Officials focus on equity at Hillsboro state of the city event
Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway isn't afraid to admit that some people don't like him.
Callaway opened his fourth State of the City address Thursday, Jan. 30, by sharing how when he was visiting a local elementary school recently, a student raised his hand and told Callaway his dad doesn't like him.
But Callaway used the laugh-inducing anecdote to say that regardless of differences, his job as mayor is to think about all community members.
The theme of Hillsboro's 2020 State of the City event was, "You count. We count. Hillsboro counts." With the 2020 U.S. Census nearly underway, Callaway and other members of the City Council used the event to highlight, among other recent city accomplishments, the city's commitment to advancing equity.
"We're morally obligated as a local government to engage in equity work," Callaway argued.
He said equity is the pursuit of equal outcomes, quoting a line from the city's equity statement, which was adopted unanimously by the City Council in December.
The mayor said equity is also about celebrating diversity. He was proud, he said, that Hillsboro hosted several cultural events for the first time in 2019, including a pride party, an Ethiopian festival and a Peruvian festival.
Callaway said every city department is working to become more diverse and inclusive in terms of staffing. He announced a new initiative at the Hillsboro Police Department intended to improve "community policing," which focuses on building relationships between police and those they're sworn to serve and protect, including minority groups.
"Partnering with civic and faith-based organizations, it will reach out to communities of color, LGBTQ community members and our changing residents," Callaway said.
City Councilor Olivia Alcaire talked about why the decennial census plays a key role in equity. She urged people to make sure their friends and family members know how to be counted.
"All of us have a responsibility to be counted in the (2020) Census," Alcaire said.
Census Bureau data can make a difference in determining whether states, counties and cities are eligible for federal programs that provide access to early education, remediate food insecurity and help people receive healthcare, among others.
"The census is not about citizenship, as the Constitution calls for everyone to be counted," Alcaire said. "We intend to include all people within our city regardless of residency status, language, religion, gender, age and who have been historically left out."
Alcaire said the city is working with "We Count Oregon," a campaign aimed at including groups that are hard to count in the census, and offering census help at city libraries.
Callaway also said the city is committed to addressing a regional equity issue: housing affordability and homelessness.
"We've been working in recent years to set the foundation for new affordable housing development with property tax exemptions, minimum parking reductions and the use of city resources including land and funding," he said.
Callaway highlighted how the city contributed $300,000 toward the Willow Creek Crossing Apartments, which brought 120 units of low-income housing to Hillsboro along the MAX Blue Line.
In 2018, voters across the region approved an affordable housing bond, money from which is available for Hillsboro to build more housing developments like Willow Creek Crossing. Callaway said he's excited about the opportunity, and the city is developing a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to build housing near the planned extension of Southeast Century Boulevard.
Another development, which will be the first in Hillsboro to get money from that Metro bond, will be near the Northeast 53rd Avenue Community Park, Callaway said.
"Even with the construction of new housing, there will be people who continue to struggle with the issues that result in homelessness," Callaway acknowledged.
He said Hillsboro has partnered with faith-based organizations and nonprofits to help provide resources to people experiencing homelessness. The city has also funded a full-time outreach coordinator at HomePlate Youth Services, a nonprofit group that serves youth who are housing-insecure.
Hillsboro officials are also aware that residents are looking for more ways to get around in a growing, densifying community.
With his baby daughter, Juniper, repeatedly grabbing for the microphone, City Councilor Anthony Martin discussed how the city is updating its Transportation System Plan to increase roadway safety and expand transportation options.
Hillsboro is currently conducting a shared mobility survey, trying to learn what transit and rideshare options Hillsboro residents want to see in their area.
Martin also announced that through Hillsboro's work with TriMet, the city expects to add two more bus lines in 2020. One will run every half-hour between the Willow Creek Transit Center and downtown Hillsboro.
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