The city of Missoula will consider investing $100,000 in seed funding to kick start a program intended to rid the community of what several City Council members described on Wednesday as system racism and discrimination.

The city has already stated its commitment to address racial and social equity in its three-year strategic plan. To get there, it will appoint a team that's largely comprised of BIPOC community members to identify disparities and solutions to advance social, economic and racial justice.

“In our first attempt to build a path toward change, the work of the LEARN team is one of the things this funding could be used for,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “But this funding is not for the exclusive support of the LEARN team, but to support the work to get us toward much needed positive change in Missoula.”

Eran Pehan, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development, said the $100,000 funding request for the FY21 budget directly relates to the city's commitment to address racial and social equity.

She said the city has already made a commitment to work with community partners to find disparities in local government and other social realms, and to identify solutions that advance the city's goals around social, economic and racial equality.

That includes what Pehan described as a “pro-equity policy agenda” in areas that include economic development and jobs, the environment, housing, health, the justice system, and mobility. The process will unfold in two phases.

“In Phase 1, we'll honor our commitment to work with community partners to define disparities in our community and to identify the most promising solutions toward advancing social, economic and racial justice,” she said. “We'll also conduct an internal policy analysis and equity audit to ensure operations, policy creation and decision making reflect the city of Missoula's goals to advance racial and social equity.”

In Phase 2, Pehan said the city will develop a pro-equity policy agenda to advance the city's goals.

“We will work within the city of Missoula to create an equity and social justice strategic plan that will serve as that blueprint for integrating and implementing pro equity practices in all our major functions of government,” Pehan said.

“This investment is essential and will serve as a necessary building block and catalyst for meeting our community based goals to advance social and racial justice as stated in our strategic plan.”

The $100,000 budget request suggests that the city currently “lacks an adequate road map” to conduct the work. Council member Brian von Lossberg also said the City Council has “mechanisms at our disposal” to adjust the city budget midway through the fiscal year to address any immediate needs identified by the equity project.

“This is going to be a long-term effort,” von Lossberg said. “I don't want there to be any confusion around there being a sense that we think $100,000 is going to affect the change we know needs to happen. It's a long term investment of people, commitment and resources over time. This is an opportunity to make sure we're positioned to work on things we know are coming up and still evolving.”

Von Lossberg didn't detail what those future things are.