In Portland, James oversaw the development of training curricula, provided technical assistance and developed an equity lens tools for budgeting programs and policy implementation. He plans to do the same in Oakland.
This kind of technical assistance includes providing a checklist for those developing the city's budget with questions like: How does this impact a particular community?
"There's a lot of people who do diversity work, but the work of equity is much broader than that because it encompasses service delivery of all the work the city does, from sewers to street signs to cutting the grass," James says.
What Does an Equitable Oakland Look Like?
East Oakland resident Nehanda Imara says the ideal candidate will do a lot of community engagement around what equity means.
She says equity is a question of justice and fairness -- how is the city distributing resources?
"The unfairness has been institutionalized so much that people who are running those programs don't see it," she says.
She points to the prevalence of potholes and illegal dumping in East Oakland as examples, "There's a perception that most of this dumping happens in the flatlands and not in the hills. This office should look very close at how public works resources are being used in the city and why."
Equity in Oakland, she says, would mean less dumping and timely reactions from Public Works in all of Oakland — from the flatlands to the hills.
Oakland's Department of Race and Equity
As for the department, it will be staffed with a director and program analyst, says Deputy City Administrator Stephanie Hom.
"They have authority coming out of the highest administrative department in the city," she says. Hom adds that the first priority is to find the right director.
“The ideal candidate is someone who [has] experience with government [and] therefore understands the layers of regulations that exist," she says.
Hom is also hoping for someone who can communicate, listen and connect with Oakland's diverse communities.
As a result, the city is casting a wide net for this search. Hom says it's really important that they get someone who has expertise in racial and social justice issues — like Dante James.