October 17: Introducing Multnomah County’s Justice and Equity Agenda

Dear friends and neighbors,

By the middle of June, weeks after the first demonstrators took to the streets to decry the murder of George Floyd, the persistent protests made it clear that our community wasn’t facing a fleeting moment of reckoning in matters of racial injustice. Rather, we were in the middle of a movement for real restoration and change.

Since then, the calls for racial justice, police accountability and the transformation of our criminal legal system have only grown louder. 

Respected leaders in the local Black community seized the momentum to convene a number of jurisdictions in Oregon, including Multnomah County, to convert momentum into action. Over weekly calls, this group, now known as the Reimagine Oregon Project, developed a concrete plan to begin dismantling systemic racism in Oregon, backed by the jurisdictions’ commitments to specific policy actions. 

However, the set of actions that Multnomah County committed to at the conclusion of these conversations are only the latest in — and in some cases, a continuation of — the work we have been doing to build a more just and equitable community. 

Multnomah County is both the home of and a collaborator with a multitude of public safety functions, the state’s largest provider of social safety net services, and the Local Public Health Authority. As such, we are uniquely positioned to help transform systems that have historically harmed or insufficiently helped Black and other people of color, into those that equitably serve all community members. 

To detail the breadth of that ongoing justice and equity work, and to publicly track the progress we are making toward our commitments, Multnomah County has created a new Justice and Equity Agenda website.

Our justice and equity agenda is split into four categories. The first is the set of Reimagine Oregon commitments that Multnomah County made, which touches areas like community safety, housing, healthcare, education and economic development.

The second category focuses on the County's budget decisions — disinvestments and reinvestments — that reflect our work to build a criminal legal system that moves away from incarceration and punishment, and toward upstream interventions and healing. 

The third bucket of our agenda captures the work Multnomah County is doing to coordinate public safety stakeholders in the local effort to transform our criminal legal system into one that is aligned, equitable, restorative and responsive. 

The final category collects our efforts to advance equity across the myriad other ways Multnomah County serves our community: as a healthcare provider and the public health authority, as the social safety net service provider, as a leader in environmental sustainability and as one of the region’s largest employers. 

The work required to genuinely reckon with Oregon’s racist history and its modern-day legacy is necessary and exactly the work Multnomah County is called to do. The totality of our commitments doesn’t just reflect what our community wants — it reflects the justice and equity our community deserves. Multnomah County is committed to working alongside community to carry out the work that moves us in that direction.

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury

Over the next several weeks, the Board of County Commissioners will receive a series of briefings about several public safety topics: the use of electronic monitoring, the Sheriff’s officer training program and jail labor expenses. This information will be used by the Board when deliberating future legislative or budgetary decisions regarding the criminal legal system.

Members of the community are invited to watch these briefings online. The first briefing, on electronic monitoring, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 10 a.m. Click here to watch a livestream of the board briefing.

I also welcome your feedback about these subjects. Please feel free to send your thoughts to mult.chair@multco.us.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners received our annual briefing from Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk and the OHS Levy Oversight Committee co-chairs. I took the opportunity to share with them my statement about the events of the previous weekend that left their building damaged.

OHS has taken the developments in stride, while the community has stepped up to lend its support. Kerry shared a reminder that OHS’s weekly newsletter brings insights about Oregon history directly to your email inbox. You can sign up at the bottom of the OHS website.