‘It doesn’t mean sameness’: What equity means and why San Antonio leaders say it’s important

Equity could play a key role in San Antonio's pandemic recovery plan

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been dominating headlines for the better part of 2020. And while it has affected everyone, it’s become increasingly clear some have been hit much harder than others.

From the digital divide to access to health care, the impact of the pandemic has been uneven across San Antonio. It’s why when city leaders talk about our path to recovery, you’ll hear the word equity being tossed around.

But what does that word even mean?

“I think equity has become a buzzword as quickly as it’s gained any sort of critical mileage,” said Kiran Kaur Bains, director of community impact at SA2020.

Before joining SA2020, Bains was the first Chief Equity Officer for the City of San Antonio. She describes equity as being able to deliver services and programs, accounting for the different needs and challenges of every citizen.

“Equity is different from equality,” said Bains. “It doesn’t mean sameness.”

Using what’s called an equity lens, the local government would not distribute resources to each council district evenly. It would instead use a more targeted approach.

For example, if the city sets aside part of its budget for street repairs, the council districts with the most streets to repair would get the largest share.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said San Antonio was actually the first big city in the country to use an equity lens and framework when allocating resources back in 2017.

“We had taken the first significant steps before this pandemic,” said Nirenberg. “And the pandemic has illustrated why we need to continue to march in that direction.”

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