Swanson to Host Oakland’s State of Black California Event

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday June 01, 2007

The State of Black California will be the subject of a Saturday afternoon town hall meeting at Oakland City Hall hosted by Oakland Assemblymember Sandré Swanson. 

The 1 p.m. meeting, which will include presentations by education, health, political, and economic experts, is part of a series of meetings sponsored by the nine-member California Legislative Black Caucus across the state to discuss their recently released report on the condition of African-Americans in California. 

“The purpose of the report is to try to emphasize the racial disparities that continue to exist in California in such areas as jobs, education, health care, and incarceration,” Swanson said in a telephone interview. 

The report uses something called an “equality index”, with white Californians as the baseline, to conclude that African-American Californians fare poorly across the board in all social, political, education and economic categories. In addition, the report looks at conditions in individual sections of the state, finding, in one is example, that “racial inequality in housing quality [in California] is the greatest in Oakland; in large part because the black-white gap in homeownership is greatest there.” 

The equality index was developed by the Global Insight consulting firm, and the report was prepared by Assistant Professor Stephen Raphael of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and Associate Professor Michael A. Stoll of the UCLA School of Public Affairs. 

Along with its findings of conditions among African-Americans in the state, the 86-page report lists recommended legislation to address some of those conditions in the areas of education, economics, corrections and rehabilitation, health, housing, and foster care. 

But Swanson said by telephone that many of those bills have already been introduced in the legislature this year, including encouraging an increase of minority- and women-owned businesses in state bond construction projects, creating after school programs, inclusion of provisions in the various versions of the health insurance bills that provide accessibility to health care for those who are not working, and “making sure we are not just imprisoning people, but rehabilitating them as well while they’re in prison.” 

Swanson said the latter issue was of particular importance to African-Americans in the state “because obviously, African-Americans are disproportionately incarcerated.” 

“These bills have been stimulated and supported by the previous hearings on the report in other parts of the state,” Swanson said. “We expect the Oakland hearing as a follow-up to get feedback from the public and local elected officials on some of that legislation.” 

Swanson said that while there are no current plans to introduce a Legislative Black Caucus legislative package (“it’s difficult to make it that neat,” he explained), there are plans by the caucus following the end of the legislative year to issue a report on how legislation of specific interest to the Black Caucus has fared.  

“We see this as only the beginning of the process,” Swanson said. 

Swanson also said that there are no current plans by the Black Caucus to issue a legislative report card with reports on how state legislators voted on issues important to the Black Caucus, although he did not rule out such a report card being developed in the future. 

He said that to the best of his knowledge, the only African-American-based legislative report card issued in California is done by the state office of the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People.