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Friday, January 27, 2023

Independent report recommends county-wide race equity plan

Dane County released a report investigating the county government’s practices and proposed a four-year plan to promote racial equity in various operations, from hiring practices to community outreach.

The analysis, requested by Dane County officials in February and released Monday, surveyed 724 employees about their awareness of racial inequities in Dane County and the county’s efforts to alleviate those disparities.

Race equity, which the report defined as the principle that “race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes,” is something the report determines is difficult for some employees to recognize.

“Sometimes when you hear the words ‘racial equity lens’ or ‘racial equity tool,’ people don’t know what that means, but it’s pretty fundamental,” said Dane County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Corrigan in a Monday press conference. “It’s looking at when you’re making decisions, and asking who benefits, who’s burdened, and what kind of unintended consequences the decision might have.”

County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, District 23, who spearheaded the effort to request the analysis, called the findings “a bold step to address the root causes of racial disparities.”

The report found discrepancies in how county employees viewed diversity efforts in their departments. For example, 81 percent of managers were familiar with their department’s efforts to address issues of racial equity, but only 57 percent of non-managers could familiarize themselves with the efforts.

Subsequently, employees cited a lack of time and resources allotted to address racial inequities, despite two-thirds of employees reporting an interest in increasing their engagement.

“It’s tough,” Corrigan said about the challenge of implementing the report’s recommendations with rank-and-file employees, a two-phase process that includes changes to internal procedures at the department level. “It’s not something they see every day or can relate to.”

The independent report was conducted by the New York-based Center for Social Inclusion and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

The Dane County Board Executive Committee will hear a formal presentation of the analysis during a meeting Thursday. Rob Chappell, a spokesperson for the report, said, “No action will be taken by the board yet.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Tuesday the report “is a small part of our overarching goals to tackle the tough issues involving race. It’s great to have everyone on board.”

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