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 enslaved African American 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. In Oregon, Clara Peoples started the state’s Juneteenth celebration in Vanport in 1945. You can read about Clara Peoples and Juneteenth Oregon, which is run by Jenelle Jack, Clara’s granddaughter, in this article. In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday.
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, instigated by trans and cis-gendered 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.
In appreciation for all you do every day to help create a more just world,
Multnomah County Auditor
There’s still time to share your opinions with the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee
In case you missed it, I had an opinion piece in The Oregonian/Oregonlive recently. I explained why my office is seeking greater independence from county management with a proposal to create a minimum level of funding for the auditor’s office, based on the overall county budget.
It’s one of four proposals my team and I made as part of the Charter review process. I’m excited that three of our ideas have advanced for further consideration: proposals to create an ombudsman, enshrine the fraud, waste and abuse hotline into the Charter, and ensure my office’s access to information. I’m hopeful that the Charter Review Committee will forward these amendments to the November ballot, and you’ll get to vote on whether to adopt them.
There’s still time to advocate for getting the budget allocation amendment on the November ballot too. I ask you to share your support for that amendment with the Charter Review Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet on July 5 and July 20. You can submit public comments to the committee by noon the Friday before each meeting, public comments are due on July 1 and July 15, simply by emailing Kali Odell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put “public comment” in the subject line.
Community Engagement Update
My office had a great time this month connecting with community at a wide range of events. From attending the Coalition of Communities of Color’s 20th Anniversary Celebration to tabling at the Rosewood Initiative to participating in a Q Center Generations conversation, the Auditor’s Office learned from community members about their experiences and the fabric of our county. I also spoke at the Terwilliger Plaza and answered tough questions, such as how to best use audit resources and the distinctions between performance and financial auditing. If you’d like me to attend or speak at a meeting with your community group, simply fill out this form.
Welcoming Raymond De Silva
In May, I welcomed Raymond De Silva to the Auditor’s Office as our new Constituent Relations Specialist. He’s hit the ground running to deepen and create connections between my office and the county’s many communities.
Raymond has a master's degree in spiritual formation and a certificate of diversity and inclusion from Cornell. He was the vice president of AFSCME Local 88 union and chair of the employees of color resource group, where he supported community-driven adoption of the county’s first workforce equity strategic plan to improve county government. He advanced a groundbreaking contract by negotiating the first microaggression language in any union contract nationwide. A graduate of the county's Leadership Academy, his public service career has focused on intergenerational IR-BIPOC and LGBTQ relationships for economic, social, and justice landscapes. His background includes non-profit, community outreach, music production, and public relations. Raymond is the son of Filipino and Sri Lankan first-generation immigrants.
Fun Fact: Raymond enjoys Oregon Ducks sporting events.