Payton Perspective: Equity is code word for socialism, what will be the cost for Antioch?

Antioch’s new Councilwoman, Tamisha Torres-Walker and her supporters, including those from outside of our city, have been pushing to include the term “equity” in the City’s vision and goals, and want the council to establish a Human Rights and Racial Equity Commission, as well.

During last Saturday’s Vision and Strategic Planning session held by the council and city staff, Torres-Walker was asked to explain the difference between equity and equality. She basically said equality is the government giving each person the same thing while equity is giving more to one person who doesn’t have as much as another. The challenge is where does government get what it gives out? Taxpayers. So, what Torres-Walker is advocating is more redistribution of wealth. That’s pretty much the definition of socialism or even communism.

She used the example of a short boy standing next to a tall boy behind a fence, who are both trying to watch a game. Torres-Walker  said equality is the government giving each boy a box to stand on, which gives the tall boy a better view while the short boy still can’t see over the fence. Equity, she said, is giving the short boy two or three boxes to stand on to see over the fence.

Torres-Walker also mentioned later in the meeting that she wants the city “to make sure that the development of the waterfront that some of that equity or you know whatever revenue generation is spent to also revitalize some other parts of District 1” further defining the term as redistribution of city revenues. (See related article)

However, what our government in the U.S. is designed to do is offer equality of opportunity, that we all start off equal with regards to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or in other words ownership of property. But what Torres-Walker is advocating for is equality of result. That’s unrealistic and simply unattainable. There is simply no way that government can or should ensure we all end off equal.

I would love to have that happen to me, too. Using equity, I can claim that it’s not fair Bill Gates has so much more money than me. Therefore, I need the government to take half of his money and give it to me. Then I could have a nicer car, bigger home and invest in all the various causes like he and his wife have done. I would also like some equity in the area of pro sports. I can claim it’s not fair that I didn’t and don’t get to play for the Oakland A’s, the San Francisco 49ers or Golden State Warriors and earn all the money the players on those teams do. I need the government to offer some special dispensation for older, out of shape guys like me, without as much talent as the other players, so I too, can enjoy playing and earn a nice living.

See how ridiculous that is? Where does it end?

Why shouldn’t I have half of Bill Gates’ money? It would mean we would be equal and achieved equity. But would that be fair? Of course not, because I haven’t earned it. Why shouldn’t I have been allowed to play professional sports when I was younger or get to play, now? Because I didn’t make the effort or have the talent to do so, and because I’m certainly no longer in shape. (Maybe I could be a designated hitter, as long as I wouldn’t have to run around the bases! LOL) Seriously, why then, should the government step in and attempt to balance the scales that I chose to leave unbalanced by my own life choices?

Why should the government give the short boy more boxes to stand on? Why don’t his family and friends do that for him? Or some nice “box for viewing sports” charity? We need to stop looking to government to solve all our problems and let it focus on what it’s designed to do.

I have and always will support the efforts of churches and charities to help, as Jesus said, “the least of these” and as the Disciple James wrote, “to look after widows and orphans in their distress”. But that’s through voluntarily helping others, not through coercion by a larger and more powerful government.

Of course, government must treat all of us equally in the provision of justice and services, and the City of Antioch needs to ensure all residents are treated equally and fairly, as well. When and where that doesn’t occur, it must be addressed. But that’s equality, which our government can guarantee, not equity which it can’t, in general.

However, if it’s the government that has caused the inequity, then it is government’s job to address it in very limited circumstances. I believe the only way equity should be addressed in our country is at the national level through the federal government, specifically in the area of reparations for descendants of slaves – who for generations were denied, due to laws and other actions by the government, their God-given, constitutionally-guaranteed rights to liberty, property and in many cases life, itself, as well as an education and to earn from their labors. The descendants of slaves need to be compensated with land – as ordered by President Lincoln’s Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman but was later overturned by Lincoln’s predecessor, President Andrew Johnson, following the assassination – an asset that can be owned, used, earned from and passed on to future generations, which is a current, major challenge among African-Americans. That’s due to the fact their ancestors were denied the right to own property for 250 years because they were property! But that’s a discussion for another time.

While I recognize we already have implemented forms of socialism at the state and national levels through health and welfare programs (some of which have had questionable results), the issue for the council members to determine is how much would such an effort cost the City of Antioch? The city budget has already experienced a $3 million reduction due to the COVID-19 orders, this past year and that in spite of Measure W’s one-cent sale tax that we the people voted for. This at a time we’re trying to increase the number of police on our force to continue to reduce crime in our city. Stepping back, the council actually would first need to show that inequity exists in the dispensing of city services. That burden frankly rests on the shoulders of Torres-Walker and her supporters who are advocating for the use of the term and the commission’s formation.

The mayor and council members need to be very careful with the terms they include in the City’s vision, mission statement, goals or any and all other documents, and be sure what they mean and that the public understands them. Because equity is such a loaded word, with a broad definition, that it could end up either costing us taxpayers a lot more money or take away funds from the more basic services the city needs to be providing that serve all of us, specifically police – the number one reason our city government was formed in the first place, because the number one reason government is instituted in America is to protect your rights from me and my rights from you – Code Enforcement, streets, water, sewer, landscaping, parks and keeping things clean. Plus, recreation.

I’d like to see the city improve and be great in those areas, first before taking on more programs and efforts with unknown price tags.

If the council members want to ensure children and other residents from low-income households get to participate in city recreation programs that are too expensive for them, then the council members can work with local charities or their own Antioch Community Foundation to provide subsidies or scholarships.

As for forming a commission, Torres-Walker doesn’t seem to realize we already have officials in place to address any human rights or racial equity issues – that she has yet to provide examples of – and she’s one of them. The City Council as a whole and any individual member can take complaints that any resident or business owner might have and address them on a case-by-case basis, just like a commission could do. If the complaints begin to be too many, then that can be brought before the council. If the complaints are mainly police related, then perhaps increase the role of the existing Police Crime Prevention Commission as has been suggested during the Bridging the Gap sessions. Or the council might just need to ensure whomever on city staff is causing the problems is replaced.

But unless and until there is clear evidence that such a commission is needed, it shouldn’t be formed as the Board of Supervisors recently did. Let’s see what their county-wide commission does and how they deal with such matters that come before them, first.

The council should not include the term equity in their vision, goals or any other guiding document for the City of Antioch nor form the proposed commission. If they do, the council members will be opening a Pandora’s Box of all kinds of potential increase to the size and scope of our city government and will most likely lead to a decrease in the basic services the city already is and should be providing which benefit all of us.


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