- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Concerned about diversity in its top ranks, the city of Portland will propose hiring tweaks aimed at recruiting more minorities.

The last seven bureau directors hired by Portland are middle-aged white men, three chosen with no competitive process.

Portland’s diversity initiative would be modeled after the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which mandates that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for head coaching and general manager positions.

Josh Alpert, chief of staff for Mayor Charlie Hales, said a proposal could be ready in about a month.

“It sends a signal to the community - not just in Portland but really anywhere - that we are open for business and are open to having a good, diverse workforce,” Alpert said.



Portland’s push comes six months after a city parks employee asked the City Council to adopt Rooney-like guidelines for recruiting bureau directors. In recent months, companies such as Facebook, Pinterest, Microsoft, Amazon and Xerox have embraced similar practices.

The changes could also extend to other top management positions, Alpert said.

The concept of a Rooney Rule - implemented by the NFL in 2003 and named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who led a diversity committee - began in Portland with parks ranger Sam Sachs.

Sachs, a fullback for Western Oregon University in the 1980s, was disappointed when Portland State University hired a white 65-year-old, Jerry Glanville, to coach the football team in 2007.

Sachs, at the time working in loss prevention for Nordstom, persuaded Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, to sponsor 2009 legislation to require at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for Oregon college head coaching and athletic director positions unless no qualified candidate could be found. The bill passed.

Sachs joined the city full time in 2012 but made little headway on a Rooney rule. He tried again this year and eventually landed a meeting with Alpert, the top aide for Hales, who is up for re-election next year.

“Directors impact hiring, they impact equity and diversity, all of that stuff,” said Sachs, 47.

Portland’s Citywide Equity Committee wrote a letter to the City Council last month expressing concern about the common practice of appointing bureau directors and other top managers with no competitive process.

That benefits a predominantly white workforce, members wrote, and fails to ensure that minority candidates “have equitable access to positions of authority in the city.”

Anna Kanwit, Portland’s human resources director, wants any new rule to be part of a bigger effort.

“What I don’t want people thinking is, when we do this, then we’re done, because we’re not,” she said. “Because we have to address the underlying issue: If I don’t have qualified applicants, why not?”

The city legally can’t set quotas or interview minority candidates simply for the sake of doing it, she said. Recruiting people of color to move to Portland will always be a challenge.

“But I do think we need to do some things differently,” she said.

Dante James, director of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, who moved from Denver, said he would like to work with human resources on reaching a broad pool of candidates for top posts.

Whatever happens, Sachs already has an idea for a name for the policy: the Charles Jordan standard, in honor of Portland’s former city commissioner and parks director, who was one of only two African Americans ever elected to the City Council.

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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