As community shifts, Community Involvement must keep pace

November 21, 2018

The Office of Community Involvement, alongside the Office of Diversity and Equity and the County attorney, on Tuesday presented the Board with a five-month review of the County’s Community Involvement Committee. The review included recommendations on updating the advisory body to clarify its role, ensure inclusivity in its bylaws and better reflect the changing demographics of Multnomah County.

“I’m proud of this work,” said Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Ben Duncan. “The recommendations and shifts in code will strengthen the work our volunteers contribute, and I look forward to seeing the impacts of that work.”

More than 30 years ago, voters directed the County to create an Office of Community Involvement to facilitate communication between County leadership and the community. The Board responded by creating the Citizen Involvement Committee (later renamed the Community Involvement Committee).

Dani Bernstein Executive Director Office of Community Involvement, will present recommendations to the Board Nov. 29

In June, the Board of County Commissioners temporarily suspended the committee. The Board directed the Office of Community Involvement to establish a workgroup to review relevant sections of County Code, and then recommend changes to clarify the committee’s responsibilities and ensure that marginalized communities have a voice.  

The Office of Community Involvement completed its work this month and briefed the Board this Tuesday. The presenters are scheduled to return to the Board on Thursday, Nov. 29, with proposed amendments to County Code.

The workgroup identified vague and outdated language in current code. Proposed changes will remove some requirements from the application process, allowing for a more diverse pool of candidates, and more flexibility for the group’s membership. Proposed changes will also define roles within the committee and clarify a process for rescinding appointments.

“This code was written as a collaborative process, with focus groups and partners, as we worked together,” said County Attorney Jenny Madkour. “We want to say what we mean, mean what we say, be clean, understandable, so everyone knows what to expect.”

The Office of Community Involvement also surveyed community members about their understanding of, and interaction with, County government. About half of respondents didn’t know exactly what services the County provides, couldn’t name their County commissioner, and had not heard of the Community Involvement Committee.

Yet about 90 percent of respondents said a Community Involvement Committee should inform officials of community priorities, inform community members of ways to provide input on policy, and prioritize the voices of underrepresented communities. (View the survey results here.)

The Office of Community Involvement also conducted a series of focus groups — including with the Coalition of Communities of Color, Street Roots, Multnomah Youth Commission and residents from east County — to gather feedback on the community involvement process, and the role and scope of work of the . (View those Findings & Recommendations here.)

Those meetings led to recommendations, including:

  • Ensure diverse representation from across the County, specifically of underserved communities.

  • Representatives from commissioners’ offices should periodically attend committee meetings.

  • Host meetings at different venues so travel distance and time are not significant barriers to those far from downtown

“I was impressed with the level of community outreach you’ve done, to get their words, their input, and to help them believe that they too could be part of County government,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said Tuesday.

Other commissioners echoed the sentiment.

“I really appreciate all the work you’ve done, the outreach you’ve done, and the work of all who have been a part of this,” Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson said. “I especially appreciate you adhered to the timelines. I think it’s important we do have this committee in place in time for budget process next year.”

Anyone with questions about the Community Involvement Committee can contact the Office of Community Involvement at or call 503-988-3450.