Reparations Task Force members during the debate to determine the scope of a Freedmen's Bureau-like agency. March 4, 2023, Sacrameto, Calif. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
WRITTEN BY ANTONIO RAY HARVEY | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA
This past weekend, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received insight on how the state government might implement recommendations the panel submits in its final proposal due before July 1.
Chas Alamo, the principal fiscal and policy analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), appeared remotely in front of the panel as an expert witness during the two-day meeting held March 3 in Sacramento.
Alamo offered “several paths that could be possible for ultimate recommendations” by the task force to “flow through the Legislature and become state law” and how they can “apply” to the creation of the proposed California American Freedman Affairs Agency (CAFAA). The agency, if approved, would oversee compensation the state authorizes to Black California residents who are descendants of enslaved people in the United States.
The LAO is a non-partisan office overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), a 16-member bipartisan team. It is the “eyes and ears” of the State Legislature ensuring that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost-efficient and effective manner. Its biggest responsibility is analyzing the Governor’s annual budget.
Alamo explained to the task force how the recommendations they make will likely become state policy.
“The creation of a new agency would be initiated through the governor's executive branch and reorganization process, but other options exist,” Alamo said. “Regardless of the path, to initiate a new agency or enact any other recommendation that makes changes to state law, fundamentally both houses from the state Legislature would have to approve the action and the governor will have to sign it.
During discussions at the Sacramento meeting, the task force began the process of clearly defining CAFAA’s role, focusing on adding clarity to the agency’s mission as overseer for other entities offering reparations in the form of assistance to Californians who qualify.
After a two-hour spirited debate at the meeting – the 13th convening of the task force so far -- all nine-members agreed that CAFAA that would have specified powers and its structure would include an administrative body that guides implementation.
“The proposed entity would be an agency, independent agency, that would provide services where they don’t presently exist (and) provide oversight to existing (state) agencies,” task force chair Kamilah V. Moore said.
CAFAA would facilitate claims for restitution and would set up a branch to process claims with the state and assist claimants in proving eligibility through a “genealogy” department, the task force members said. A commitment to assisting with the implementation and operation of policies and programs being considered for recommendation would also be in the purview of the agency.
The concept of CAFAA is based on the defunct federal Freedman’s Bureau. On March 3, 1865, Congress passed “An Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees.” The bureau's main objective was to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and land to newly freed African Americans.
Ward Connerly, the African American political activist who led the ballot initiative that outlawed Affirmative Action in California in 1996, Proposition (Prop) 209, told FOX News one day after the task force’s Sacramento meeting that offering reparations was a “bad” and a “goofy idea.”
Connerly, former President of the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign, has made objections to reparations for about a year now as California gets closer than any government in United States history to making amends for historical injustices committed against Black Americans.
“California is a progressive state but we’re not insane,” Connerly told FOX News on March 5. “So, I think that people of this state would rise up and say ‘no.’”
The two-day meeting in Sacramento was held at the Byron Sher Auditorium at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) in downtown Sacramento. Both days attracted crowds, mainly comprised of interested individuals and groups from Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg attended the second day of the meeting. Steinberg is one of 11 mayors who pledged to pay reparations for slavery to Black residents in their cities.
Similar to efforts in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and Richmond, Sacramento is focused on developing a municipal reparations initiative through the city’s ongoing Sacramento Centered on Racial Equity (SCORE) initiative.
“I wholeheartedly support reparations and think everyone should,” Steinberg told the task force panel on March 4. “If government should stand for anything, it should stand for investing in communities and people who have been the victims of discrimination and disenfranchisement for far too long.”
The task force also recommended “appropriate ways” to educate the public about the task force’s findings and future reparations actions by the state.
The charge calls for building a collective base of knowledge to inform racially diverse communities in California about reparations, appealing to different ways of learning, expanding task force discussions into mainstream conversations, and inspiring reflection and action among all residents of California.
Task force members Dr. Cheryl Grills and Don Tamaki presented the proposal.
The next two-day task force will return to Sacramento at the end of March. For more information on the next meeting, visit the California Department of Justice’s website.