The Equity Strategy Advisory Committee has gained six new members.
Also known as ESAC, the appointed committee is made up of community leaders who meet monthly to advise Metro's chief operating officer on the formation of the agency's strategic plan to advance equity. The plan will build upon Metro's Diversity Action Plan, adopted in 2012, and will establish measurable goals and actions to create a unified direction for Metro to advance equity in programs, policies and services, particularly for historically underrepresented communities in the region.
The new members of the committee come from diverse backgrounds, all with equity in mind.
One new member is Israel Johnson, student coordinator for the Queer Resource Center at Portland Community College's Cascade Campus. Johnson heard of the opportunity when Metro representatives spoke to members of the Reproductive Justice Youth Advocates last summer.
“A lot of groups come to us and ask for feedback and never really get back to us,” Johnson said. “What was really kind of convincing for me was when they came back in October and showed us what they had put together directly from that feedback.
“I thought that it sent a really great message about accountability and the accountability of Metro," Johnson said.
Alejandro Vidales, editor-in-chief at Northwest SOL online magazine and a member of Portland's Citywide Equity Committee, said he often thinks about equity in terms of what he wants for his kids.
“I want them to have their values and character be the only things that define the opportunities they get,” Vidales said. “Providing a better community for everyone is something I believe in."
Another new member, Amanda Whalen, chief of staff for Portland Public Schools, defined equity as “all people (having) what they need to thrive and succeed.”
“This has been a deep body of work for me personally,” Whalen said in an email.
She added that Portland Public Schools has been committed to racial education equity.
“I hope to bring some of my experience and strategies with this work to another governmental agency,” Whalen said.
Andrew Singelakis, director of land use and transportation in Washington County, said he wanted to get involved with the committee because of Metro's leadership for the whole region.
“I kind of view Metro as setting the stage for the rest of the region to follow," Singelakis said. "So it’s very important work in that regard.”
Singelakis explained that people in historically underrepresented communities haven’t had the same access to advocacy as people in other communities.
“My goal would be to help communities know what’s going on and what questions to ask,” he said.
Camilo Sánchez is an instructor in the Spanish-language GED program at Clackamas Community College and vice president of the Hispanic Interagency Networking Team. He also serves on the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization planning committee.
Sánchez said he wants to help provide ESAC with further Latino perspective.
“The Latino community is growing every day here in Portland,” Sánchez said. “Sometimes we don’t take the opportunity to find out what the needs are, what we can bring to this city and what ideas or new sources we can be for the community.”
Desirée Williams-Rajee, equity specialist for the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, was also selected for the committee.
Williams-Rajee serves on Portland's Public Involvement Advisory Council, helped create the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights and contributed to developing the equity framework for the Portland Plan.
“I have a longtime commitment to equity work here in the region and particularly in Portland,” Williams-Rajee said. “I see this as a wonderful opportunity to bring my personal and professional sides together in a meaningful role at Metro.”
Members of the committee will serve through June 2016.
Learn more about ESAC