Metro's ongoing efforts to create an equitable and prosperous region marked another milestone last month as four of its departments rolled out action plans laying out how their programs, services, projects and plans will be grounded in racial equity moving forward.
The plans build on the agency-wide strategic plan that was adopted in June 2016.
Parks and Nature, Planning and Development, Property and Environmental Services and the Oregon Zoo were the first departments tasked with putting together their five-year plans — and after more than a year of meetings and discussions with staff and community members to develop and fine-tune their plans, they're ready to be put into action.
"These plans are where the heavy lifting happens," said Raahi Reddy, director of Metro's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program. "This is where we get into the nitty-gritty of how Metro operates through its departments and venues and they will help shape the work we do for years to come.
"It's ultimately about lifting up our neighborhoods and communities so they can actually be more connected to Metro and we can do better than we've ever done before," she continued.
The four plans were introduced for the first time during a September meeting of the Committee on Racial Equity, the 15-member group formed to advise Metro Council and staff on its equity work and hold them accountable.
Groups of staff and community members rotated through the room to hear an overview of each plan. Some highlights included strategies to establish diverse workforces that more closely reflect the region's makeup, create job training and mentoring opportunities, prioritize diversity and equity in procurement and contracting processes and meaningfully engage and partner with communities of color to make sure their voices are heard and represented.
Since the work first got underway, community involvement has been key. In a collaboration with the Coalition of Communities of Color's BRIDGES leadership program, community members provided feedback to staff last spring and fall — much of which was ultimately incorporated into the plans. CORE members also had a chance to scrutinize the plans and provide input.
"You all helped spark some new ideas, inspire a bunch of Metro employees to think differently and to be more creative and innovative," said Cassie Salinas, a project manager in Metro's DEI program. "That feedback has been something that we've been sitting with, thinking through, wrestling with and hopefully you'll see your ideas reflected."
Maria Caballero-Rubio, co-chair of CORE and executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County, said there was pushback from some, but overall, the departments were open to the committee's input and criticism. She said she is impressed with the final plans and Metro's commitment to equity and community engagement.
"The community is out there experiencing the real world, while government is trying to govern and create policies so if you're not really listening and taking input from the community, you're not really representing them," she said. "I think it's vital that there's a continuous loop of information coming in that government uses to improve."
Caballero-Rubio said she hopes Metro continues to be introspective. She said the agency has come a long way in improving racial diversity at manager positions, but more work needs to be done to improve pay and benefits for seasonal and temporary employees.
"The gap between the workers and the management needs to narrow a little bit," she said.
Rob Nathan, who at the start of the process worked for Coalition of Communities of Color but is now a program manager and planner in Metro's PES department, said he was impressed with the plans.
He said he saw feedback from the community reflected in the plans, some highlights being Parks and Nature's plans to incorporate Native values into parks planning and Planning and Development's desire to normalize conversations about race and racial equity, both internally and with partner agencies.
"I think Metro has to recognize itself as an early adopter, a trendsetter of sustainability whether that's environmental or socially and racial equity is a big component of social sustainability," Nathan said. "If we are a trendsetter, then we have an obligation to normalize this work. I think it's going to be challenging with some of our local government and private sector industry partners, but we need to be really courageous moving forward. Otherwise, this will not work."
He said that despite the great initiatives that are already underway, the work is just beginning.
"This is the first step in a journey," he said. "This is not us being done. We're just getting started."
Department Action Plans
Plans from the other departments will be posted as they become available. Learn more.