Charlottesville is creating a department of equity of inclusion, but is giving time for the specifics to work out.
The City Council unanimously approved moving $197,181 to create the office during its meeting Monday.
The measure allows a department to start with a director who would create a plan to tackle equity issues and determine what type of staff are needed for the work.
The $197,181 would be set aside in the current fiscal year’s budget for the department. City Manager Tarron Richardson said it might not all be used.
The vote grew out of work started when Mike Murphy, now deputy city manager, served as interim city manager.
Murphy created the city manager’s advisory committee on equity, and presented findings in August. In October, the council asked for more information about funding and structure.
The committee studied data on city employees by race, job category and salary. It also reviewed equity measures in other communities.
Of the city’s 935 full-time employees, about 71% are white, 23% are black and 6% are another race or of mixed race, according to the report. Charlottesville’s population is 69.7% white and 18.7% black.
Black employees make on average 17% less per hour than white employees. For white employees, the average is $25.60, compared with $21.30 for black employees. These figures are for wages overall and do not compare the pay of people in the same job.
The committee recommended creating an equity advisory team to lead a culture change in the city. The 10- to 12-member committee would include one councilor and representatives from city staff, management and the community.
The committee recommended that the department include a data analyst and community engagement coordinator who report to the city manager. Those positions could be hired later by the department director.
On Monday, councilors went back and forth over whether to start with a manager-level employee who would determine how the department would run or if it should come with a director.
Human Resources Director Michele Vineyard said the department’s work needs to be “incremental” to make a long-term impact.
“This is a culture change and we need to make it sustainable,” she told the council.
The council also gave authorization for the city to accept refugees as part of its consent agenda.
The authorization passed 4-1. Councilor Mike Signer voted against the consent agenda as a whole over issues with a separate item.
The measure was required under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in September.
The order requires state and local governments to consent in writing before refugees can arrive.
Gov. Ralph Northam provided the state’s letter of consent in November.
Three resettlement agencies have challenged the new policy in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland, according to The Associated Press.
The council finalized regulations and a permitting program for electric scooters and bikes.
The regulations were part of the consent agenda, but pulled for a separate vote. It passed 4-1, with Mayor Nikuyah Walker dissenting.
The ride-booking service allows users to pay a fee to check out the scooters through an app on their phones and then leave them for the next person to pick up. In the city, 30,000 users have made more than 200,000 trips for a total of 200,000 miles in the past year.
The regulations prohibit scooter use on sidewalks or on the Downtown Mall, specify where they can be parked and set speed limits and prohibit riding with headphones.
Violators will be subject to a $50 fine.
In other business, the council approved a rezoning for a 1.6-acre parcel at the corner of Maury Avenue and Stadium Road from low to high density residential.
The application doesn’t include a site plan, but has a conceptual drawing that shows 33 units across two buildings.
The rezoning was pulled from the consent agenda and the council voted on it separately. It passed 4-1, with Walker opposed.