Metro held another outreach meeting with more than a dozen members of cultural leadership groups Saturday, part of its ongoing efforts to listen to the community about how best to advance diversity, racial equity and inclusion across the region.
The agency-wide strategic plan that was adopted last June outlines five goals: convening and supporting regional partners; meaningfully engaging communities of color; hiring, training and promoting a racially diverse workforce; creating safe and welcoming services, programs and destinations; and allocating resources in a way that advances racial equity.
To help Metro achieve those goals, the plan calls for each department and venue to develop its own five-year action plan based on input from the community, directors and staff.
Parks and Nature, Planning and Development, Property and Environmental Services and the Oregon Zoo were the first departments tasked with putting together their plans. Theirs are due early next year, and the remaining departments will then follow suit.
Community members provided initial feedback to staff earlier in the spring, but on Saturday, attendees were asked to help each department prioritize their efforts, suggest improvements and identify any areas they felt hadn't been addressed.
The small groups rotated around the room, spending 15 minutes with each department.
In Parks and Nature, some common themes were having greater transparency and a deeper level of engagement with different communities, being more aware of how language can be interpreted and making parks more accessible to people who rely on public transit.
In Planning and Development, the areas of focus included making sure that people of color are given more opportunities to serve on committees and that their ideas are heard, working more with the community at large to gather qualitative and quantitative data and going into schools to talk to students about the little-known career of land use and transportation planning.
Some suggestions included learning how to identify and eliminate bias by staff members who are analyzing the data, offering technical assistance to communities and organizations who could benefit from grants but don't have the staff or resources to apply for them and providing childcare for those who want to serve on committees, something some said can often be a barrier in communities of color.
Property and Environmental Services outlined seven key strategies in its work plan, but the one that most people pointed to as a top priority was ensuring that the department's own staff was educated about diversity, equity and inclusion.
"All of these strategies can be implemented better if we prioritize training internally and making sure that we have competence on racial equity," said Rob Nathan, leadership development director for the Coalition of Communities of Color, which co-organized the event with Metro.
Another key theme was being more present in the community, be it going into schools or reaching out to community organizations.
With the Oregon Zoo, director Don Moore said some takeaways included listening to communities about what their concerns are about coming to the zoo, whether it be transportation or language barriers, and reaching out to more organizations when giving away free tickets, not just simply the more well-known ones that represent a particular cultural group.
Other suggestions were to look at budget line items with an eye toward equity and doing a gap analysis to see whether the zoo's efforts to reach youth of color have been successful.
"Who are we actually reaching with Title I schools? Are we actually reaching youth of color?" said Patty Unfred, the zoo's community and staff engagement program director. "We need to do better data analysis to make sure that we're actually doing what we think we're doing and, if not, how can we do better."
Cassie Salinas, a project manager in Metro's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program, said this wouldn't be the last time the group will be able to weigh in on the department-specific plans.
"This information you see around the room will not just be shared amongst these walls," she said. "We're going to share this with other leaders at the agency … to ensure these voices continue to be represented."
Another session with a different group of community members will be held Nov. 4.