S.E. Williams | Contributor
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors created an 18-member Recovery Committee to guide its processes as it begins to consider recovery from a pandemic still killing people in the county, around the state, across the nation, and all over the world.
Every day we watch as the death toll climbs with no definitive end in sight.
Although the nation remains in the COVID-19 storm, many Riverside County officials are anxious to re-open as quickly as possible.
The supervisors made a logical decision to establish the Recovery Committee early on, however, their wisdom sank like a proverbial stone when constituents realized their issues were not being represented on the committee.
Many constituents pushed back after learning the 18 members of the Recovery Task Force only included representatives from various Chambers of Commerce and the business community. As a result, many were left asking, “What about the rest of us?”
The task force is charged with advising the Board in its efforts to revive the economy. However, to help ensure a successful recovery—when the time is right—any plans should extend beyond the needs and desires of the business community and into the neighborhoods, where many Riverside residents may be continuing to suffer in silence. What about individuals who are food insecure? Who is listening to their voices? What about the seniors? Who is listening to their ideas? What about the teachers and students? What about the homeless? What about those who lost jobs in the pandemic that may not come back?
Don’t these groups deserve to provide input to the future? Don’t they deserve a seat at the Recovery Committee Table? Or, will their opportunity for input be relegated (as usual) to a super limited comment period at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors when their passionate comments are historically greeted with dispassionate silence from the supervisors.
The make-up of the task force drew heavy criticism during the Board’s recent meeting in addition to heated comments regarding the board’s willingness to relax requirements for wearing face masks.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, Southern California News Group (SCNG) reports, Riverside spokesperson, Brooke Frederic has confirmed the Recovery Committee is being enlarged to include representation from labor, tribal governments, and nonprofits. She also acknowledged sub-committees will be added to extend outreach to the business community. What about some outreach to workers and residents?
I certainly agree a focus on recovery for the business community is warranted but businesses are not the only ones to suffer and who continue suffering during this pandemic. Where is a Recovery Task Force to examine a way forward for renters who have fallen behind and for those who have been unable to make their car notes? For those whose utility bills have doubled up for two to three months, for those whose jobs may never return, for those who have lost loved ones who were the main breadwinners in their households, and the list goes on and on.
Yes, business recovery is important, but should it trump the need to address human issues impacting the everyday lives of Riverside residents?
To the supervisors I say, you need to have parallel priorities—a parallel focus that includes both business interests, yes, but also, and as importantly, hears and includes the concerns and priorities of the people.
And yes, Mr./Ms. Supervisor, we can read between the lines. Part of your eagerness to support businesses is a sincere concern for the economy, yet we also know how important they may be when it comes to potentially funding any of your future campaigns.
Remember, however, business dollars may fill your campaign coffers but it is the voters of Riverside County—the people now crying out for inclusion in the Recovery Task Force—who actually cast votes on election day.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.