Councilmembers Lowenthal, Baker, Richardson & Reyes-Uranga Want Council To Oppose Prop 54 (Racial Privacy Initiative)
(August 8, 2003) -- Councilmembers Lowenthal, Baker, Richardson and Reyes-Uranga have agendized an item for the August 12 City Council meeting that would put the City of LB on record opposing Prop 54, the Racial Privacy Initiative (RPI) that would prohibit state and local governments and government agencies from classifying or dividing citizens by race, ethnicity, color or national origin.
In their joint agendizing memo (extended portion quoted below), the four Councilmembers urge their colleagues to "take a strong stand" against Prop 54, charging it would implement a "divisive policy."
Prop 54 states in pertinent part, "The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment." LBReport.com posts the full text of Prop 54 below
A Council resolution would put the City of Long Beach on record against the measure but would have no force of law.
In their joint agendizing memo, Councilmembers Lowenthal, Baker, Richardson and Reyes-Uranga state:
Since the enactment of Affirmative Action policies in the 1960's, data collection on race and ethnic origin has been used to provide equal opportunity for all Californians. Public colleges and universities, contracting and employment
agencies, public health organizations, and law enforcement entities have relied
on this information to ensure a diversified learning and working environment,
appropriate health services and education, and crime prevention. Public health
organizations used this data to design their health curriculum for specific ethnic
groups to target, prevent, and manage illnesses most prevalent in that specific
community. Law enforcement entities and civil rights groups used this data to
measure, resolve and prevent hate crimes and ensure civil rights for all. If
Proposition 54 is adopted, it will cause a major hindrance for community groups,
as well as local and state governments from developing solutions for appropriate
healthcare, education, and law enforcement services to serve our diverse
We respectfully request that the City Attorney prepare a resolution against the
passage of Propositon 54 and that this be communicated to our state elected
officials. We urge our colleagues to support us in taking a strong stand against
this divisive policy.
The Racial Privcy Initiative is championed by UC Regent Ward Connerly who led the Prop 209 campaign barring racial preferences in state education, employment and contracting.
As LBReport.com was first to report locally, Prop 54 is scheduled to appear on the October 7 ballot alongside the recall of Gov. Davis (assuming no court intervenes concerning either measure.)
Prop 54 is opposed by Gov. Davis, who issued a statement on July 16 blasting the measure:
I believe this initiative is divisive, it's bad policy, and it's a big step backwards. If this initiative were to become law, statistics on hate crimes in California could not be kept and reported by the Attorney General; important data collection on student achievement would cease; and the Department of Health Services would no longer be able to collect information on certain diseases and their impacts on various racial and ethnic groups.
On July 24, Mr. Connerly fired back with a statement of his own:
Until now, I have studiously avoided taking a position regarding the question of whether California Governor Gray Davis should be recalled from office; and I continue to have no position. I do, however, now see with greater clarity why so many Californians have lost confidence in Governor Davis as the leader of our state.
In announcing his opposition to the ‘Racial Privacy Initiative,’ Governor Davis falsely claimed that the initiative, if enacted by the voters, would harm medical research and put medical patients of various ethnic backgrounds at risk.
While it is clear that Governor Davis supports the division of Californians along racial and ethnic lines, that desire does not entitle the governor to misrepresent the effect of any public policy proposal. For example, Section 32 (f) of the initiative, which is the operative paragraph, reads as follows: 'Otherwise lawful classification of medical research subjects and patients shall be exempt from this section.' The governor's representation is clearly inconsistent with the plain language of the initiative. If he can't get this one right, what else has he misrepresented or distorted?...
California does not need 'business as usual.' It needs bold leadership with a vision and a willingness to challenge old, worn-out ideas, such as the costly and bureaucratic practice of classifying and categorizing an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic population."
The Racial Privacy Initiative web site says the initiative is "designed to be the first, moderate step towards a color-blind government, and to get the government out of the racial bean-counting business" and provides "reasonable exemptions for medical treatment and research, law enforcement, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and any classifications required for federal funds.
The RPI web site says the measure's endorsers include Shelby Steele, George Will, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. The site adds:
Passage of RPI will do many things: save our state budget over $10 million, end government’s preferential treatment based on race, and junk a 17th-century racial classification system that has no place in 21st-century America...The California Constitution forbids state government from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any citizen based on race. Therefore, since government has no reason to classify persons by race, why should it even ask us for the data? Like religion, marital status or sexual orientation, race should become a private matter that is no business of government’s. Think how refreshing it would be to throw out the entire system of checking little boxes.
As the most ethnically diverse state in the Union, California has the most to gain by compelling its government to treat all citizens equally and without regard to race. The latest U.S. Census divides Americans into a whopping 126 different ethnic/racial categories. How many categories should Californians put up with?
LBReport.com posts the text of the Racial Privacy Initiative below:
CLASSIFICATION BY RACE, ETHNICITY, COLOR, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Effective January 1, 2005, prohibits state, local governments from using race, ethnicity, color or national origin to classify current or prospective students, contractors, or employees in public education, contracting or employment operations. Does not prohibit classification by sex. Prohibition also covers persons subject to other operations of government unless Legislature finds compelling state interest, authorizes by two-thirds of each house, and Governor approves. "Classifying" defined as separating, sorting, or organizing persons or personal data. Exemptions include: law enforcement descriptions; prisoner and undercover assignments; action taken to maintain federal funding. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: This measure would have a major fiscal impact of annual state savings potentially ranging from several million dollars in excess of $10 million beginning in 2015.
Prohibition Against Classifying by Race by State and Other Public Entities
Section 32 is added to Article I of the California Constitution as follows:
Sec. 32. (a) The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment.
(b) The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of any other state operations, unless the legislature specifically determines that said classification serves a compelling state interest and approves said classification by a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature, and said classification is subsequently approved by the governor.
(c) For purposes of this section, "classifying" by race, ethnicity, color or national origin shall be defined as the act of separating, sorting or organizing by race, ethnicity, color or national origin including, but not limited to, inquiring, profiling, or collecting such data on government forms.
(d) For purposes of subsection (a), "individual" refers to current or prospective students, contractors or employees. For purposes of subsection (b), "individual" refers to persons subject to the state operations referred to in subsection (b).
(e) The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) shall be exempt from this section with respect to DFEH-conducted classifications in place as of March 5, 2002.
(1) Unless specifically extended by the legislature, this exemption shall expire ten years after the effective date of this measure.
(2) Notwithstanding DFEH’s exemption from this section, DFEH shall not impute a race, color, ethnicity or national origin to any individual.
(f) Otherwise lawful classification of medical research subjects and patients shall be exempt from this section.
(g) Nothing in this section shall prevent law enforcement officers, while carrying out their law enforcement duties, from describing particular persons in otherwise lawful ways. Neither the governor, the legislature nor any statewide agency shall require law enforcement officers to maintain records that track individuals on the basis of said classifications, nor shall the governor, the legislature or any statewide agency withhold funding to law enforcement agencies on the basis of the failure to maintain such records.
(h) Otherwise lawful assignment of prisoners and undercover law enforcement officers shall be exempt from this section.
(i) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to comply with federal law, or establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
(j) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as invalidating any valid consent decree or court order which is in force as of the effective date of this section.
(k) For the purposes of this section, "state" shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, California State University, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.
(l) This section shall become effective January 1, 2005.
(m) This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with federal law or the United States Constitution, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that federal law and the United States Constitution permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.