June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

HRNI becomes Equity and Community Engagement, will review city outreach

3 min read

Goodbye HRNI, hello Equity and Community Engagement. At a recent workgroup meeting, Manager Fabio Andrade.

[00:00:08] Fabio Andrade: Hi everyone. I just want to give you an update regarding our office. We announced last week that HRNI (Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement) is changing. Now it’s called Office of Equity and Community Engagement.

[00:00:20] It is not just a name change, although the new name is more in line with the work we’re actually doing for the City. We had an old Human Rights program and office, called Human Rights Center and we had neighborhood services in Planning. And during the 2009 crisis, those two offices were combined.

[00:00:42] And it was named HRNI, picking pieces of names of the old two offices. But more and more, we have been doing equity work and consulting on community engagement, which goes beyond just work with neighborhood associations. So the new name is more aligned with the work we do.

[00:01:01] John Q: The office will also start reviewing how City departments involve the public in making decisions. The change comes after an internal whistleblower told City Council its Planning Department purposely ignored neighborhoods on middle housing.

[00:01:13] Feedback dropped from 4,000 responses with neighborhood involvement to 741 responses without.

[00:01:22] Fabio Andrade: And besides the name change, there is also a change in how we coordinate around equity work and community engagement for the City. Until now each division and department, they work independently. And although decentralization is good for some things, it can also create a lot of confusion and redundancy. So we may have different departments or divisions working on trying to find answers to the same questions, and they’re not talking to each other. Or we may have different departments reaching out to community members, asking the same questions that those community members have already provided to the City.

[00:02:02] So in this new structure, our office will be the coordinating unit for all community engagement processes and equity processes that the city is applying. We are not responsible for doing the work; we’re just coordinating, providing best practices, resources, and make sure that we’re minimizing duplicate efforts and confusing or conflicting messaging going out to the community.

[00:02:27] So we are really hopeful that this will improve how we work and it will also give us a chance to consider work done through the Human Rights Commission and its workgroups, and also work done through the neighborhood associations, in everything else we do at the City.

[00:02:46] So we are hopeful that the change will be beneficial for everyone involved and for the people you’re serving.

[00:02:52] John Q: The change follows a recent announcement that the city sees neighborhoods as private clubs, and therefore neighborhood meetings are not subject to public meeting laws. It also comes as the office revises its policy for recognizing neighborhoods.

Update: July 3, 2023: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment Oregon’s law requiring journalists to obtain consent of any individual they record. Cindy Koehler of the city’s Office of Equity and Community Engagement also subsequently stated that neighborhood meetings are considered public meetings.

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