Signal Hill Diversity Committee seeks budget and community voices

Screenshot from the Signal Hill Diversity Coalition Committee’s March 10 virtual meeting

During its third meeting of the year on Wednesday, March 10, the nascent Signal Hill Diversity Coalition Committee (DCC) discussed how to procure a budget from the City and also hear residents’ voices, both in person and through a survey, on their experiences living in Signal Hill.

At its previous meeting on February 10, the DCC decided to survey the community on issues such as economic hardship, safety, policing, housing, education, diversity, businesses and quality of life, according to the minutes. Survey results, they noted, would indicate the “pulse” of community perceptions.

“There is racism in Signal Hill, but we need to obtain the information through a survey and educate the community on what is going on today,” the minutes note. “We can’t fix what we can’t measure.”

The DCC continued survey discussion during its meeting Wednesday, but leaned toward a more informal one – such as through a postcard with a QR code sent to residents – rather than a formal survey that would take more time and money. 

The DCC also agreed to present a “decision package” to the Signal Hill City Council by early April with expense information for the council to consider in advance of its budget discussion for the next fiscal year. 

City-appointed facilitator Fred Abdelnour explained that the council has to approve all the DCC’s actions and expenditures. “We are an extension of the City,” he said. “We are a City-sponsored entity.”

The committee’s Initial ideas for a one-year budget beginning July 1 include funds for: 

  • Surveying the community, such as through an informal QR-code mailing at a cost of about $3,500 or a formal survey at a potential cost of $50,000
  • Organizing a citywide cultural festival
  • Manning an information booth at Signal Hill’s Concerts in the Park events scheduled in July and August
  • Facilitating a speaker series, including a Signal Hill historian, long-time community members and cultural groups, with open community discussion
  • Hosting a summer job-fair
  • Purchasing DCC t-shirts for members to wear in the community
  • Posting DCC informational signs in parks
  • Creating a social-media page with information and a survey
  • Creating education programs for youth at the library, including art projects, STEM tutoring and reading books by diverse authors
  • Helping secure housing, such as connecting residents with rental assistance, first-time home purchase information and translation services

Some committee members expressed concern about having to project budget requests before surveying the community to know what’s needed. 

A couple of members suggested that in addition to planning community events, the DCC should also partner and learn from larger organizations engaged in diversity and equity reform.

Member Kia Gaines, suggested that the DCC become a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of municipalities working to evaluate racial equity and advance opportunities.

“Planning for events is great,” Gaines said. “But I want to start thinking about how we can make long-term sustainable changes. […] Something like [GARE] would be important to infuse that equity culture into city government.” 

Another member, Lupe Reyes, said she attended a recent workshop on the California Public Utilities Commission’s Environmental and Social Justice Action Plan and suggested committee members read its guidelines.

In the meantime, the committee discussed inviting residents they know to speak during the public comment portion of DCC meetings about their experiences living in Signal Hill.

“That was one of the things that this group was talking about when it first started, which is systemic racism – what does it look like here in Signal Hill?” member Yvonne Kaegebein said. “Well, now you have people that are ready to talk […], so I think it would be an excellent way for them to voice stories and us to be educated ourselves.”

The next DCC public meeting will take place virtually on April 14 at 6 p.m. More information and an agenda can be found on the City’s website at CityofSignalHill.org.

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