Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann hosted 20 county officials in Portland between July 30 and Aug. 1 as part of a new Economic Mobility Leadership Network. The network, sponsored by the National Association of Counties and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, formed to examine how counties can positively affect economic mobility. At the group’s first meeting at the Duniway Hotel downtown, Commissioner Stegmann welcomed the leaders with these remarks:
Good evening! Welcome to Multnomah County and the City of Roses, Portland, Oregon. I’m one of five Multnomah County Commissioners. I have the honor of serving on an all female board with a majority of women of color. Where every day our over 6,000 employees come to work to serve more than 800,000 residents. I am so excited to welcome you to the Portland area and to be a part of this monumental leadership cohort with you.
I believe our country is at a crossroads. It is imperative for local leaders to step into the light and call out the inequities that exist in our communities. I came to this country as an infant, part of the historic Holt Airlift where more than 3,000 babies from South Korea were adopted by American families. I have lived the American Dream and I know that if you provide for people’s basic needs, they can, and will, thrive. Over the years, I have seen that narrative shift and change for so many people. It’s no longer a story of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, it’s a story of not having bootstraps, or sometimes even boots. It’s a story of how we can influence the American Dream and reshape the future of our residents by understanding the drivers of economic mobility. And using our influence in policy and program development to best serve our communities.
Here in Multnomah County, we don’t all live in a paradise of bicycle paths, coffee shops, bookstores, and artisan economies. While shows like "Portlandia" portray this alternate universe, this story is only true for a subsection of our communities. The truth is, if you divide Multnomah County into two halves along 82nd Avenue (which you will see tomorrow on our mobile tour) and turn both halves into United States, East Multnomah County would be one of the poorest in the nation and West Multnomah County would be one of the most affluent.
While the American Dream may look different across each of our jurisdictions, working together in this cohort gives us an incredible opportunity to learn from each other, share promising practices, and develop meaningful strategies that will serve our communities where they are and at the levels needed. We have a great couple of days planned for you this week. I so look forward to visiting with each of you and showcasing our communities that inspire the work we do throughout Multnomah County.