FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 26, 2011
Sara Hussein at 503-823-3994
Dan Anderson at 503-823-4799
Proposal MOVES FORWARD ON AN
EFFECTIVE AND Accountable EQUITY STRATEGY
Ordinance to create an Office of Equity comes before Portland City Council
Portland City Council will hear an ordinance to create the Office of Equity at 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 31, in Council Chambers. This will be the Public Hearing on the first reading of the ordinance, with the vote taking place on Sept. 7. The ordinance is co-sponsored by Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
In researching and writing the Portland Plan, the City’s 25-year strategic policy framework and action plan, equity emerged as a value and goal Portlanders feel strongly about. Multiple individuals and community groups called for establishment of an Office of Equity and were instrumental in developing this proposal. Demographic studies show that Portland is becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse city, with more newcomers; with more income polarization in its neighborhoods; and with challenges due to disabilities, particularly with an aging population. And, that people of color and people with disabilities experience higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and shorter lifespan compared with other Portlanders.
"Success of this work, so that measured outcomes are better than in all the previous good-hearted attempts to eliminate disparities and achieve equity, depends on shared ownership. We need real collaboration and transparent accountability within government, and between government and all our diverse communities. Only then will all people in all communities thrive and make Portland truly a socially, environmentally, and financially healthy place to live, work, and play," said Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
The office will work both internally, looking at policies and practices within the City, as well as externally, with community groups and neighbors, to find ways to decrease disparity.
"We are becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse city, and as a community we have a shared future. Therefore, we must build the social and physical infrastructure needed to address persistent and growing disparities. We are being deliberate and systemic in our approach in creating the Office of Equity. If we are careful and intentional, we will create equity by design — not by chance," said Kayse Jama, Executive Director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing.
The Office of Equity will provide practical ways to set policy and implement initiatives that will move the City and the community towards achieving equitable outcomes for all Portlanders. It will assess policies, practices and resource allocations using an equity lens. The new office will provide annual reports to City Council and the community that evaluate results in an effort to reduce disparities. It will also provide a focus for tracking, advocating for, and leading equity and social justice initiatives in partnership with community agencies, businesses, non-profits and individuals.
“While fully implementing the Portland Plan will require focused, systematic attention, we support the creation of the Office of Equity as an essential component of carrying out this important work," said Lisa Bates, Assistant Professor at Portland State University and co-chair of the Portland Plan's Technical Advisory Group on Equity.
Passing this ordinance and preliminary work plan are the first steps in creating the Office of Equity. Hiring a director, then finalizing the initial work plan come next. Adams announced his intention to create an Office of Equity, and that Fritz would lead the effort, at the State of the City address in February. Commissioner Fritz will continue to work with the community and Mayor Adams in setting up the Office and hiring the Director.
The City has worked on equity efforts in the past, including Affirmative Action, the Portland Plan (to be completed early in 2012), the Office of Human Relations and the Human Rights Commission. The Office of Equity will build on those programs to reach better and more consistent outcomes.
The City is already taking actions to support equity by addressing contracting and subcontracting opportunities for women and minority-owned firms, by partnering on a study of census population counts, and by conducting a preliminary inventory of all City policies and practices and how they measure for equity.
“Portland is a city that sets its mind and muscle toward solving what seem like insurmountable problems – at the time. Overcoming inequity is one. But with an effective and accountable strategy and the creation of the Office of Equity, we’ll once again prove that we are willing and capable of living up to our shared values of fairness and justice,” said Mayor Sam Adams. “And when we’re successful, Portlanders will bank on that investment with a more stable economy that attracts diversity and a citizenry that has been supported and given opportunity to succeed.”