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Phoenix planning to open new office of diversity, equity and inclusion

Phoenix is preparing to open the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as part of the budget approved by the city council earlier this year.

The office is meant to ensure equitable distribution of city services. The new officer will work with elected officials and the community to ensure Phoenix is more inclusive by removing systemic barriers and incorporating diverse perspectives.

On Tuesday, Deputy City Manager Inger Erickson told a city subcommittee, “The charge of the office to ensure equitability, equitable distribution of city services and to champion the delivery of racially equitable for the community and for city staff across the city of Phoenix.”

Staff researched 16 cities across the country and found 13 have a position or office committed to equity, diversity or inclusion. Nine out of the 16 cities have both a DEI office and an Equal Opportunity Office, which is more focused on compliance and enforcement issues.

Erickson said Seattle created a racial equity toolkit, “And this toolkit helps the members of the departments go through when they’re providing new programs and new budgets to identify if the policies and programs are treating each community equally — or equitably.”

She said Austin started a DEI program in 2015, “and they were able to get through all the department’s and evaluate all the departments' by 2019, so it takes a few years obviously and I think prioritizing which departments and which areas we want to focus on first would probably be very important.”

In January, Phoenix plans to advertise for a diversity, equity and inclusion officer, along with someone to provide administrative support, with the goal of having an officer hired by April.

The officer's responsibilities will be:

  • Establish the goals of the office

  • Research, develop, and recommend strategies to foster the city’s DEI goals
  • Review current practices and policies to assess and analyze the extent they support or hinder the city’s DEI goals

  • Liaison with local boards and commissions, community diversity groups and other agencies concerning DEI initiatives.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.