April 25, 1994
LANE COUNTY DIVERSITY TASK FORCE REPORT MEETING
Harris Hall Main Floor - 7:00 p.m.
Chair Jerry Rust presided with Steve Cornacchia and Jack Roberts present. Ellie Dumdi and Marie Frazier excused. Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary.
Rust opened the meeting and welcomed those in attendance.
George Russell, Director of Human Resources and Management Services, provided an overview of the Diversity Task Force Report, noting that the Task Force had been meeting for four months to produce the report, which was presented to the Board on March 30. He reported that the Task Force identified four major considerations on which to focus: Lane County as service provider; Lane County as funder; Lane County as employer and Lane County boards and commissions (see material on pages 10-12 of the report). Russell then reviewed the Action Initiatives for the following subjects as developed by the Task Force: Assessment, Awareness/Training, Access, Affirmative Action, and Accountability (see material on pages 12-16 of the report). With regard to recommendations, Russell summarized them as follows:
1. That the Board adopt the goal statements as part of a Diversity Policy Statement for Lane County. Russell noted that the Diversity Policy Statement was adopted at the March 30 meeting.
2. That the Board approve establishment of a Diversity Implementation Committee to address the how and when of approved initiatives.
3. That the Board and Management Team participate in cultural competency/sensitivity training as a precursor to establishing County-wide training programs for other employees.
4. That the County Administrator develop an initial budget proposal for 1994 to begin implementation of diversity recommendations and initiatives for consideration by the budget committee and the Board of Commissioners. Russell indicated that the County Administrator has done that and has a proposal in his budget for some dollars to start that process.
5. That the Board adopt in concept the five action areas and the related action initiatives and assign them to the Diversity Implementation Committee to determine how and when the initiatives will be implemented.
Russell expressed his thanks to all of the members of the Diversity Task Force and remarked that he feels the report is an accurate reflection of their deliberations.
Bill Van Vactor, County Administrator, acknowledged Guadalupe Quinn, Betsy Fairlamb, Stephanie Cardinal and George Russell as members of the Task Force who had contributed exceptionally and the Board presented each of them with a framed poster on diversity.
III. Comments from Task Force Members. (Commissioners Roberts and Rust)
Roberts and Rust waived their speaking opportunity at this time in order to move forward with public comment.
IV. Public Comment.
Darrell Neet, 2472 North 37th, Springfield, commented that he was a former supervisor for the State of Oregon and a current member of the Springfield Human Rights Commission, but announced that he was expressing his own opinion tonight on the possible effects of this proposal. Neet stated that he was not against the broad proposal, but there was a narrow focus he wished to speak to. He expressed concern that this includes a plot to impose "totalitarian mind control techniques on vulnerable County employees." Neet remarked that it "is obvious that a major intent of this proposal is to include the perversion of homosexual behavior" in the broad definition of diversity. He stated that this goes beyond human rights and will rout out employees with conservative and/or traditional values. Neet stressed that public servants have the right to believe whatever they want.
Pearl Hill, 2380 Riverview Street, commended the Task Force. She indicated she was representing the African-American Community Coalition this evening. Hill indicated her support, and urged the Board to support the report and all that it entails. She emphasized that the Board needs to look at dealing with the different options that are available and not put this matter on the shelf.
Donna Albro, 4001 Potter, #40, stated that she was in favor of the proposal in its entirety. She agreed that diversity means respecting and valuing the differences within and among us all, as mentioned in the Policy Statement.
Jayme Vasconcellos, 944 West 5th, Springfield, noted that he is Executive Director of the Centro Latinoamericano and commended the Task Force on the report. He indicated that it was sad that it is necessary to have a task force to look at this "problem." Vasconcellos remarked that diversity is good for many reasons, aside from the basic issues of fairness or principles: for example, business (as multi-national corporations look at diversity representation in government, school systems, etc.), grants (as foundations generally ask if there is diverse representation on Boards), and housing (as HUD looks at diversity issues, also). Vasconcellos stated that proof of implementation will come in improved hiring practices. He stressed that he hopes to see follow-through on the report.
Neil Van Steenbergen, 2506 Emerald, commented that he is impressed with the results of the Task Force, but remarked that it is sad to have to legislate tolerance and respect for diversity. Discussing his experience in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, he quoted Martin Luther King in saying "Riot is the language of the unheard." He stressed that if people are not listened to and respected, we all lose. Van Steenbergen urged the Board to support the report.
John Clague, 315 Ayres Road, remarked that he was present to offer the Sheriff's Office perspective in having worked with the Lane County Human Rights and Affirmative Action Committee. He stated that after initially attending a meeting, the department now routinely attends the HR&AA meetings and finds it helpful to talk with members on how to improve handling issues in the cultural diversity arena. Clague observed that certain cultures are fearful of police because of their native culture, where the police may be a powerful and corrupt organization. He remarked that a pamphlet is being printed, which will also be printed in Spanish, with a description of Sheriff's Office services, with a feedback card included. Clague stressed that the Sheriff's Office wants to continue work with the HR&AA Committee, and continue with training and understanding to improve service delivery to citizens.
Jamina Terrazas, 2710 High Street, refuted the sexual orientation concerns of the first speaker. She urged the Board to accept the recommendations of the Task Force and asked them not to let that work be wasted. Terrazas stressed that the policy needs to be implemented to show future generations that, as a community, we believe in them.
Bee Bee Head, 69 Rosewood Avenue, commented that she is a Latino member of the community and also works at Youth Services. With regard to diversity, she stated that she doesn't see a "problem," just a "challenge." Head indicated her support for the proposals and expressed her sadness that some people are fearful of the concepts. She urged the Board to greet this challenge positively.
Mark Harris, 1741 West 10th, commended the County on taking this first step in dealing with cultural competency. He remarked that he represents the NAACP doing youth work, but also works as LCC's Substance Abuse Coordinator. Harris stated that, to him, cultural competency means that he, as a service provider, becomes aware of and eliminates any attitude or bias which prevents him from delivering the best service possible. He indicated that he expects various agencies within the County to do the same thing. Harris stated that a definition of institutional racism is that it produces inequity without any personal prejudice on the part of the provider. He emphasized that cultural competency is the first step to eliminating institutional racism.
Marshall Sauceda, Multicultural Affairs, U of O, indicated that he spoke tonight as a community member and an educator with a background in community service, public affairs and human resource management. He stated his strong support of the report, noting that it is about effective management and decisive leadership. Sauceda stressed that Lane County, as a government agency, is obligated to serve all of the people in the community and needs to be sensitive to the emerging needs based on changing demographics. He emphasized that Lane County has the opportunity to take a proactive stand. Sauceda stressed that training within the management levels should be mandatory and that staff composition should reflect diversity. Indicating that this is not a radical plan, he urged the Board to implement the strategies and initiatives as soon as possible.
Chris Powers, P.O. Box 1, Eugene, stated that he is with the National Coalition Building Institute and thanked Russell and the Diversity Task Force. He remarked that this is not only good business and good policy, it is the human thing to do. Powers urged the Board to adopt the Diversity Goal Statement and the rest of the report in its entirety. He stressed that the Board should not be strayed by people who suggest tabling parts of this report. Noting that the Diversity Task Force was entrusted to come up with a fair and impartial assessment of the needs, Powers urged that the Board listen to them.
Lynn Burditt, 89066 Bridge Street, Springfield, indicated that she spoke as a member of the HR&AA Committee and advised the Board that, as a group, they wholeheartedly endorse the recommendations of the Diversity Task Force. She urged the Board to follow through and take this step forward.
Scott Siebert, 2945 Hilyard, remarking that he spoke as a Lane County resident, stressed that maintaining accountability is important. He also thanked the Board for the inclusion of sexual orientation. Siebert commented that all employees can believe whatever they want to, but when their beliefs are used to deny access to services, then the Board has the right to intervene and ask for fair treatment for all of its citizens. He indicated his support of the report and urged its adoption and implementation.
Ann Hawkins, 1185 East 28th, stated that she is on the faculty of the University of Oregon in International Studies. She remarked that her life has been touched by events occurring to her neighbor, a 12-year-old adopted Korean/American child who has been harassed at school and at home. Hawkins stressed that it is extraordinarily important in this democracy to teach children that this behavior is not alright.
Art Paz, 86950 Cedar Flats Road, Springfield, commented that the monitoring component is very important, as it is difficult to turn out management policies that are enforceable. He indicated that he is the past chairman of the Hispanic Business Association, which represents Hispanic men and women in the private sector and wholeheartedly supports the report. Paz remarked that the report is well-structured and should be adopted. He suggested that on page 13(f), there needs to be more specificity with regard to Hispanics and other identified people. Paz quoted a Martin Luther King statement referring to the "paralysis of analysis," noting that there is the need to ultimately act on these reports. He referred to different cultural backgrounds, citing the example of the "collective social experience" of youth gathering in a plaza. Paz suggested that it would be helpful if each commissioner could assume another skin color for a specified time to gain that experience.
Yung Su Walker, 116 Bauer Lane, suggested that, with regard to hiring, more than speaking Spanish or having a Spanish name be considered - that the depth/level of cultural competence be explored and sought out.
Epi Reis, 401 Dublin, expressed his strong support, and that of the Board of Centro Latinoamericano, for the report. He remarked that conversion/structuring of a report to fit into the system can cause its failure. Reis urged the Board to use the report as it is recommended and then there will be success. He stressed the importance of listening to minorities and how they express themselves. Reis commented on the need for leadership to cross bridges together with the minority communities.
Rust entered a letter from Eric Larsen into the record.
There being no one else present who wished to comment, Rust closed the public comment portion of the meeting.
V. Discussion and Action on Recommendations.
Roberts addressed Neet's concerns, asking Russell if there was anything in the report that identifies sexual orientation as a matter for affirmative action in the hiring or policies of the County. Russell replied that there was not, noting that affirmative action had been referred to with regard to employment in the report and indicated that minorities, women and ADA accessibility had been identified. Responding to Roberts, Russell indicated that managers' personal beliefs with regard to homosexuals would not be a factor in their evaluations unless that thought or attitude interferes with their work and their ability to deliver services in ways that meet the needs of diverse groups.
Cornacchia noted that Larsen's letter had expressed a variety of concerns with regard to the definition of "class," what "sexual orientation" means, whether the policy may violate ORS 659.165 and whether reference to "institutional racism" is an admission on the part of the County. He indicated that he would like to see time reserved for these issues to be discussed/answered. Cornacchia also expressed concerns about the County's current fiscal restraints and the allocation of resources. He recognized that the intent of the report is treating each other with respect. Cornacchia questioned whether all of the suggested goals can be achieved, and, if not, what kind of message that will send. He also asked for the inclusion of the two absent commissioners in further discussion and action.
Rust commented that this report has provided a road map on how to proceed with issues of cultural diversity. He suggested that every member of Lane County government needs training/education on these issues. Rust indicted that results will be seen when there are more people of color hired, when there are more people of color on boards, commissions and committees, when there is more multilingual signage and language, and when there is an attitude that diversity is celebrated. He acknowledged that Lane County lost a giant track meet because there was not enough cultural diversity built into the community. Rust suggested that the next steps should be an action item to start the process by: 1) advertising for an implementation committee; 2) getting Van Vactor's report on the budget; and 3) that the Board, along with the top managers, would set the tone by taking the training.
Roberts concurred with Rust's comments, expressing concern about the process getting stalled. He stated that while he knows and respects Eric Larsen, he found his letter to be disturbing and to be an embarrassment. Roberts remarked that the points raised in the letter, for the most part, are not legitimate and suggested that there are some misrepresentations and distortions of the report. With regard to quibbling over the interpretation of sexual orientation, he stressed that it is clear that that means homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality only, and that he would agree to changing the document to define that. Roberts also remarked that he would be happy to have class defined as "socioeconomic status." He indicated that the policy clearly does not violate HB3500. Roberts defied anyone to read the document as giving anybody any "special rights." He suggested that future discussion of this letter be as candid and as bold as necessary to make the kind of commitment that the policy statement represents.
VI. Follow-Up Assignments.
Rust observed Cornacchia's request for legal analysis and requested that this be brought back to the agenda as an action item within two to three weeks. He suggested that commissioners with concerns about language forward those in writing to be discussed at the next meeting. Rust indicated that he would discuss the next meeting date at tomorrow's Board meeting, along with dates for submission of commissioners' comments. Cornacchia observed the need for county counsel's legal analysis of the questions raised. Van Vactor indicated that he planned to raise the budget issues during the regular review of the HR&MS budget. There was concurrence that all issues in the report would be on the table for the upcoming discussion, which Rust indicated he would follow through with scheduling. Rust thanked everyone for their participation.
VII. Close Meeting.
There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary
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