California’s State Water Resources Control Board is soliciting comments on a draft resolution titled – Condemning Racism, Xenophobia, and Racial Injustice and Strengthening Commitment to Racial Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Access, and Anti-Racism. The comment deadline is noon Monday, August 2nd. You can read all eight pages here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/docs/070721_9_drftreso.pdf and the comment link is here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/contact_us.html
The Resolution Content
Resolutions are generally divided into two parts. The first part is comprised of a list of Whereas and used to set the causation for the Therefore Be It Resolved portion. Much of this proposed resolution is directed at internal employment policies within the State Board. However, there are other statements within the proposed resolution that raise concerns about their impact on existing water rights.
On page five of the resolution the Whereas states California’s water rights system has been built on racism perpetuated by White Supremacy. The Therefore, Be It Resolved section directs staff to draw up a proposal by January 2022 to establish an Office of Equity and an Action Plan to implement racial equity. The resolution also addresses the need for the State Board’s workforce to be diversified. The racial make up of State Board employees and management doesn’t mirror the racial makeup of California with a higher percentage of white employees than the majority population of the state.
Words Have Meanings
Have you heard the phrase, “That may be true for you but not for me”? Here’s an example of that thought coming to fruition. One of the reasons parts of our society have adopted the terms social-justice, racial-justice, environmental-justice, economic-justice is the impreciseness, the ambiguity of the compound word. Like pregnancy something is either just or it is unjust. When a prefix is added it turns justice into a special interest. For instance labeling a cause social justice implies any disagreement with the goals of the cause is unjust whether or not the cause is actually just. Justice in social, racial or environmental matters is a desirable goal and outcome and many of the groups that have adopted a justice prefix have good intentions, but not all of them. As you’ll see in the public comments some use the word social but mean socialism, an economic system antithetical to freedom afforded by private property.
Throughout this piece the word equity or its variants have been italicized so it won’t escape notice. It’s important to understand the word equity doesn’t mean equal. This is a phrase from the Critical Race Theory worldview. While “equality” means everyone starts with the same opportunities, “equity”, in this context, means everyone ends with the same results. If CRT sounds a lot like communism – compare it to Karl Marx, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” CRT was developed at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), an attached institute at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The Institute was founded in 1923 and moved to Columbia University when the Nazis took power.
Making a Resolution
This resolution has been brewing for years. According to the resolution in September 2012 Water Code section 106.3 made California the first state to legislatively recognize the human right to water. In 2016 the State Board passed Resolution No. 2016-0010, “the Human Right to Water as a Core Value and Directing Its Implementation in Water Board Programs and Activities. In March of 2017 the State Board adopted Resolution No. 2017-0012, “Comprehensive Response to Climate Change.”
The Whereas paragraph number 15 states, “Since 2018, the Water Boards have been participating in GARE, an international network of governmental organizations working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. The GARE network utilizes a racial equity model of change described as iterative stages of normalizing, organizing and operationalizing.”
The resolution also states the Water Boards’ staff have been, “actively engaged in CalEPA’s racial equity team,” and states approximately 40 staff members have been implementing the agency’s “Plan to Achieve Racial Equity.” In April and May of 2020 CalEPA and GARE surveyed the staff of all the state government entities underneath CalEPA to establish a baseline for efforts to advance racial equity.
The State Board website has an entire section devoted to Racial Equity. There’s even a quote by Executive Director Eileen Sobeck from August of 2020, “There could not be a more critical challenge facing us at this time than the challenge of achieving racial equity. This moment requires us to respond and implement recommended changes to ensure Water Boards policies and programs are equitable and just. We look forward to involving the State and Regional Boards, Water Board staff, stakeholders and community members in this effort going forward.”
With drought, fire and pandemic on the table Sobeck states the most critical challenge facing the State Water Resources Control Board is racial equity. The State Board’s mission statement is, “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Despite repeated attempts over the past week to make contact with the State Water Resources Control Board for comment we have received no reply. The public comment period for this resolution ends at noon on August 2nd.
Subject line: ”Comment Letter: Racial Equity”
Mail: Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000
Below are some more excerpts from the resolution, statements made during the State Board’s public hearing, further definition of terms and a comment from the water community.
Whereas clause number 22 cites Black Lives Matter as inspiration for this resolution. BLM was founded by three women Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Cullors stated, “We are trained Marxists.” A question comes to mind – why is a state agency headed by five unelected directors delving into an organization founded on communism for inspiration?
This resolution wants to reframe history through CRT and is using twists of language to do so. Another Marx quote, “Keep people from their history and they are easily controlled.” A term used to describe non-white people is BIPOC. It means Black, Indigenous, People Of Color. The resolution continually refers to Indigenous people. It never defines indigenous so here’s a definition from the Cambridge Dictionary, “Naturally existing in a place or country rather than arriving from another place.” That makes anyone born in California indigenous Californians regardless of their racial background.
Here are some excerpts from the resolution:
Page five, Whereas number 22 – “. . . the national and worldwide backlash against racism toward Black people and related Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 accelerated and informed the Water Board’s decision to develop and initiative, resolution and subsequent action plans to address racial inequities within the Water Boards and through the Water Boards’ work.”
Still page five, Whereas number 23 – “Historically, the Water Boards’ programs were established over a structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race. These inequities persist, and prior to this resolution the Water Boards had not explicitly acknowledged the role racism has played in creating inequities in affordability and access to clean and safe water and in the allocation and protection of water resource. Toward reconciliation, the State Water Board now acknowledges:
- White supremacy is a systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and peoples of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. In the United States, white supremacy led to the genocide and forced relocation of Indigenous people to facilitate white resettlement and the enslavement of Black people for white economic gain. . .
The colonization, displacement and murder of Indigenous people in the United States have contributed to the loss of watershed management practices that supported Indigenous people’s traditional ways of life. Watersheds are now largely managed in the context of the large-scale diversion of water for municipal, industrial, agricultural and commercial beneficial uses to the detriment of traditional, local uses and the Indigenous people that depend on them.
Some more excerpts: Therefore, be it resolved that: the State Water Resources Control Board:
- Condemns acts of racism, xenophobia, white supremacy and institutional and systemic racism; [fair enough up till then with the caveat that any racial supremacy, not just white, be condemned] adopts racial equity, diversity and inclusion as core values; and acknowledges the role of government agencies – including the Water Boards – in redressing racial inequities and dismantling institutional and systemic racism.
Therefore number three:
Commits to centering its work and decision-making on Black, Indigenous and people of color who are disproportionately represented in the most vulnerable communities and in unsheltered populations . . .
Number six: Commits to expanding implementation of the State Water Boards Climate Change Resolution to address the effects of sea-level rise and extreme hydrologic conditions, from drought to flooding, on Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.
Number seven: Directs staff to create a proposal by January 2022 to establish an Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to achieve a workplace, workforce and work outcomes that reflect racial equity.
Number 10: Directs staff to develop and implement a Racial Equity Action Plan . . .
Publicly Stated Opinion
At its August 2020 meeting the State Board directed staff to implement a racial equity initiative to draft this resolution. A racial equity team was formed by employees. Now almost a year later a draft of the resolution is out for public comment. If you want a play by play of how this resolution came to pass you can watch: State Water Resources Control Board Meeting – July 6-7, 2021 – YouTube be prepared, it’s three hours long.
The video begins with SWRCB staff giving a presentation on why the resolution is necessary. Members of the public then commented on the resolution and the board members were invited to comment. State Board Chairman Joaquin Esquival acted as moderator.
Britani Evan works for the State Board’s Division of Financial Assistance. She said four public outreach sessions were held online in late November/early December 2020. Three of the sessions were in English and one in Spanish. The number of people allowed to attend was capped at 50 per meeting. Out of a possible 200 participants only 80 people from the public attended.
Evan spoke about working with GARE and presented the case that the government and the Water Board is built on institutional, structural and systemic racism. She presented a cartoon of three black males watching a baseball game over the outfield fence. Each stood on one crate apiece. The fence came to the grown man’s waist, the fence came to the boy’s shoulders and the toddler had to watch through a hole in the fence. That was meant to represent equality. The next cartoon panel showed the man standing on the ground with the fence coming to his shoulders. The boy stood on one crate and the fence came to his shoulders. The toddler stood on two crates and the fence came to his shoulders. This was meant to represent equity.
Evans also presented a chart showing 56 percent of the State Board employees are white and 42 percent are BIPOC. No one pointed out that equals 98 percent. The chart showed the population of California comprised of 43 percent white and 63 percent BIPOC. Again, no one pointed out this equals 106 percent.
Another State Board employee, engineering geologist Rebecca Somni (sp?) spoke. She said in addition to the four public outreach session there were nine employee listening sessions in March 2021 and were attended by 357 employees. A consultant was used to facilitate these sessions but the consultant wasn’t named.
There are three goals for the resolution. The first is to acknowledge and condemn systemic racism across American institutions and history. The second goal is to institutionalize racial equity at the Water Board and the third goal is to direct staff to action.
Throughout these presentations it was stated a foundational case was made.
State Board Director Laural Firestone asked if the data used as a basis for the claims has been made available. Sobeck wasn’t sure and she asked State Board employee Stephan Cajna who said the foundational data is mostly on a long word document.
Most of the public opinions were from representatives of non-governmental organizations, NGOs. Not all of the introductions included a clear distinction of whether or not the speaker was representing themselves or an NGO. And the NGOs weren’t always clearly identified. Esquival thanked each speaker and inevitably promised the SWRCB would strive to do better in the future.
The first member of the public was LaDonna Williams. It wasn’t clear who she was speaking for but it sounded like Williams is from the East Bay and aligned with the social/enviro/economic justice movement. She was not pleased with the way this resolution was being handled. Williams said there was not enough inclusion from the stakeholders and that staff alone should not have the full authority to write the resolution. She said that lumping Blacks in with indigenous and people of color was wrong. She said they are a diverse group with different experiences.
Next Gracy Torres, Director on the Western Municipal Water District, Riverside said there must be support for a budget with funding for an Environmental Justice Committee included in the final resolution.
Natalie Garcia, Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability stated the Central Valley Project contracts harm the BIPOC community.
Chelsea Haines, Association of California Water Agencies said her group shares support with the State Board for racial equity as demonstrated in ACWA’s goal of more diversity in its strategic plan.
In an email ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton confirmed that Haines accurately represent ACWA’s position during the State Water Resources Control Board’s July 7 hearing on the Draft Racial Equity Resolution. He continued that ACWA supports the State Water Board’s focus and intent on achieving racial equity and looks forward to collaborating with the Board to realize this important goal. And added ACWA’s comments were not directed toward the specific language of the resolution.
Konrad Fisher, Director of the Climate Water Trust, Klamath Falls Oregon thanked the Board for including Black Lives Matter in this discussion. His message was instream flows are necessary for racial equity. He said he is a non-native with water rights that allow him to do things he shouldn’t do.
Marina Perez, State Board’s Office of Public Participation said government agencies have historically used race to establish structures and systems that continue to deliver desperate outcomes in matters of health, wealth and environmental conditions. She said environmental justice should be included in the State Board’s mission statement. She wants the State Board to pay for environmental justice speakers at conferences and have a well-funded Office of Equity with authority as part of the State Board.
Itzell Vasquez-Rodriguez also from the State Board’s Office of Public Participation wants promotions and opportunities at the State Board based on equity. She said the Board is losing too many BIPOC employees and should use nontraditional job classifications.
“Promotional opportunities mainly exist for staff with backgrounds in engineering, the hard sciences, geology, etc.,” said Vasquez-Rodriguez. “These skills are often very white.”
She went on to say there needs to be promotional opportunities especially for staff that works in racial equity. She further stated the resolution needs to include the harm the State Board has caused and employees must undergo mandatory equity training.
Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, Restore the Delta, Stockton said State Board funding limits equity in the Delta. She said California agriculture is made up of 85 to 90 percent white landowners and is constructed on a water rights system built on the genocide of California tribes during the reconstruction era. She asked how can farming be brought back to the tribes without water equity.* Parrilla said to limit equity to drinking water is in itself a form of inequity and instream flows must be included in the resolution. She also wants algae blooms addressed in the resolution.
UC Santa Cruz grad student Michelina Johnson wants disadvantaged communities that are unincorporated to be recognized in the resolution and to work with county planning agencies to remove racist language.
Atley Keller, Local Government Commission an NGO from Sacramento had two requests. She wants the State Board to help tribes reclaim their lands and water. She also wants the State Board to financially compensate local NGOs.
Kaitlyn Kalua, California Coast Keepers Alliance headquartered in Sacramento asked for stronger enforcement by the State Board and higher fees to pay for it. She said the current water rights are illegitimate therefore instream flows must be increased and senior water rights voided.
Eric Orellena, Community Water Center, Visalia said he was glad to see white supremacy mentioned in the resolution. He said Latino communities go dry largely due to white farmers pumping. He wants the State Board to include the environmental justice community when developing metrics for the Office of Equity.
Ilze Flores Castillo Wang wants the State Board to strike the word chief from any titles such as department chief as it is offensive to indigenous people. She also wants the State Board to “. . . acknowledge indigenous knowledge as equal to engineers and doctors.”
Esquival said all the Regional Boards have given their support for this resolution and many will be adopting similar resolutions. Sobeck volunteered that managers at the State Board were told employees’ work on the equity team is a priority and not secondary to their normal duties.
Williams came back on and said she was upset with the State Board for using GARE instead of the local social justice groups. She told Esquival he needs to check himself.
The Board’s Opinion
Esquival thanked the public and said he would like to see the comment period extended. As noted above it has been extended until noon August 2nd. He made his statement on the resolution and said when the current water rights system was put together, “. . . they didn’t have the benefit of the values we hold now.” He said our scientific knowledge is greater and we’re facing a climate crisis and a racial crisis. He invited the board to speak.
After a long silence Director Firestone expressed her frustration with the slow pace in addressing racial equity. She said she understands developing relationships is slow work but urged everyone to not wait for an action plan before starting to initiate racial equity.
Director Nichole Morgan said she attended lots of difficult meetings full of tears while the resolution was being prepared.
Director Doreen D’Adamo said she’s used the resolution preparation time to become more self-aware. She said the passage of the Human Right to Water and the Climate Change resolutions by the State Board have set the path to addressing racial equity. She said the State Board can start work now without a specific and quantifiable action plan in place.
Director Sean McGuire said while he still has a long ways to go this has been the “most eye-opening and humbling” experience of his life. He said he likes the idea of setting budgets and appreciates how hard the staff has worked while taking time from their busy schedules. He said he was worried about the term chief being offensive. He expressed his view that climate change has been an example of inequity.
“Reading the resolution and its connection to climate change,” said McGuire. “[Shows] how we’re really building on these inequities overtime. The last couple of years have been a testament to that. We’ve seen the catastrophic wildfires impact so many communities. And now this drought and we’re already hearing of communities having been impacted.”
In conclusion Esquival said there have been generational challenges that have built up over centuries and we have to move quick. He said, “We must build communities resilient to climate change and must erase the blatant racism we’ve inherited.”
It is worth noting that during the hearing not one speaker spoke against the resolution or questioned under what authority a five member, unelected board has to interject a new framework based on Marxist philosophy into California’s water rights. Nor was it mentioned what impact this would have on private property or any industry that depends on water. There was no talk about unintended consequences, the State’s economy or examples given of specific instances of racial inequity. But most disturbing there was no one speaking for farmers, ranchers and the families who depend on agriculture.
Paul Stiglich is the General Manager of the June Lake Public Utilities District shared his written comments with WaterWrights.net. He asked for proof of the allegations put forth in the resolution. Here is a copy of Stiglich’s response:
- Historically, the Water Boards’ programs were established over a structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race.
Please provide me a copy of the SWRCB structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race, that you base your allegations on.
- White supremacy is a systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and peoples of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
Please provide me a copy of the systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and people of color by White people, that you base your allegations on.
- White supremacist ideologies have driven many governmental policies for centuries and have created persistent racial inequities and deeply entrenched systems of oppression.
Please provide me a copy of the White supremacist ideologies that have been driving governmental policies that create persistent racial inequities and entrenched systems of oppression, that you base your allegations on.
- The historical seizures of land from Black, Indigenous, and people of color have had, and continue to have, long-standing impacts that extend beyond the loss of the land itself
Please provide me a list of lands seized from black, indigenous, and people of color that supports this argument.
- California government has played a role in historically and institutionally perpetuating racial inequities that Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to face.
Please provide me documentation that proves that California government played a role in institutionally perpetuating racial inequities that black, indigenous, and people of color continue to face.
- On a community scale, race is strongly correlated with more severe pollution burdens. However, none of the Water Boards’ policies, programs, or plans specifically consider or address racial inequities.
Where has the SWRCB been since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Has the SWRCB not been following Title VII? If the SWRCB is remiss in the precepts of Title VII please provide me documentation where the SWRCB has failed to institute Title VII.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e and following) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin (including membership in a Native American tribe). It also prohibits employers from retaliating against an applicant or employee who asserts his or her rights under the law.
My final thought on this proposed resolution. This resolution is divisive and filled with racial detestation towards White people and the “critical race theory” that it is based on is founded on Communist Marxist revolutionary rhetoric perpetuated by such organizations as “Black Lives Matter”. This resolution has nothing to do with the SWRCB’s primary mission to manage the water resources of the State. This is a dangerous narrative that divides rather than unites the peoples of the State of California and I urge the Board,…. To vote no on this resolution!
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*Irrigated farming was introduced to California by the Spanish under the mission system often without the consent of the native workforce.
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