Photo of a decimated landscape after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Credit: Library of Congress

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I have been reflecting this month on the power of knowing our shared history and what can happen when that history is kept from us. May has been a month of painful anniversaries. This month marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. While the world knows about George Floyd, many people do not know about the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

 

In 1921, a young Black man, Dick Rowland, was arrested for assault after he tripped and touched a white woman’s arm to break his fall. Hundreds of White men were armed, deputized, and then proceeded to go to the local jail to lynch Rowland. A group of Black men heard what was happening and also gathered to protect him. Despite the fact that this group of Black men tried to leave peacefully after the Sheriff told them to, a White man intervened, and a shot was fired. Over the course of that year’s Memorial Day weekend, White rioters looted and set fire to the neighborhood of Greenwood, one of the most affluent Black neighborhoods in the country. White men in privately owned planes flew over Greenwood and firebombed it. Although the State of Oklahoma officially declared 36 deaths, historians estimate the actual death toll was somewhere between 75-300 people. About 10,000 Black people were left without homes. The neighborhood of Greenwood was leveled, and with it, the generational wealth of its Black residents. (Property damage and loss of possessions amounted to almost $2 million - the equivalent of about $27 million in 2021.) No one was prosecuted or held accountable. Most records were destroyed in a deliberate attempt to erase the fact that the massacre even happened. 

My office’s mission is to ensure that Multnomah County government is efficient, effective, equitable, transparent, and fully accountable to all who live in our county. We cannot hold people and systems accountable when we don’t know our history and how it’s shaped our present. 

Those of us living today are not responsible for creating white supremacy, but it is our responsibility - as individuals, communities, and as a nation - to dismantle it. During the last year, my team and I have taken a long, hard look at our positional power and placed an emphasis on learning about the historic and ongoing harmful impacts of white supremacy in our county. We know that understanding our history will help us be better auditors. I hope that through our audits, we can support Multnomah County in being a leader in anti-racist governmental reform. This month my office’s Constituent Relations Specialist, Mandi Hood, attended the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) conference as well as a local summit hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, A Community Call to Confront Hate. She and I are inspired by the fact that both conferences emphasized the power of local governments to lead the way in racial equity and anti-racism work. I wholeheartedly agree. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Tulsa Race Massacre, check out these articles, which we used for this newsletter:

OPB: A century after the race massacre, Tulsa confronts its bloody past

ABC News: 100 years after Tulsa Race Massacre, the damage remains

New York Times: Interactive feature - What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed Wikipedia: Tulsa Race Massacre, Dick Rowland

Best, 

Jennifer


Auditor's FY22 Budget

On May 19, I presented to the Board of County Commissioners on my office’s work during fiscal year 2021 and our budget for 2022. In addition to conducting performance audits of county operations and financial affairs, my office is responsible for apportioning Commissioner districts and appointing a Salary Commission every even year to set the salaries of county elected officials (except me). We will do all of this work with a staff that has been the same size since the late 1990s, and through a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year of approximately $1.8 million, or 0.07% of the county’s proposed overall budget. This funding level is less than half of the average for government audit shops, according to the Association of Local Government Auditors’ 2018 benchmarking study.

I invite you to read my remarks and/or to watch the video of my presentation. (My presentation starts at 2:04:50 and goes to the end.)


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