I am thrilled with the portfolio Mayor Wheeler has assigned to me for my last four months in office. In addition to continuing to trust me with the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Portland Water Bureau, he has given me the late Commissioner Fish’s two significant bureaus, Portland Parks & Recreation and Environmental Services. My staff and I greatly appreciate the Mayor’s confidence in us.
I co-founded the Office of Equity and Human Rights, and I feel blessed to continue guiding its work addressing disparities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and people experiencing disabilities. Now more than ever, success in this work is crucial to eliminating disparities and achieving justice. I’ve become fascinated by the Water Bureau and the community services that team provides, and I’m glad to continue supporting their significant projects in progress. I appreciate the focus on equity for both staff and community members in that bureau, too.
I am very grateful to my outstanding office team that will ensure excellent constituent services and policy oversight for all my bureaus. We will announce staff assignments within my office soon. As with Directors Dr. Markisha Smith of the Office of Equity and Gabriel Solmer at the Water Bureau and their staff, I have the utmost respect for and confidence in Directors Adena Long at Parks and Michael Jordan at Environmental Services and the excellent staffs they’ve assembled and I look forward to working with them.
For the Office of Equity and Human Rights, my focus will be finishing policy initiatives long planned for completion by the end of the year. The Office of Equity will bring Citywide policies for Meaningful Access and Effective Communication for people of all abilities and languages. The Office of Equity is also partnering with the Bureau of Human Resources on an initiative coordinated by my office for Language Pay Differential for multilingual City staff. In addition, my staff members have worked with the Tribal Liaison program in the Office of Government Relations to prepare a Land Acknowledgement statement and policies that will be ready for Council consideration in December.
The Water Bureau is in the process of a complete update of Title 21, the City Code that regulates water service installation and charges, and we expect a decision from our Environmental Protection Agency partner on the $850 million Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act federal low-interest loan for the required Bull Run filtration projects in the near future. Both these initiatives represent years of work by the Water Bureau in partnership with Commissioner Fish’s office and with mine, and I am happy I will be in charge to help guide them towards completion. The Bureau is also engaged in important capital projects including the Willamette River Crossing and the Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project. In all this, the Water Bureau is focused on the implementation of their Plan to Advance Equity, Diversity and Inclusion including further commitment to the Results Based Accountability principles in partnership with the Office of Equity.
For Parks and Environmental Services, my goal will be to continue the good work done by Commissioner Fish, Mayor Wheeler and their staff in supporting the bureaus through the challenges of the pandemic. I especially look forward to working with Commissioner Ryan to identify more solutions to assist people currently living in parks and natural areas owned by the two bureaus to find shelter with more hygiene facilities and fewer impacts on public lands. I will also assess progress in each bureau towards achieving equity in jobs, contracts and community services, and make recommendations for the Commissioner-in-charge in 2021.
The Council referred three ballot measures to the November 3rd vote. I will work to share information about the Charter Changes on Police Accountability led by Commissioner Hardesty, and public use of Water Bureau facilities that I referred with the support of the Portland Utility Board. Portland Parks & Recreation is asking for a levy for funding for equitable access, operating expenses and capital improvements. I will be visiting community meetings virtually to explain all three measures.
It is sometimes said that City government work is a marathon not a sprint. My father won the Portland Marathon for his age group multiple times, and I remember how hard he worked to push to the finish to set time records even though he was assured victory in the race. I am very excited about this final assignment. I am proud to work with Mayor Wheeler and my colleagues to finish my term with perseverance, as we work together through the pandemic and the multiple challenges facing our communities and set up the Council for success in serving the communities of Portland in 2021.