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Diversity Among Bay Area Elected Officials Improves, But Disparities Still Exist

Racial diversity among Bay Area elected officials increased during the 2020 election cycle, but new data shows wide disparities still exist across the region.

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Diverse group of people/Christina via Unsplash

Racial diversity among Bay Area elected officials increased during the 2020 election cycle, but new data shows wide disparities still exist across the region.

 The proportion of people of color holding top local offices increased from 26 percent in 2018 to about 34 percent after the 2020 elections, according to a report released this week by the Bay Area Equity Atlas. 

Despite this increase, however, people of color remain highly underrepresented since they make up 60 percent of the total population, according to the report. 

The same data shows white people are still overrepresented in the halls of power, accounting for 66 percent of officials elected to the region’s city councils, boards of supervisors and mayoral and district attorney’s offices, while making up just 40 percent of the population.

“A huge part of the reason why we put out the report is that representation matters, especially with all these difficulties we’ve seen arise over the past 17 months — the over-policing of BIPOC, violence against Asian elders, working class people and renters being left behind during the pandemic,” said Bay Area Equity Atlas associate Michelle Huang.

Huang, who co-authored the report with Bay Rising executive director Kimi Lee, said proportional representation doesn’t automatically lead to equitable policy making. 

“But it is really important for local leadership to reflect the diversity of the community, especially communities that have been historically excluded from power,” she said. 

In many cities and counties, however, the share of elected officials lags far behind population numbers. 

For example, the share of Asian American elected officials has remained at about 10 percent for the past several years, but that’s far below the 26 percent of the Bay Area’s population who are Asian American. 

Also, while Latinos now make up 13 percent of the region’s elected officials — up from 9 percent in 2018 — Latinos account for nearly 25 percent of the overall population, according to the report.  

The report identifies 26 cities that still have zero people of color on their city councils and notes that while the proportion of Black elected officials increased from 6 percent to 8 percent across the region, 74 of 101 Bay Area municipalities still have no black city councilmembers.

“Across the region it seems like Black representation is on par with Black residents, but as we found, vast numbers of cities don’t have any Black representation and that’s astounding,” Huang said.

The report mentions several policy solutions that its authors believe would help people of color overcome racist, systemic barriers to voting and political participation, including publicly funding political campaigns and developing leadership programs for people of color, among other things.

One idea that’s already being implemented in several Bay Area cities involves switching from city-wide elections to district-based contests.

Out of the 20 cities from which sufficient data could be collected, 12 saw an increased presence of candidates of color after switching to district-based elections, which are typically less expensive and more easily accessible than city-wide elections.

For example, Livermore went from having no candidates of color before 2020 to having 50 percent in the 2020 election. 

In Redwood City, where 18 percent of candidates were people of color in the 2015 and 2018 elections, 56 percent were people of color in the 2020 election and Half Moon Bay went from having no candidates of color to over a third of its candidates being people of color, according to the report.  

“The early results are really promising,” Huang said. 

 To read the report, visit https://bayareaequityatlas.org/Electeds2021.

Also, on Sept. 9, the By Area Equity Atlas and Bay Rising will host a public webinar and panel discussion on the report’s findings. Panelists will include both authors as well as former Oakland Unified School District Board candidate Clarissa Doutherd, OUSD Board Director Shanthi Gonzales and Ellen Wu of Urban Habitat.

  Register for the webinar at https://policylink.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_mA9yAd2nQbuN3uvI5lq-ig.

Bay Area

Jamie Scardina Appointed Marin County Sheriff

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

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As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.
As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.

Courtesy of Marin County

Acting Marin County Sheriff Jamie Scardina had the “acting” taken off his title July 19 when the Marin County Board of Supervisors appointed him to the position, becoming the 22nd sheriff in county history. Scardina, a Marin native and 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, replaces the retired Robert Doyle. Scardina took the oath of office, administered by Doyle, at a public swearing-in ceremony on July 28.

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

Scardina grew up in Corte Madera and attended Marin Catholic High School and College of Marin. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology from the University of Montana. After starting his law enforcement career as a Tiburon police officer, Scardina joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2000 and gradually was assigned more responsibilities as he was promoted from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant to captain. Scardina replaced the retired Mike Ridgway as Undersheriff in 2018.

Scardina is only Marin’s third Sheriff since 1983. He thanked Doyle for giving him a “tremendous amount of autonomy” during the past four years as he served as Undersheriff. He pledged to listen to concerns and make decisions together with resident involvement.

“This is not an appointment I take lightly or for granted,” Scardina said at the July 19 Supervisors meeting. “I know it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. … This is something I’m looking forward to, working with staff and working with the community. I know there are a lot of people in the community who want to talk, and we’re looking forward to having those conversations.”

As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget. His annual salary will be $251,825.60 and benefits will be consistent with those received by other department heads.

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Activism

Marin County Offers Booklet to Parents to Prevent Preteen Substance Abuse

Each middle school teen is different and there is no single right way to address their changes, experiences, and their transition to middle school. But the book endeavors to help parents more objectively understand and support their children.

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Top: Mother and daughter talking (From care.com). Bottom: English and Spanish covers of the booklet “Let’s Start Talking.” Go to letstalkmarin.org for more information, downloadable digital booklets, and video recordings of recent “Let’s Talk” community discussions.
Top: Mother and daughter talking (From care.com). Bottom: English and Spanish covers of the booklet “Let’s Start Talking.” Go to letstalkmarin.org for more information, downloadable digital booklets, and video recordings of recent “Let’s Talk” community discussions.

By Godfrey Lee

Marin County District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli recently distributed an informational booklet “Let’s Start Talking – A Parent’s Toolkit for Understanding Substance Use in Marin County Through the Middle School Years” at the San Rafael Elks Lodge 1108 on Tuesday, July 19.

The toolkit booklet was created with support from the Marin Prevention Network and the Marin County Office of Education. The booklet was also translated and published in Spanish under the title “Hablemos.”

The booklet begins by saying that although drug usage among 7th graders remains low, their substance abuse can increase as they grow older. Parents and caregivers can still lay the foundations to support preteens/teens as they grow and help prevent negative consequence from substances use. This involves knowing the facts, communicate openly, and focus on relationships and resilience.

Each middle school teen is different and there is no single right way to address their changes, experiences, and their transition to middle school. But the book endeavors to help parents more objectively understand and support their children.

The major life experience for middle schoolers is the start of puberty, where their bodies, brains, and social environments rapidly and dramatically change, along with their hormones levels and emotions. The booklet says, don’t joke about or dismiss the child’s puberty process as being unimportant.

Parents are still in charge and should also teach and model healthy coping skills. Accept the child even while they are investigating their own identities and their attraction to the other or their own sex.

Their adolescent brain is not fully developed until about the age 25, and they are still growing in its management of reasoning, decision-making, planning, and impulse control. Their peers become more important, their circle of friends may change, and need to become more independent from their parents.

All teens face a lot of risks. Social media gives a lot of unfiltered information that can be disturbing. Other risk factors include mental health issues, attention deficit disorders, trauma, bullying, family substance and drugs abuse, the family rejection of their same-sex identity and thoughts of suicide.

Teens can still be protected with parental monitoring and involvement, a positive self-image, community and school norms and behavioral expectations, positive coping and self-regulation skills, positive and healthy peer relationships, school and community connections, and a sense of belonging to a healthy group.

Peer pressure and social norms are powerful during the middle school age, and the child’s social relationships can tip the scale toward risk or protection. Parents or caretakers can still meet and know the child’s friends and their parents, and also ask questions concerning the safety of their children. Parents can also spend time with their teens to stretch their minds and find opportunities for their teens to meet and work together with other youths with similar interest in groups and clubs.

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Bay Area

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Lighting Update to Begin

Overseen by the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW), the lighting update project will address street lighting that was installed during the Upgrade the Drake project, completed in November 2021, replacing a selection of lighting poles with shorter, decorative poles, and dimmer fixtures.

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The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.
The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.

Courtesy of Marin County

Work will begin the first week of August to revise street lighting on the median islands along one mile of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, between Manor Road in Kentfield and Eliseo Drive in Greenbrae.

Overseen by the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW), the lighting update project will address street lighting that was installed during the Upgrade the Drake project, completed in November 2021, replacing a selection of lighting poles with shorter, decorative poles, and dimmer fixtures.

The work starting next week will be the first phase of the project and will focus on structural foundations and wiring connections. This phase is expected to take about one month to complete, finishing in time to avoid the influx in traffic expected when the school year starts in late August.

Traffic impacts are expected to be minimal. A 500-foot stretch of one eastbound lane on Drake Boulevard will be closed for the duration of phase one. Traffic is expected to flow normally through the other two lanes. However, during the first week of August, there will be an additional lane closure of a westbound lane for two days to ensure crew safety during some initial work on several poles. The lane closures may cause traffic delays during peak commute hours.

The second phase is expected to begin sometime in the fall. A selection of existing street light poles will be removed and replaced with shorter, decorative light poles. In April 2022, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the new light poles, costing an estimated $300,000. The poles require significant manufacturing lead time, taking approximately six months to be fabricated and delivered. DPW expects the new poles to be available in October.

 In response to community concerns regarding lighting enhancements implemented during the Upgrade the Drake project, the street lighting project is intended to reduce light dispersal on adjacent properties, decrease light intensity, and improve aesthetics while still maintaining the lighting uniformity levels necessary for public safety. The shorter, decorative poles with dimmer fixtures will require closer spacing to achieve sufficient light levels on the roadway, resulting in a net increase in total lights. Statistically, uniform nighttime street lighting improves safety for all modes of transportation.

In January 2022, DPW replaced lighting fixtures at intersections and added backshields to help block light dispersal outside of the roadway and sidewalks. In June, the County replaced all remaining light fixtures on existing poles throughout the 2.2-mile corridor from the Town of Ross to Highway 101, as well as adding more backshields where necessary. The dimmer fixtures have a brightness of 5,000 to 8,000 lumens, depending on the needs of each location. For comparison, the removed fixtures had a brightness of 12,000 lumens.

The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.

Learn more about the lighting project, as well as the separate landscaping improvements along Drake Boulevard and all the other various DPW projects, by visiting DPW’s projects webpage.

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