PORTLAND — The City Council Monday gave the Racial Equity Steering Committee three more months to finish its work, but asked the committee to keep in mind that any of its recommendations with price tags attached need to be part of budget talks that will start before its new deadline.

Councilor Belinda Ray said while she understands the committee needs more time for a “thorough dive” into systemic racism and inequity in the city, she was concerned the extension from Jan. 25 to April 21 will make it difficult to include its recommendations in the city fiscal year 2022 budget discussions expected to get underway soon.

“That doesn’t mean things can’t be amended early on, but it will be hard to work them into the budget process,” Ray said.

Nick Mavodones, chairperson of the council’s Finance Committee agreed, urging the committee to alert the council to recommendations that could have a budget impact as soon as possible.

“Getting those items, even if they are draft, and recommendations early would be helpful,” he said.

While the final report won’t be given to the council until April 21, councilors asked the committee to give them an interim report on its progress by the council’s second meeting in February.

Samaa Abdurraqib, the facilitator of the steering committee, said the group “is in a good position” to be able to offer an interim report by mid-February.

The council will have an initial discussion about the FY2022 city budget at a Jan. 25 workshop. The city manager usually presents his budget proposal in early April. It is then reviewed by the Finance Committee and then the council before final approval in mid-May.

The council formed the 13-member steering committee to look at ways in which city government should address and respond to institutional racism and structural inequities and to recommend changes to existing policies that negatively impact Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color

The committee has been meeting weekly since September with an initial focus on policing, including examining officers’ work that falls outside law enforcement, such as responding to mental health, substance misuse and other non-criminal calls,  and whether resources allocated to the Police Department are appropriate for that work. It also is examining the way police officers interact with community groups and agencies.

Additionally, the committee is looking into the possibility of creating a racial equity office and racial equity task force, increasing social service access, tracking racial and demographic data of the city’s general assistance and social services programs and creating a position in the health and human services department to monitor the available shelter and treatment options for homeless individuals.

 

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