I was not the first, or the second, or even the six hundredth person to be surprised by Amanda Fritz's decision to close her City Hall office and travel to Arizona with six of her senior staff to attend a three-day residential training session on diversity in the workplace, at a cost to the city of $4,750 per person plus travel costs, for a total cost to the city of about $40,000. Many of the raised eyebrows, including mine, arched skyward because White Men As Full Diversity Partners, the organization that will provide the diversity training, is headquartered in Portland a mere two miles from City Hall. (To be fair, the organization offers the residential training only in Arizona and Illinois, but not in Oregon.)
In 2011 the city created an agency, named the "Office of Equity and Human Rights," to educate city elected officials and their staff on issues of access, opportunity, race, and disability. Commissioner Fritz was the Council's strongest voice to support its creation. The Office has a staff of ten and provides mandatory training to all city employees. That Commissioner Fritz believes it valuable to take her staff out of town for three days or more to obtain diversity training that is readily available in Portland, from the same organization that's providing the training in Arizona, suggests that she believes that the Office of Equity and Human Rights is failing at its job. Else why would the additional training be necessary?
Sometimes I think that the Portland City Council does not understand that a dollar spent on Project A is a dollar that is not available to spend on Project B. This is one of those times.