The Waco City Council and staff set racial equity as one of several key goals for the city’s next budget.

The officials got started Tuesday establishing a new vision, mission statement, core values and goals to replace the “council priorities” that have guided budgets unchanged several years. The work Tuesday lets the council agree on broad goals before it dives into budget specifics later in the year.

Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said the council goals hammered out Tuesday replace a list of “council priorities” that had not changed in 15 years, and he hopes that interval will be shorter moving forward.

“There’s nothing wrong with what was there, but our city has changed a lot in the last few years and it’s time to revisit that,” Deaver said, “I think it ought to be revisited every year or two to make sure we’re capturing everything our citizens want us to do.”

Deaver said Tuesday’s meeting sets the stage for a budget retreat in April, and the budget will be finalized in September.

“The new guidelines will be getting progressively more set as we move toward that, but I think each year the council has been able to engage a little bit earlier in the process,” Deaver said. “I think this is the next evolution of that, to go back and really talk about what our goals are before we start the budget process.”

The group Tuesday settled on goals of enhancing quality of life, economic development, improving infrastructure, high performing city services, sustainability and resilience, public safety and a culture of equity. They replace priorities that included infrastructure, public safety, code enforcement, compensation and benefits. The exact wording of each goal category may change as the plan develops.

The group discussed whether to include equity as a goal or simply let it inform each category. Deaver noted the council had held retreats last year focused on racial equity.

“Whatever it is we’re doing, we view it through the lens of equity and inclusion and consider who’s being benefited and who’s being burdened,” Deaver said. “It’s more of overarching goal.”

Councilwoman Andrea Barefield said racial equity should be included as its own goal.

“There’s never been a pathway to identity the fact that this is a priority of the city,” Barefield said. “I think that it’s never been stated that we are now setting goals, we are now advancing our beliefs, and we are projecting our vision from an equity lens. That’s never been said.”

Assistant City Manager Bradley Ford said the equity goal could be included as part of the city’s overall vision and values, but would permeate everything the city does.

Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson said, for comparison, that the city of Dallas’ list of goals does not include racial equity, but Dallas treats it as an overarching value.

“Our core values drive every single one of our goals. Everything that we do is reflective of our core values,” Emerson said.

Councilman Hector Sabido said making equity a goal could help establish it as part of the city’s culture.

“They can change from year to year,” Sabido said.

The group also discussed how to include sustainability measures in the goals, and Emerson suggested tying it into public health under the title “sustainability and resilience.”

“That is your workforce development, that is your renewable energy,” Emerson said. “All those things can fall under that area. Those are things that kind of hit you on your social determinants of health.”

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