Commissioner Amanda Fritz on Friday briefed reporters on the new initiative she'll spearhead in the coming months: Mayor Sam Adams' recently proposed Office of Equity.
Fritz, a longtime neighborhood activist before she joined the City Council in January 2009, will oversee the new office, which is expected to merge with the three-year-old Office of Human Relations. Adams announced the new office just last month at his Feb. 18 State of the City address.
Among the other bits of news from Fritz on Friday:
- The new office will include the four-person Office of Human Relations but will move beyond it, expanding the office's focus.
- Fritz expects to have the new office up and running around July.
- Once it's fully staffed, the Office of Equity will employ about 10 people but those jobs won't necessarily be new ones. Some existing staff in other city bureaus may move to the new bureau.
- The core staff could grow beyond 10 people when the economy improves.
- The office will have a physical location downtown. (The Office of Human Relations is currently in North Portland.)
- Fritz plans a nationwide search for a new director, although she won't rule out the possibility of a local hire. Last week, news emerged that the current director of the Office of Human Relations may step down.
Fritz says her goal for the new office is to make the theme of "equity" as pervasive as "sustainability" at City Hall. She's still mulling the new office's top priorities for 2011; she'd like community input on those priorities as well. But Fritz says minority contracting, accessibility and housing will consume some of her attention. Schools and higher education also will be subjects of focus.
As for Fritz's political plans in 2012? The first-time commissioner who won office in 2008 with public campaign financing stopped short of saying she would run for a second term in order to oversee the new office beyond next year. But she did say the success of the new office "certainly factors into the decision." If Fritz does run again, it will be without public financing after city voters ended that option