Denver activist selected to head Portland’s Office of Equity

In July 2011, we wrote to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Amanda Fritz about the need to explicitly include and represent people with mental illness and/or addiction in the new Office of Equity, pointing out that we are the most discriminated against, oppressed underclass in Portland (or anywhere).  We made a particular point of insisting it was not enough to include people who would only privately admit to having a mental illness or addiction — representation is useless when it issues from inside a closet.

Now, many months later, we welcome Dante James as the director of this new office, but we are disappointed (though unsurprised) that Fritz and Adams appear to have done nothing to bring about equity for us through the Office of Equity.  The Oregonian’s article on James follows.


READ:  Letter from MHAP to City Hall about Office of Equity

Dante James

Dante James

By Beth Slavic, The Oregonian, Feb. 16, 2012

A year after announcing the formation of a new city office to tackle inequity, Portland officials have named a director: Dante James, a Denver community activist with experience in government and non-profit work.

James, 53, beat out 94 other applicants from across the country to lead Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, which the Portland City Council voted to approve last September after months of debate.

“All three of the finalists were spectacular, but he has everything,” said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who will oversee the new 10-person office.

A former non-profit director and public defender, James also served with military police in the U.S. Army and earned a degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. James also served as an appointee of Denver’s first African-American mayor, Wellington Webb.

His hiring will usher in a new community process for further refining the office’s work, Fritz said.

“My first 30 days will truly be a listening tour,” James said in an interview.

He will earn $135,000 a year, and starts March 15.

[The remainder of the article is simply a reprint of the press release sent to The Oregonian by Amanda Fritz’s office]

Here’s the full release from Fritz’s office:

After completion of a national search and an application review process involving stakeholders from the community as well as city staff, Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams have selected Dante J. James to be director of Portland’s new Office of Equity and Human Rights. He comes to Portland from Denver, Colorado, bringing over 20 years of political and legal experience as an attorney in private practice, non-profit director, administrative hearings officer, community organizer, government administrator and political consultant.

“Dante is a dynamic leader who is committed to helping us achieve our goal: Making Portland a city that offers all of its citizens the most equal of opportunities. I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work,” Mayor Adams said.

Commissioner Fritz stated that “Dante is a proven leader in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, who will bring energy, passion, and a wealth of varied experiences to help us address the inequities that are apparent in our community. He brings knowledge and dedication to the Office in this crucial time, when more than ever Portlanders need action and improved outcomes.”

Dante has been active in social justice causes throughout his more than 25 years in Denver, serving on many political and community boards and commissions. He was most recently the Manager of the Small Business Office for the Regional Transportation District where he oversaw the District’s compliance with federal regulations regarding utilization of disadvantaged and small business on the build-out of metro Denver’s light rail transit system.

“Equal access to opportunities in areas such as employment, economic development, and government contracting can only add to the status of Portland as a world-class city,” Dante said. “I look forward to becoming a Portlander, and sharing my experiences to help ensure greater opportunities for all of the residents of Portland.”

Dante James, a U.S. Army veteran, previously headed a non-profit organization focused on training community activists, political candidates and elected officials on strategic approaches to effecting political and policy change. He was an appointee of Denver Mayor Wellington Webb leading the Mayor’s Office of Contract Compliance. For eight years, he worked as advance staff for the Clinton Administration nationally and internationally. He taught high school in Japan, and was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver College of Law. He worked as a Public Defender, and volunteered with Aurora, Colorado’s Teen Court. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Central Arkansas and his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Denver Sturm College Of Law.