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?