voices aren’t typically heard. That includes low-income renters, the disabled and the LGBTQ community. SJPC also has worked with the Black Child Legacy Campaign to identify communities with a high propensity of African American child death.
“We believe the Black community in Sacramento is one of the communities most impacted by historical social inequities rooted deeply in white supremacy,” Rabanales said. “It is incredibly important for SJPC to reach out to the Black community not only for their input, but also in an effort to elevate their responses. With this survey, we hope to hold our representatives accountable to the public and to share the survey results within communities where we conducted outreach to help keep folks informed about the results and whether their representatives are adhering to social justice values.”
While organizers are making a concerted effort to get African Americans to participate, the form does not currently ask for the ethnicity or background of survey respondents.
“In our effort to make the survey as short as possible and user friendly, we only asked for people to provide ZIP codes to get a sense of where they lived in the city or county and also to get a sense of their income level based on ZIP codes,” program manager Andi Bianchi said. “But we will be asking this question in the next round of report card surveys.”
“Our goal at SJPC is to educate the people of Sacramento on issues of local government in order to empower them to participate in Sacramento politics through the lens of social justice,” Rabanales said.
Survey responses are being collected through Monday, July 31. Results are estimated to be published in September or October. Find the survey online at bit.ly/2023SJPCsurvey.