Dear Friends and Neighbors,
These are chaotic and uncertain times. I have been inspired by people marching in the streets calling for social justice, by people who have dedicated their lives fighting for the eradication of racism and oppression, and by people reaching out to me and other public officials to call for change. And I have heard people’s fear that the momentum we are seeing will fade, and we won’t really move closer to being a democracy in which Black lives matter and all people’s humanity is honored.
One of the best things we can do during times like these is ground ourselves in the facts. We can use verifiable facts to hold systems of power accountable. Holding the county accountable for the use of its authority and of public resources is the job of my office, and it is key to effective and just governance. I have never been more cognizant of this duty.
I am passionate about holding government accountable because I believe governments can and should play a role in dismantling racism and other systems of oppression. And an important way for auditors to help call government to account is by shining a light on our history.
June provides us with important historical lessons about our nation’s past, which is sadly rooted in white supremacy. June tells us about the strength and resilience of communities that have had to fight for rights that we all should enjoy because of our shared humanity. Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of African American slaves in the westernmost slave state of Texas. Juneteenth commemorates when U.S. soldiers brought word of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas, two years after it was issued. It is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.
On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village. Fed up with discrimination and police harassment, patrons and neighborhood residents stayed on site. This was an organic uprising, sparked by trans and cisgendered women of color. A riot ensued that was a galvanizing moment in the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights. To honor that moment, and to keep the momentum going, we celebrate Pride in the month of June.
Times of uncertainty (hopefully) cause us to search for what matters to us - and to evaluate/re-evaluate what matters. They call on us to live our values. As an auditor, these values include a commitment to processes that honor our shared humanity, as well as obligations to communicate to you what is positive in the county government, and what is not, so that it can be changed. This last piece is one that many in government find challenging. This last piece is something we must do for every part of government. No one likes to be criticized. No one likes to look at themselves and see where they have been part of a system that has not been effective or has caused harm. But that is what my office calls on people to do every day. And so I, and my staff, are continually engaging with this exercise on a personal level. Because honestly assessing ourselves, admitting where we’ve failed or haven’t done the best we could, is the only way we are going to get to a real democracy.
Read on to learn more about a number of reports and audits we’ve recently released.
Recently Issued Audits and Reports
On June 4, 2020, my office started an audit of the county’s response to COVID-19 pandemic – both in service continuity and its preparations for resurgence. The intention of this audit is to describe what the county has done to ensure the continuity of vital services while minimizing health risks, as well as the extent to which county support services (such as IT) were able to ensure continuity of operations for safety net services, the county was able to maximize cost recovery for pandemic-eligible expenses, and the county is prepared for a resurgence in coronavirus/COVID-19 cases. We anticipate looking at the impact on congregate settings (such as homeless shelters, adult care homes, and jails) as well as the one-on-one provision of services, which could include remote provision of services. My staff and I recognize that the pandemic created unprecedented circumstances for the county, and that there was a great deal of learning by doing. My goal is to point out areas for ongoing improvement and application to future crises.
Below are two reports and an audit we released in June:
Helpful COVID-19 Links
If you would like information on how to stay healthy, slow the spread of coronavirus, or how to report any issues, please visit https://multco.us/novel-coronavirus-covid-19.
Unfortunately, some communities have experienced acts of racism and xenophobia because of the myths surrounding COVID-19; this county site has information about how to report discrimination and find support.
If you are at work and your employer does not seem to be following public health directives, you can report that to Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.
This page contains resources to support our communities as we experience the COVID-19 pandemic and get through this together.
Learn about guidance for re-opening Multnomah County.