Full Statement by Board President and CEO Condemning Racism
SMUD BOARD OF DIRECTORS’ MEETING
JUNE 9, 2020
Board President Rob Kerth’s Statement
I am exercising a moment of privilege as Board President to change our agenda tonight to first address the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd's death follows the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and countless Black lives lost before them because of the failure of basic protection and justice afforded to other Americans.
I am also tonight mindful of Raymond Brewer, an outstanding young man from my Norte Del Rio High School, who was gunned down by police 48 years ago for running away with a broom handle.
All of these deaths, and so many, many more, must today and always serve as unforgettable reminders of the systemic racism, unequal treatment, and social injustice that have corroded our community and our nation for generations.
The deep emotional impacts are profound, all the more so for members of our Black community. To our Black community and our Black employees: We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.
Outrage is not enough. Together we must now make permanent change.
Healing from generations of systemic racism and building the understanding and systems to eradicate racism in our community, and nation, won’t be easy. I have to admit, I don't know how to accomplish this healing. So many well-meaning people before us have failed.
I am certain though, that the first step is listening. Together, we must now start the conversations, conversations that lead to understanding, understandings that lead to commitments, then to actions and finally to meaningful change. It starts with listening and understanding.
I speak on behalf of the SMUD Board and our employees by saying we’re committed to listening, to understanding and to being part of the solution. And let me conclude, I am certain on behalf of all of us here, that we condemn the evils of racism.
At this time, I would like to let each of my Board colleagues to share their thoughts with us, before we return to our regular agenda.
CEO and General Manager Arlen’s Orchard’s Statement
Thank you President Kerth and Board members for your comments on the senseless and brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many Black lives before them. I echo the Board’s sadness, anger and most importantly, commitment to listening, learning and supporting meaningful change in our community.
It seems entirely appropriate that we should be having this conversation today. The day that we as a nation have joined the family of George Floyd at his memorial service to mourn his death and reconcile our own feelings of outrage and sorrow.
For me it was a profoundly moving day as the entire executive team joined the Black Employee Resource Group for a virtual check in. I want to thank our employees for their courage and frankness during today’s virtual meeting. I know I speak for the entire Executive team when I say it was a very powerful and emotional conversation. The pain, sorrow, fear and anger of our Black employees is a reflection of the emotions of our Black Community.
The murders of George Floyd and so many others are a stark reminder that we are still far from the just society we aspire towards and that as a society and community, we have failed to address decades of unequal justice, economic disparity and systemic racism. As a result of this failure and negligence, generations of Black Americans have and continue to suffer under the pandemic of racism.
Like many of you, I have spent the past couple of weeks in deep reflection, reaching out to Black friends, having conversations with SMUD’s executive team, and more importantly listening with an open heart and an open mind.
I do not pretend to understand the Black experience or the depths of the pain, outrage, grief and despair of our Black community as the events of the past weeks have tragically unfolded, but to our Black colleagues and community members, know that I stand with you and will walk with you to a more just future.
Today I want to speak out against two great sins – the sin of racism and the sin of silence. First let me condemn in the strongest possible words racism in all of its ugly forms – it can have no place in a just society. I have come to understand that to remain silent is to be complicit in the historic racism that plagues our society. We must all raise our voices and confront the reality of racial inequities that are a part of our history and our present day world.
This is not a time for division. It is a time for honest reflection, hard truths, open hearts and the hope for healing and meaningful change. If we do not take this opportunity to unite as a community to make meaningful change, we have failed George Floyd, we have failed our Black communities and we have failed ourselves. Yet Again.
Some may wonder why SMUD is speaking out and what’s our role in helping our community heal. The answer is simple – we need look no further than our values and SMUD’s mission, which is to improve the quality of life for all of our communities.
Nowhere is this mission more evident than in our Sustainable Communities Initiative. Through Sustainable Communities we believe in the ability to make a greater collective community impact through partnerships to support and enhance social justice, economic equality, and environmental health.
I am extremely proud of the work SMUD, our employees and our partners have done to make meaningful change in our historically underserved communities. It’s a positive start, but let’s be real—it’s only a start.
The ideals of the Sustainable Communities Initiative require a sustained commitment by all of us if we are to be a part of the solution to the racial inequities, social injustice and economic inequality plaguing our community.
I have asked all of our 2,200+ employees to join me in being a part of the healing in our community, a community we all love.
We’ve seen business and community leaders and elected officials alike talk straight about what’s wrong with our nation and pledge to commitment to learning, understanding and taking meaningful action. And while words and commitment are an important start, we must make sure this momentum translated into meaningful and sustained action.
Central to SMUD’s DNA is the diversity of our employees and our inclusive culture. These are our greatest strengths in ending racism. We can and should be proud of SMUD’s work to support diversity and inclusion in our workplace over the years, but we know our work is not done.
Last week I shared with employees my commitment and expectation that SMUD will be a part of the change and healing that must take place. In short, as an organization we will recommit ourselves to and take further steps toward these core values. Simply put, we must, in the strongest of terms, condemn racism. We must ensure all of our employees regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual or gender orientation, are valued, respected and supported.
To that end I will be working with SMUD’s executive team, our Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion team, our Black Employee Resource Group and our other Employee Resource Groups to begin critical conversations on how to deepen our commitment to diversity and inclusion in all of our employee and business practices. We will listen, learn and take action, recognizing that listening and learning are critical first steps to the healing process. The first of what I know will be many internal conversations.
For our community and nation, we recognize it won’t be easy to end generations of racism, neglect and apathy. But I am hopeful as we have heard loud and clear over the last couple of weeks that folks from all walks of life, black, white, brown, Asian, gay, and straight, young and old are raising their collective voices to say enough is enough. The lack of silence is an encouraging start.
I will close by saying It’s incumbent on each of us to ensure George Floyd’s death was not in vain.
I will close with a quote from a personal hero, Reverend King, in his famous “I have a Dream” speech where he said “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” That concludes my report for tonight. Thank you.