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City ready to create new Office of Equity

Proposal considered this week by the council would cost $1.125 million a year

Months after the City Council agreed to create an Office of Equity, a public hearing is planned this week to discuss the proposal's details.

Mayor Sam Adams proposed the new office in his February State of the City speech. The council agreed to spend up to $100,000 laying the groundwork for the office as part of this year's budget process.

The hearing is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, in City Hall's Council Chambers, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave. A vote to create the office could come as soon as the following week.


• Click here to read the City Council ordinance creating the new Office of Equity.


The office is to be overseen by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is in charge of the Office of Human Relations. She dismissed that office's executive director early this year in anticipation of creation of the new equity office.

According to a City Council ordinance, the city plans to fold the human relations office and its budget into the new office. The council would add $525,000 to the existing $600,000 budget for an annual cost of $1.125 million.

On Friday Fritz said the idea of creating the new office emerged during the research and writing of the Portland Plan, the 25-year strategic policy framework that will be presented to the council by the end of the year.

She said equity emerged during the planning process as a value and goal that Portlanders felt strongly about, and several people and groups called for creation of the new office. It is needed in part because the city is growing more diverse, Fritz said.

'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,' Fritz said. '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.'

Addressing disparity

Equity is defined in the ordinance as existing when everyone has access to opportunities necessary to satisfy essential needs, advance their well-being and achieve their full potential.

'We are becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse city, and as a community we have a shared future,' said

Kayse Jama, executive director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing. '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.'

The ordinance creates new full-time city positions to the existing three positions that staff the Human Rights Commission. A financial analysis attached to the ordinance says additional positions will need to be created in the future.

The first priority of the office will be assuring that equity is achieved in city policies and practices, the ordinance says.

The ordinance cites numerous studies to prove equity does not exist in Portland. They include the 2009 Urban League of Portland's 'State of Black Oregon,' the 2010 Coalition of Communities of Color's 'Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile,' and demographic data presented by the Portland Commission on Disability demonstrates that significant disparities for persons with disabilities.

If approved by the council, the office will become part of the City Code.