Comprehensive plan talks veer into debate over systemic racism in Langley

A proposal to add “dismantling systemic racism” as a goal in the comprehensive plan has spawned debate

A proposal to add “dismantling systemic racism” as a goal in Langley’s comprehensive plan has spawned debate.

During the Planning Advisory Board public hearing on the topic earlier this month, a couple of residents voiced concerns over the appropriateness of the proposed amendment, which was recommended by the city’s new Dismantling Systemic Racism advisory group.

“The city will consider the diversity of our communities and seek to create an equitable, inclusive and accessible process for Black, Indigenous and People of Color,” the group’s proposed addition to the comprehensive plan reads.

“Through the continued review and revision of city procedures, programs, policies and systems, the city will begin to create a welcoming, inclusive, safe and equitable community for all to not only survive but thrive.”

A comprehensive plan is a local government planning document that articulates a series of goals, objectives, policies, actions and standards. Each year municipalities and counties consider amendments to the document.

Clinton resident Margaret King asked Langley’s planning department what “systemic racism” meant in planning codes for property use and rights.

“City planning should already be done with equality in mind if planning follows the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and State Constitution. I would expect everyone has equal opportunity when it comes to property planning and use,” King wrote in her comment.

King also asked if Langley is currently “systematically racially profiling” planning developments.

Langley resident Mary Lochrie’s public comment was accompanied by an article written by Robert Merry, a fellow Langley citizen, for “The American Conservative” magazine. The article by Merry is titled “What Is ‘Systemic Racism,’ Really?” and explores how the term has been used.

“My belief aligns with his, that as individuals we make mistakes which may be racist,” Lochrie wrote in her email to the planning department. “But as a community and the city of Langley, we are not systemically racist.”

Other residents, on the other hand, spoke in favor of the anti-0racism group’s proposed amendment.

The Planning Advisory Board unanimously supported the proposal, which moves on to the council for possible adoption.

“I look forward to the trainings that we are going to have happen in the city so we can learn more about what systemic racism actually is and what our role in it actually is,” board member Rhonda Salerno said.

At the council meeting Monday night, Director of Community Planning Brigid Reynolds presented the public hearing comments to the council.

Councilmember Peter Morton said he supported the inclusion of the Dismantling Systemic Racism’s goal in the comprehensive plan’s amendments, in spite of the comments made against it.

His fellow council member, Thomas Gill, expressed his opinion about wanting to dismantle the Growth Management Act.

“Any discussion regarding dismantling systemic racism and the Growth Management Act would be remiss if it did not include dismantling the Growth Management Act in its entirety,” Gill said.

“The act itself, while couched in environmentalism, is designed to raise the values of properties within a city and increase the barriers to the poor and disadvantaged, including members of the BIPOC community, from gaining a foothold in their communities and building equity for themselves and their families.”

The city council voted to adopt the first reading of the ordinance for the comprehensive plan’s annual update amendments.

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