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Urban policy -- Oregon -- Portland -- Periodicals, Portland (Or.) -- Politics and government -- Periodicals, Portland (Or.) -- Social conditions -- Periodicals


The Social Associations/Citizen Participation Subcommittee of the City Club's Study of Racial and Ethnic Relations in Portland addressed three basic topics. First, the Subcommittee addressed the participation of members of four racial and ethnic minority groups in local government in the City of Portland and in Multnomah County, including citizen advisory committees, neighborhood coalition boards, and elected officials. Second, the Subcommittee reviewed the participation of members of the four minority groups in the general memberships and on the boards of directors of Portland private and nonprofit community organizations, including civic, cultural/educational, business, service, religious, athletic, and environmental groups. Third, the Subcommittee examined the role and effectiveness of the joint City of Portland-Multnomah County Metropolitan Human Relations Commission in addressing racial and ethnic relations issues.

The Subcommittee's principal findings include:

  • There is no agreed set of standards for evaluating minority participation in Portland government committees and community organizations. A set of standards for effectively evaluating such minority participation includes: (1) the percentage of minorities participating in committees and organizations overall compared to the percentage of minorities in the local population (2) the participation rate of minorities across the spectrum of committees and organizations (3) the participation rate of each minority group (4) majority attitudes about minorities and (5) the extent to which diversity is embraced and advocated and racial and cultural sensitivity is the norm.
  • An adequate "talent pool" of all minorities exists in Portland to provide qualified representation on government committees and in community groups. Organizations that have inadequate minority representation likely have failed to recruit or have done so ineffectively.
  • While overt racism does not appear to play a role in the lack of minority participation in Portland organizations,' tokenism", "cultural insensitivity , and institutional "business as usual" do play significant roles. The majority leadership of Portland—and each of us living and working here—must become proactive on this issue if real progress is to be made.
  • Minorities are significantly under-represented on City of Portland citizen advisory committees and on the boards of Portland private and nonprofit community organizations.
  • Relatively high percentages of minorities serve on Multnomah County and joint City of Portland-Multnomah County citizen advisory committees.
  • In Portland, more minorities serve on local government social service committees than on the major local government planning and spending committees.
  • The City Club has failed to address effectively the issue of minority participation in its own affairs, and should set up a special Cultural Diversity Task Force to remedy this shortcoming.
  • Although it is the Portland community's one public body intended to address racial and ethnic relations issues, the joint City-County Metropolitan Human Relations Commission plays a limited role.

Published in City Club of Portland Bulletin Vol. 72, No. 16

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