The Discovery of Racial Inequity in Portland

In one of the episodes of Portlandia there is a vignette involving two people in a restaurant worrying about whether an organic, free-range chicken is free enough and organic enough. In the end, the people abandon the restaurant to go out to visit the chickens.

For those of you who live outside of Oregon, such a scene would appear to be far in excess of reality but for those who live in and around Portland, the scene is blushingly accurate. Portlandia doesn’t necessarily represent the majority of people who live in Portland, but it is dead on when it comes to those who run Portland.

The latest example of “political correctness” overwhelming common sense was chronicled by Oregonian reporter Beth Slovic. According to the Oregonian article, Mayor Sam Adams promised to create a new Office of Equity to “fight racial inequality.” He set a budget of $1.1 Million and authorized the hiring of eight to ten people.

Apparently Mayor Adams is unaware of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Fair Housing Act administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or the Department of Justice’s anti-discrimination board which covers virtually every form of discrimination that is identifiable. Adams must also be unaware of the myriad of Oregon anti-discrimination laws that are administered and enforced by various state agencies including the Attorney General, the Department of Labor, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Or how about the Portland Human Rights Commission, or the existing Portland Office of Human Relations. Or may even Multnomah County’s Office of Diversity and Equity.

But if one bureaucracy is good, a dozen must be great. It gives liberals a chance to feel good about themselves without really doing anything about the underlying problem. Pass another law and race off to confront the next injustice – real or perceived. So what do you get for $1.1 Million? Well, according to the Oregonian:

“Adams and Fritz established a 32-member committee to advise them on the new office, with advocates for students, minorities, contractors, laborers, and homeless and disabled people. But the only meeting, last month, accomplished little as Adams talked of “bridge-building” and others expounded on their particular interests.”

Well, there it is. A thirty-two member commission to oversee an agency that, at best, will have eight to ten employees. Every special interest group near and dear to the hearts of Portland’s liberals is represented on this commission. Not one of them, including the mayor, has a clear idea of the purpose of the new Office of Equity – each is there to beat their own drum and hope to move to the front of the line when the handouts begin. Not one of them, including the mayor can identify a problem that is not already being addressed by at least two federal agencies and one or more state agencies.

But the real test of mindless liberalism is not in the creation of yet another redundant bureaucracy, but rather in the defense of its pointlessness. Witness the comments of two of Portland’s more aggressive liberal politicians:

Former Portland Mayor Tom Potter is quoted as saying. “It seems as if they’ve created something, but they don’t know what they’ve created. To me, it’s integral to whether Portland is the kind of city we want to be.” Mindboggling. Portland has created something that is integral to the kind of city it wants to be but no one knows what it is.

Commissioner Randy Leonard objected to an attempt to close down the current Portland Human Rights Commission – one that already exists and is fully staffed – and transfer its budget to the new Office of Equity. And the reason? Apparently an ongoing snit between Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the staff and members of the current Human Rights Commission.

All of this urgency to create yet another city agency appears to be motivated by a housing audit conducted earlier this year. It doesn’t make any difference whether you agree with the neutrality of the entity conducting the audit, or with its methods. It’s the response of the mayor and the city commissioners that defines liberalism. When the audit determined that racial discrimination occurred in over sixty percent of the transactions audited, did the city notify the federal or state authorities? No. The Oregonian in an article by Nikole Hannah-Jones quoted City Commissioner Nick Fish in response to a question about whether the discrimination will be prosecuted:

That’s not the right question. The intent is to do a balanced approach. I have concluded that the best approach is to look at changes to the system and not just individual remedies.”

That’s it. In lieu of enforcing existing, workable laws, Portland opts to create another bureaucracy and impose new burdens on those already obeying the current law.

And what about those violating the law? Nothing, nada, zilch. No request for federal prosecution. No request for state prosecution. No request for county prosecution. No request for city prosecution. Is it possible that the exigent audit was factually unsustainable? Is it possible that the magnitude of problem was greatly distorted? Is it possible that like many liberal initiatives there is more sound and fury than there is fact and substance?

Regardless, it’s Portland, and similar scenes will recur routinely. On a happier note, such activities provide a limitless opportunity for those who would lampoon Portland. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are you listening?

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Leadership, Portland Politics | 22 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Ronglynn

    I previously lived and worked in Portland, Oregon for 24 years. That was until I could retired and escaped to rural Oregon. Mr. Huss is right on the money about how the liberal leaders of Portland approach dealing with problems. They like to deal with it by spending taxpayer money in an exercise to convince themselves and others of what great liberals they are. It is grandstanding at its worse. “Hey, look at me. I care so much for the plight of the downtrodden! In fact, I care more than you do because I can spend others money on my pet project.” In this case, they are reinventing the wheel since there are others already doing what needs to be done.

    These liberal leaders give new meaning to the word incompetent. Yes, they are sincere, but sincerely wrong.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    You know a part of me supports these sorts of commissions, provided the positions within them are unpaid. I realize thats a big “if”.

    The one good thing they do is they are annoying people attractors. They act as a singularity that brings in racial hucksters and keeps them busy on what is hopefully a treadmill of meaningless reports, such as the 60% audit mentioned above.

    To the extent that such commissions occupy racial hucksters and poverty pimps, the Jessie Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the world, in meaningless endeavor rather than their usual lot of making life worse for everyone, I support this kind of thing.

    Keep the drones busy I say.

  • Minorityman

    I will use this new office to extract more free stuff from local government. I have a family tree that allows me, if I go back far enough, to claim to be almost any minority I want. So, I do a lot of interacting in the PDX area and if anything goes bad I scream out discrimination.
    It works, too.
    So far I am up about 133 K from lawsuits that have been settled out of court. If they won’t settle out of court I usually forget about it and move on.

  • just doing the math

    Didn’t Beth Slovic use to write for the Willamette Weekly?

    I am getting a really bad feeling there is another special interest
    levy/bond on the way to the ballot.

  • Joelinpdx

    Don’t you know, Scam Adams sin’t spending real money… he’s spending tax dollars. This outlay comes as no surprise. After all Scam spent millions over estimates to build his pet tram…he’s spending millions to make Portland the most bicycle friendly city in America and he’s asking for millions to build his train to Lake Oswego. With this last one, all of us suburbanites need to be on the lookout. Sam the Sham is ignoring the borders of the city he was unfortunately elected to lead.

  • 3H

    Larry… you start out making a valid point: do we need a city commission that is going to duplicate the efforts of various agencies? Then, you go on a ill-informed, almost illogical, rant about “liberals”.  By all means pillory the parties responsible.  However, painting with such a broad brush obscures your point, and makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.   Once I  hit the screed, I found it difficult to not discount everything you were saying, and it came across that you were more interested in using the issue to bash liberals than you were to critique bad policy.

    I can see where it would be difficult to navigate all the agencies and their probably over-lapping jurisdictions.   A 2 person department, that knows the laws and policies and can help citizens, departments, and businesses navigate to the correct agency?

    Just a thought.

  • valley dude

    Larry Huss watches Portlandia? My my. So that is where he gets his ideas about Portland? He thinks the Portland city council sits around in cafes and argues about organic chicken based on a satire? I’ve always said satire is wasted on the conservative mind. Sarcasm yes, satire…not so much. It requires too many links in the chain.

    Word to the wise Larry. If the mayor and council are not representing the majority, there are these things called elections that allow the people to change leadership. Why don’t you run and see how you do? (That was a sarcastic comment, I admit).

    • Voterman

      the elections in OR are rigged and everyone knows it.
      Can you say vote by mail????
      What a sick joke.

  • It is the hallmark of liberalism to seek evidence of discrimination under every rock, and if nothing is found then form a committee to investigate why it is missing and who is hiding it. If that path fails to produce any evidence of bias, the last resort is to dream up a problem and then form a committee to correct it. I stopped letting liberalism get to me a long time ago. Now I just watch these frenetic hand-wringers from a distance as though they were were wrangling over the last bale of hay in the pasture.

    • 3H

      Any concrete examples?

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