Home>Articles>California’s Water Now Less Racist Thanks to New Racial Equity Action Plan

The Thermalito Power Canal in Oroville, Butte County. (Photo: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock)

California’s Water Now Less Racist Thanks to New Racial Equity Action Plan

Exactly what the program will cost, and who will be eligible for payment were not in the plan

By Thomas Buckley, January 19, 2023 4:07 pm

Save for the single member of the general public who spoke on the matter, the staff of, stakeholders in, and board of California’s Water Resource Control Board Wednesday heaped praise on the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWCRB) first ever Racial Equity Action Plan.

The plan, developed over the past year after the Board passed a resolution entitled “CONDEMNING RACISM, XENOPHOBIA, BIGOTRY, AND RACIAL INJUSTICE AND STRENGTHENING COMMITMENT TO RACIAL EQUITY, DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, ACCESS, AND ANTI-RACISM” in November, 2021 is meant to redress past racial inequities in water supply systems and ensure that all future actions taken by the SWRCB are considered through “a lens of racial equity.”

Celia Pazos, who works with the Santa Regional sub-board and help shepherd the plan, said the plan “acknowledges the historic role in creating inequitable outcomes” of past water policy, confronts “institutional racism throughout government,” and will allow staff to “connect the dots between systemic racism and how we do our jobs every day.”

The plan, said Greg Gearhart, Deputy Director, Office of Information Management and Analysis, will help alleviate the clear current connection between “pollution and prejudice,” while James Nachbaur, Director, Research and Planning (his department will add at least one new employee to carry out the plan), said the additional topical training the SWCRB will now embark upon will “normalize and operationalize racial equity” at the agency.

Yuan Liu, the sole member of the general (non-stakeholder) public to speak (via Zoom) wondered if the whole plan was a waste of taxpayer money.

“This is the racialization of public policy,” Liu said, after noting he, too, was a member of the BIPOC community referenced throughout the plan.

Liu criticized the “cultural euphemisms” used throughout the plan and worried it would simply enlarge the growing “DEI industry” with little other benefit.

After noting the potential constitutional issues with hiring with an eye towards racial balance and that so-called “diversity training” often actually has a negative impact in workplaces, Liu asked the board to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of his children not being judged by the color of their skin, but the “content of their character.”

Board Chair Joaquim Esquivel replied that the plan was “not about politics,” and that “evidence shows continued exclusions and inequities” that make the plan important.

“I appreciate your comments, but we have very different views on the subject,” Esquivel replied to Liu – twice.

While the overwhelming majority of the plan was presented (not voted upon because it is a “living document” based on the November, 2021 resolution) with little comment (and no modifications), one aspect did elicit discussion: the “community capacity building” portion.

Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed bill AB 2108 which requires the SWCRB (and not, it seems for now, other state agencies) to “establish a community capacity-building stipend program to promote meaningful civic engagement by disadvantaged communities and tribal communities in the state board and regional board decision making processes, among other activities.”

The plan includes such a program which involves the SWCRB paying “community partners for the time and expertise.”  In other words, the board will give money to (certain types of?) people to interact with it at, apparently, some yet-to-be-determined level.

Boardmember Laurel Firestone praised the concept, saying it’s important that the BIPOC community “not just participate but be valued” and this program would “put our money where our mouth is.”

It is not clear if by referring to “our” money Firestone was offering that the board itself pay out-of-pocket for the program or that California rate and taxpayers continue to fund the effort, though presumably the latter is the more likely meaning.

Exactly what the program will cost, who will be eligible for payment, and other details were not in the plan itself and an attempt to clarify those issues prior to the deadline for this story were unsuccessful (we will update if and when the SWCRB provides the information.)

Nefretiri Cooley, SWCRB Communications Director (her department will add at least two new employees to help with the plan), said the program was “about removing barriers to engagement,” though Seth Bothwell of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, while very supportive was concerned that the final draft of the plan did not mention also paying travel expenses over and above any stipend.

Cooley and Esquivel both noted the plan is a living document and that the issues regarding the community capacity-building program will continue to be addressed.

While supportive of the plan as a whole, Board Vice-Chair Dorene D’Adamo did offer a word of caution regarding the finances of the stipend plan, saying it needs to be operated as “transparently” as possible out of the potential concern “that it could be seen as a slush fund.”


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15 thoughts on “California’s Water Now Less Racist Thanks to New Racial Equity Action Plan

  1. Phew, glad to know it is less racist. I guess it is safe to drink and swim in now or is it?

    [While supportive of the plan as a whole, Board Vice-Chair Dorene D’Adamo did offer a word of caution regarding the finances of the stipend plan, saying it needs to be operated as “transparently” as possible out of the potential concern “that it could be seen as a slush fund.”]
    Well that makes me feel better….
    Uggh, this state is doomed.

  2. Having attended the California State Water Resources Control Board Zoom meeting in which their 2023-2025 Racial Equity Action Plan was discussed, it was an eye-opening experience to see that the Board has been taken over by radical woke leftists where “racial equity” and “environmental justice” take precedence over providing water for all Californians. Thankfully Mr. Liu was the lone voice who spoke out against the racialization of public policy and how the plan would enlarge the growing “diversity, equity, and inclusion industry” with little other benefit. Sadly, it was obvious that Board Chair Joaquim Esquivel and the other Board members had already made their minds up and they didn’t care what members of the public thought. Maybe this plan can be challenged in the courts?

      1. Ms. Dhillon is busy running for RNC chair against Ronna “RINO” McDaniel. Although, I agree that this would be another good one for her law firm to oppose.

  3. I would correct the head line to read “Water Boards are now racist all the time”. This is just woke cover for graft, corruption, racism and arbitrary and capricious power under the cover of “anti-racism”. They think this will excuse them from laws and morals. It will not work.

  4. I could not attend the Board’s meeting but it’s good to hear that there was at least one person who spoke out against the Board’s racist unequitable plan. I did send a couple of emails to the Board in which I expressed my opposition to the plan. I also questioned who would be paid under the plan and where the funds would come from. I encourage others to contact the Board at the following email addresses: racialequity@waterboards.ca.gov and commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov.

  5. This plan sounds like a slush fund and a scheme to fund leftist groups connected with the Democrat party some of which are quite radical and often violent such as BLM? The California State Auditor’s office should be auditing State Water Resources Control Board and the finances involving this racial equity plan…but it’s not likely since Democrats and their selected bureaucrats are in control?

  6. Roads, Math, privately owned homes…now water? Are they joking? When will enough be enough for these controlling, extreme Marxist/Leninist woke crowd? What’s worse, they are getting elected to office! They are brainwashing, scapegoating, and reality-warping this nation into this lunacy.

  7. None of this will actually improve water access for anyone, including “BIPOC” communities. They seem to forget that actual communities in real life are not made up of just people who share one or two traits. Just a drive through the Central Valley will prove this. Maybe first they should ask why California flushes most of its “racist” water out to the Pacific Ocean instead of delivering it to those so called “underserved communities.” Ultimately, this plan is nothing more than a giant virtue signal and a way to funnel taxpayer money to favor Democrat activist groups (where the money has a habit of finding its way back to the Democrats).

  8. It would be so easy and fun to mock their “stupidity” but the sad truth is they know exactly what they’re doing! Their goal is power and money. And they will use any emotionally manipulative path to make it happen. Whether it’s equity, the environment, racism, fighting white supremacy, tolerance, pandemics or puppies!

  9. And the Last Known Address system with its ballot harvesters are going to keep giving us the same old government.

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