Photo courtesy of RRN

One of the core responsibilities of government at all levels is to ensure opportunity for all of our constituents. However, government as in our society as a whole often falls short of this goal and doesn’t adequately reflect the true diversity of our citizenry. The City of Pittsburgh has made strides through initiatives like the Personal Department’s DiverseCity 365 that seeks to attract more minority job applicants. But we still fall short when it comes to equal representation on boards, authorities, and commissions, as department heads, and as minority contractors on city-sponsored projects. The city’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission is charged with working towards greater representation and has recently been further empowered via legislation that I gladly voted for on City Council, but we need to double down on our efforts to make Pittsburgh city government reflect the diversity of our city and provide opportunities for everyone. To further these goals I will create an Initiative on Equity and Diversity led by a cabinet-level appointee who will serve as the city’s “diversity auditor.”

1. Mayor’s Initiative on Equity and Diversity

The Mayor’s Initiative on Equity and Diversity will be designed not to duplicate functions already being carried out by the Equal Opportunity Review Commission, the DiverseCity 365 initiative, or the Citizens’ Police Review Board but to serve as a liaison to all of them and a direct line to the Mayor’s Office on these issues. While many of the factors that hold back minority advancement are structural in nature like poverty, racism, sexism, and homophobia, there are many things we can do at the city level to begin to overcome these ‘isms’ in our own professional practices.

I envision the Initiative on Equity and Diversity to serve two important roles. First, the staff of the Initiative, including a cabinet-level appointee, will work collaboratively with the city departments and initiatives listed above to advance their work and provide legislative support. They will also be the public face of these initiatives to the community and will work directly with community groups focused on social justice and equity issues to support their work and be an official sounding board for challenges, opportunities, and new initiatives. Community groups and advocacy organizations should have one dedicated person they can reach out to in the city to help advance their work.

Second, the staff of the Initiative should serve an ‘auditing’ function to ensure that the city is meeting its own goals, policies, and ordinances when it comes to minority hiring, minority representation, and minority contracting opportunities. Though we have passed some great ordinances and instituted some strong policies over the years we are not doing a very good job of tracking our own compliance with them or allowing them to adapt and evolving to changing circumstances. The staff of the Initiative will report directly to me and to City Council on our progress towards meeting these goals and will propose policy and legislative changes needed to achieve them. We can’t truly say we are committed to advancing diversity in our city unless we are holding ourselves publicly accountable to it.