Transcript

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Brion Oaks: We say that this work is about life and death and people kind of say, oh, my gosh, you're being over the top–life and death. Truly it really is when you look at the data, when you look at life expectancy numbers. It is life and death.

Joe Supervielle: That was Brion Oaks, Chief Equity Officer of Austin, Texas, in an interview where we discussed how he helped Austin build and develop its Equity Program, and how other local governments, no matter the size or region can do the same. This episode is part of our new Voices in Local Government podcast where we aim to tell stories, inspire ideas, celebrate progress, and acknowledge common challenges local government managers and their teams confront as they do the difficult and often thankless work of serving the public.

Listen to peers who understand you and the demands of your job as well as experts outside of government who might make it easier. Email podcast@icma.org with topic ideas, situations you'd like feedback on, or if you're interested in participating as a guest.

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Joe Supervielle: Welcome to Voices in Local Government, an ICMA podcast. I'm your host Joe Supervielle, and we're joined today by Brion Oaks, Chief Equity Officer of Austin, Texas.

Brion Oaks: Hey, good morning, Joe.

Joe Supervielle: Good morning. Thanks for being here. A little bit more background. Mr. Oaks spent a decade with the American Heart Association and then became the first Chief Equity Officer of Austin, Texas, where he spent the last five years building and developing their diversity, equity, and inclusion office.

Mr. Oaks is also a certified kickboxer instructor and was in high school orchestra where he played and performed in Washington DC. Again, thanks for being here and thanks for sharing your story with other local government professionals, as we join in trying to create a community where we're all pushing these equity efforts forward together.

Brion Oaks: Glad to be here and I'm like so excited to see ICMA really giving space to more conversations about equity, especially in local government.

Joe Supervielle: Yes, we appreciate all the contribution members are putting in whether it's formerly on some of the committees or just with the events, we've seen great participation. So we're also excited. So, to start out, we're going to get into the story of Austin, but just from the get-go, I wanted to acknowledge a couple of hesitation some might have on this topic.

We all know it's important, but there is a potential for fatigue with it or possibly even burnout because it is so heavy hitting and in-depth and important. It's really important work. So can you speak to how you either personally or even within your entire workforce there, how do you avoid that burnout or fatigue on this equity issue?

Brion Oaks: Yes, I mean, I tell everyone that equity work is really hard work, because you are oftentimes trying to deal with historical issues that have been with us for centuries as a nation when we go back into our history and do you often meet a resistance to really be able to do this work, too. And so I think the burnout is real, especially as I talk to my team locally, but as well as staff in other cities that we connect with, we often share that experience. And I think a lot of what we've tried to do to really help deal with that burnout is create community with each other so that we can really support each other health and well-being.

Even I think for us locally, in Austin, my team we love to laugh, that's like a therapy. Sometimes some things are just so serious and tough, you have to just find a little sliver of humor in it and we try to laugh.

Brion Oaks: Before the pandemic, we would actually spend a lot of time with team building, like going to lunch together and just doing different activities so that we can really build a bond, but also build that environment where we could share the load of that stress and sometimes drama that you have to deal with in the job, and it really helps to be able to talk to other people around you to really be able to vent sometimes and really get that out. And then also, in my personal life, I try to do a lot of things to help balance that and deal with the stress before the pandemic.

I'm usually very active in kickboxing classes, which gives me an opportunity to get that energy out. And then more recently, I'm really working more towards trying to do more meditation, and do more mindfulness and grounding exercises for myself, as a way to really deal with the burden of stress that just comes with the position and the role itself.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. And you and your team, obviously are in it day-to-day, but there are other people in local government, whether it's the city manager, department heads, or just whoever else, they are tasked with also chipping in and helping out with this, because it obviously takes everyone, it's not just one department or person, but then you have to keep in mind that they have their day-to-day jobs and stressors and deadlines.

So, how does the equity office keep that in mind or acknowledge, maybe give some space when needed or just work with people, I don't want to say just on their terms, but how it's most effective, because it could be different for everyone?

Brion Oaks: Yes, I think one of the experiences that we have is that the Equity Office also becomes the therapy office for other departments that are really trying to do this work too, because they have those frustrations, and oftentimes, they'll come running to you and look for the support to really build them up to be able to do the work. And, so in addition to trying to take care of ourselves, we often find ourselves really supporting and lifting up our folks in other departments who are really trying to champion this work too and really making sure that they have a foundation of support as they really step out to change the way that we do things or really make tough decisions.

We want to make sure that they feel supported in being able to do that work. And so we spend a lot of time building relationships and trying to support people in other departments, who are really taking on the equity work at the ground level for their particular line of business that their department does.

And I feel like that from what we've learned early on, is that we've really tried to spend most of our time with the staff who really want to do this work, and it's this whole notion of, how do we really build up our champions and build up our allies, more so than trying to change or drag people who are resistant, are reluctant to do this work alone. We'd rather put our energy into really lifting up and celebrating the people that want to do it. And I think what you realize is that within an organization and culturally, once you get people excited and they see other people doing the work and getting wins, then you want people to want to be a part of the movement. They want to join in. And so we really tried to focus on that as a strategy, instead of really trying to spend a lot of negative energy or dragging people along and trying to change people.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. That seems to be an ongoing question for people, how do they divide that energy between trying to convince everyone versus optimizing the work and the efforts for the people who are all in? So we're about to get to the specifics on Austin, but I also just wanted to acknowledge that some listeners, some of the ICMA members are out there, they might have that reaction, like, hey, this all sounds great, but that's Austin, Texas. They have more resources, more buy-in, more public support, a political climate, even though we're nonpartisan in our profession, sometimes the politics of the population comes into play.

So, what would you say to someone in a different location who is excited about this work and wants to be all in, but they just see it as almost an impossible battle and don't even know where to start because they don't maybe have some of the advantages a place like Austin does have?

Brion Oaks: I would say, don't be afraid or hesitate to start small. I think sometimes we underestimate the impact of what we believe are small actions, but they really have more impact than you may think. And so by starting small, it may be that you host your first racial equity training for staff. You even just introduced the topic of the conversation of systemic racism in government. And so, don't be afraid to just start out and build up.

I always tell everyone as we do this work, we are on a continuous improvement spectrum. We are a continuous work in progress. And the whole notion is that we all are starting in different places, it's just really, can we move along? Can we advance the ball, really? And so, it all depends on where you're starting out at.

Another thing that we have a lot of conversations with, about our staff is that we talk about this concept of gatekeeping. And when you say gatekeeping, most people have a negative reaction, because they think, oh, gatekeeping.

Joe Supervielle: Gatekeeper says no.

Brion Oaks: Right. Block something out or keep someone away from something. But gates can be open and gates can be closed. And it's really a conversation about understanding in the job and the role that you play. There's some power or there's a gate that you can open, or you can close, and so when it comes to equity, what is the gate that I keep in my job that I can open or close? And we would often say start there. And I think it's an amazing conversation, because we do workshops with our staff and we have one staff person who worked for one of our departments, I won't name him, but we were in a workshop, and he says, I'm completely powerless. I'm low on the ladder for my department. And so all I do is produce these reports and I give the reports to my manager and our assistant director. And so we said, all you do is produce reports.

So, then we asked the question, do you determine what data goes into the report? Well, yes, I collect the data and I determine what goes in it. Do you get insights on the data that's collected and submitted? Well, yes, I do write a summary. So you're a gatekeeper. There's power in how you tell the narrative of the data that you're providing of the reports.

 

And so, a lot of it is just really getting people to step into the power that they have in their roles where a lot of times they think that they're powerless, but in something that you do every day, you can step into it. I mean, I even think about Joe, you doing this podcast, the fact that you reached out to me, to have me come on and do a topic and conversation around equity is gatekeeping too, because you actually created space to even bring this conversation up in the ICMA Podcast. I think it's a lot about getting us to really step into, what's in my zone of influence that I can do in the role that I have? There's some power there.

Joe Supervielle: Yes, and as you said earlier, the small steps or the small wins shouldn't be discounted. So I mean, you brought up just taking those first steps, choosing to do this work, getting excited. So take us back to the start of your journey, whether it was before Austin or as you found out about the opportunity and took the opportunity, what got you excited? I mean, obviously, this is important work, but specific to you, why is it important?

Brion Oaks: Yes, this work is extremely near and dear to me. And my focus and commitment to this work in equity really centers from me losing my dad at a really young age. He was only 49 years old when he passed away from congestive heart failure. And I grew up and lived in a neighborhood in southeast Houston called South Park. In city jargon and terminology, it was a low socioeconomic neighborhood. It was a food desert. We probably didn't have the appropriate parks per capita in the green space. I lived across the street from a convenience store where I would actually go and buy my dad's cigarettes. And after my dad passed away, I put a lot of blame on him for making poor choices or bad decisions.

 

I had an opportunity to meet some people that I worked for the American Heart Association and I started to learn a lot more about social determinants I held and a better understanding that what my dad had to go through was not really all just about the individual choices that he made, but it was also really determined by the physical and the social environment that we lived in. And so because of our neighborhood didn't have access to all these things, if you look at our neighborhood in the aggregate, we had high rates of chronic disease across the board. We had a lower life expectancy across the board.

 

If you keep digging on that, you start to understand that it goes back historically to decisions that cities made or they didn't make, investments in infrastructure they made in certain neighborhoods, and they didn't, and then better understanding the history of who got what and why, and the role of systemic racism really starts to play out.

 

So, for me, when this opportunity presented itself to work in local government around this broader equity issues, I was so excited about it because I was coming from a public health space from the American Heart Association, where I had the opportunity to work on the health side of it, but I always understood that all of these other social determinants influence health outcomes. So I still tell people, today, I am a public health advocate at heart. And I do a lot of this work across all of our departments because I know this work across all of our departments, influences those social determinants. And if we do it the right way, we should actually see life expectancy improve and quality of life and health and well-being actually improve for our communities, for our neighborhoods.

Joe Supervielle: So, for you, obviously, these weren't just statistics or some type of history, you can look up that was real life.

Brion Oaks: Yes, I lived it. And I lived it like so many other families live it. And I think that it wasn't until I was exposed to see the bigger body of data and the pattern to understand that it wasn't unique to my family. Even in the city of Austin, we're a city that's divided east, west, where the Eastern, we call it the eastern Crescent of our city is predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods, west of Austin, in our downtown area is predominantly white. That's our racial divide. And if you live in the eastern Crescent, on average, you probably have 10 years less life expectancy. So imagine just crossing over the highway, you could pick up 10 years extra life. If you cross the west over our dividing highway, which is 535 in our city.

 

So, I think for me was a journey to understand that my dad's short life expectancy, it wasn't a one-off. It was a pattern. It's systemic, it's consistent with what we see. And so I think for me, that's my driving part of the work. Sometimes we say that this work is about life and death and people kind of say, oh, my gosh, you being over the top. I've been there. Truly, it really is when you look at the data and you look at life expectancy numbers. It is life and death.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. And I think those motivations, while your story is unique, the notion that local government can make real impact on real people, maybe more effectively than other levels, state, federal, etc., I think that's something that unites much of the ICMA membership. So as you started with Austin, how did they emphasize the importance of having a DEI Office, Chief Equity Officer at the top of it, going beyond just, we're going to address this and maybe make a statement and some mission statement about it, but actually implementing the office and the people to really do the work. What was the origin story of that in Austin and how did you take it and start building?

Brion Oaks: I think the power of the work being done in Austin can really be attributed to the community wanting it and the community really advocating for the creation and the advancement of the office. Our origins really go back to about 2014, 2015. And in 2015, the city of Austin was, I think we were awarded being the most family friendly city in the United States and we were probably easily in the top five of the best place to live in the United States. And the irony of that in 2015 was that we were designated as the most economically segregated city in the United States.

It was almost mind blowing around this, I say it's like this juxtaposition of Austin. Is that really the best place to live in America? Really, the one that's one of the most economically segregated places in America? And so you even start to say, what kind of critique is that and what are we really saying about the best places to live if that place has such an extreme-

Joe Supervielle: Best place for who? Yes.

Brion Oaks: Right. And that begs the question. I think that that's when I would say that we had a lot of grassroots community-based organizations who really challenged that, and there was a group locally called Communities of Color United, that it worked with the University of Texas, and they put out a report really pushing back on that designation that we had gotten as a family friendly city. And to your point, Joe, the title of their report was most family friendly city and in quotes, it said, for who? And it was an exploration of all the racial disparities that existed in those quality life metrics around families.

For example, I still remember the one of our childhood poverty. Latino and black children that live in our city are five and seven times more likely to live in poverty compared to white children. And if you went down the list, they looked at infant mortality outcome rates, for black and brown mommies, they just went down the list and we had all of these racial disparities. And it started a lot of really good conversations with the council and our mayor at the time, and long story short, that was really the origins of the Equity Office.

The mayor and council, they passed a resolution that directed our city manager to develop this equity assessment tool. And they talked about wanting to make better decisions as it related to equity, a lot of discussions around, how do we adopt an equity lens and how do we really get to addressing these disparities that exist in our city, and then we won't get there unless we're more explicit and upfront that they exist, and that they're integrated into our work, our design, our problem solving, and how do we center that.

At that time, our city manager really moved forward with the development of an office to really be able to hold this work and I came on board in 2016, as the city's first Chief Equity Officer, to really take that on and our early work really centered around working directly with those community based organizations who wrote the report, but who also helped draft the language that was in the resolution, and they had this vision for how they will see this equity tool play out across city government.

And that's been our foundation ever since. I think that is actually the strongest body of work that we do within the city, is comprehensive equity assessments by each department and we are systematically going by every department we feel has a role to play within helping the city advance equity. And we publish all of that information up on our ... we have a community dashboard and we will share the link with all of our listeners so that you can peer in and look at some of the work that we're doing as a city.

Joe Supervielle: It sounds like you had tremendous public support and the leadership through the council mayor and then down to the city manager had a mandate to do this. How did you earn buy-in from other co-workers or departments? Particularly, I know you said earlier on that you'd rather spend energy optimizing those who are all in versus trying to convince people, but again, for those listeners who maybe have a little bit harder time or less of that initial buy-in from leadership and the public, what would you suggest they do as they try to earn the buy-in from their coworkers?

Brion Oaks: For us, we fill in the first year that we work with the community to develop the tool. I put the call out to our city directors. My goal was to get five and my call was, this work is new, this work is scary, we're probably going to be asking you questions and an equity assessment that you have never had to answer before, but I need somebody to help step up and get this movement started. And I actually ended up getting eight departments, the board of directors to commit. And we started calling them our courageous eight, and we started lifting them up every chance that we got.

So, the directors' meetings, we gave out awards to our courageous eight directors, but we really wanted to celebrate the work. And they were truly courageous because it takes somebody having the courage to step forward to really start to really open up what you do, and be vulnerable, to say that some of the decisions that we made may have been wrong and they could have caused harm, and so now we need to rethink that or redesign that. And so we really celebrate that and we push that up, but for us, that was really a catalyst because I think other people saw what the work could be. And people got excited about it within the city. I will tell you that I had two notions when I started this role.

And the one that I was most fearful of was that I would come to Austin as the chief equity officer, and then I'd be over in the closet and everyone would just avoid me at all cost, because the equity office is seen as the equity police and everybody just run away. Or it could be the opposite, where everyone is like, we need you to look at this, we need you to do this, can you be a part of that? And that's really what we walk into.

I think sometimes my team probably gets frustrated at me because I hate saying no. And I hate saying no because I feel that when a person reaches out to really try to infuse equity into the work that they're doing, or if they're doing some type of long range plan, when that door's open, I'm like we got to put our foot in that door and we got to get in to work with that person. And so-

Joe Supervielle: Yes, back to your gatekeeper analogy earlier.

Brion Oaks: Right, we take on a lot, right?

Joe Supervielle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brion Oaks: I don't like to leave an opportunity off the table. I feel that when that door is open, we got to go through it. But we have many doors that are opening and I think that that's a really good thing. I think it's a good reflection of the work. And it builds momentum. We started out that first year really working with the community and those departments to really build the first version of our tool. But even that was really beautiful and gained momentum.

We actually tracked the number of community members who helped in that process, and we probably had about close to 200 people who helped with the design aspects of the tool, and they log almost 1,000 hours of volunteer time to help us do that. So that gave you an indication what the community support was for it. And I felt like our departments, they saw that too and we're really invested in it

Joe Supervielle: So the assessment tool, does it focus on ... obviously, you have to literally assess and maybe address some failures or shortcomings, but is it fair to say that the emphasis is on, what can we do better differently, and you try to avoid the finger wagging or the, maybe, judgmental side of it that ...? I think some are hesitant because they're fearful if they even assess things, it's going to be a bunch of bad news and put them in a bad spot. So how do you avoid that and keep it positive, to keep that momentum going, instead of everyone just getting almost depressed about it and saying, oh, well, we're not doing a great job and ... Sorry, I don't know.

Brion Oaks: Yes, I mean, that's a real important point because I'll say the culture of city government is you can't admit any wrong because if you do, that is the media, that you got counsel coming at you. And so I think we have a natural instinct of our culture to really ... I would say, sometimes we put up the facade that everything is great, even when it's not and we know that there's these things that we have to really work on.

We try to give balance with that in the tool. We do a SWOT analysis to give the feedback. We look at strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We really do try to celebrate the strengths of what are you doing well, as well as though we're really open and candid about talking about the weaknesses too. I can remember when we get the first round of our courageous aid departments, I had actually a couple of directors who came up to me after that and they were really excited about the work that we were doing.

One director said to me, I didn't join the first round of eight, because I wanted to see what their responses are and get a good idea of what the right answers would be so that we would get a good score as a department. And that was my moment to really try to recenter that, because I think that's usually what our departments are used to, in whatever particular line of business that they're in or enterprise, there's usually some type of national certification where you got to meet a standard and they score it.

I have to say, this is not that. So there are no right answers to an equity assessment. The answers are really where you are, and understanding that as departments, you all are all going to be in different places and that's fine, because it's a journey. And so you start where you are. So don't be afraid of getting the right answer or a wrong answer. The answer it just is. [crosstalk 00:31:48]

Joe Supervielle: It's not personal because it's been going on for decades well before whoever department head was there. So-

Brion Oaks: Right. So if we're asking you, what is the demographics on your community engagement? And you say, I don't know because we never collect demographic data when we do community engagement. So okay, our starting point is, we need to start collecting demographic data on engagement so that we can actually verify who we're reaching and who we don't reach. That's your starting point.

If you are already collecting that data and you say, well, out of all of the town hall meetings we did, our demographics were 70% white residents. Well, okay, now your starting point is to say, we need to really recalibrate and do better outreach to communities of color to get them involved and engaged. What does that look like as our strategy? Because that's where you are. And so it's okay where you are, it's around, what's your journey? And I think that getting people to understand it's just a little bit of different culture.

Joe Supervielle: So speaking of the data, how does the DEI office measure success? Not necessarily just that initial assessment tool, but where you all were from 2015, 2016, till now. Do you have metrics? It can be an ambiguous thing, and as we all know, you said it earlier, it's ongoing. There's no finish line, there's no, well, we did it. Great job everyone. How do you measure as you go and maybe make smaller course corrections?

Brion Oaks: Right. We're in the process of actually doing that now. As a city, we have adopted what we call strategic direction, and the strategic direction is updated every five years. With that strategic direction, we have these six high level priority outcomes that our mayor and council has given to staff. Within those priority outcomes, they drill down to particular strategies and objectives, and then we actually have measures. We are in the process of a project with our Office of Performance Management which holds that work to really look at the equity measures within that, and really, the equity measures are really centered around closing the racial gap in each of those indicators that we have for our strategic direction.

We have some indicators in our strategic direction that really speak directly to our need to eliminate those racial disparities. For example, in our public safety metric, we have an indicator called the fair administration of justice. Within the fair administration of justice, some of the things that we're looking at is our racial profiling data. Right now, if you're African American or you're Latino, you're disproportionately more likely to be stopped and you're also disproportionately more likely to be searched.

We actually have a goal of zero of the racial disparity, should be zero, and that's one of the ones that we've really stepped out with early on that. But we are continuing to do that. We'll have additional metrics up on our dashboard as we work with our Office of Performance Management, to really drill down and be clear about specific indicator, we really want to lift up that we need to close the gap on.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. That keeps the accountability both to the city manager, but even more so the council and the public, because if they have this expectation, it can't just be box checking, or lip service or PR, it has to have some real impact.

Brion Oaks: Right. It's accountability pieces. I think that that's really important. I think if you talk to the community and just the history of the struggle, that's one of the pain points. Always feeling that maybe the local government or the city or the county, never really had accountability with these things. They have promised things in the past, but never came to fruition, and then feeling like there was never a level of accountability for it.

Joe Supervielle: In the interest of time, we won't get into the details of each tool or platform you guys use, maybe we can share some more online. But I imagine this model, or these tools that Austin are using are scalable for the places with smaller staff, smaller budget, you don't have to be a medium large to large city to get some of these done, right?

Brion Oaks: No, not at all. There are a lot of templates out there with different racial equity assessment tools. You can definitely feel free to borrow ours. I know, nationally, the Government Alliance for Race and Equity has a really good standard tool. Even when we did our process of building our tool with community, we did what we call a scan of the environment, which is actually, we had a group of community members that did research of pulling equity assessment tools that other cities were using.

I can remember early on, we had one meeting where we just looked at all those tools and talked about the questions that we liked in all of them. I think we had city of Seattle, Portland, I believe maybe have been Madison, Wisconsin, or Minneapolis, and St. Paul. And yes, that was really our foundation. So I will say, don't always feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. There's a lot of really great work that's being done. And if you do some searches, you'll really find a lot of good resources and that's what we did early on, to help us start to build our tools. We took a lot of input and feedback from all the other tools to really design something that we felt to be our own. And I think that's an important process to go through too. So that there's some ownership that you have locally.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. A potential appropriate starting point for some locations that maybe haven't done much of this formally, is with the equitable distribution of the ARPA funds. I don't know if there's anything in writing in Austin about that, but I know it is a topic coming up about, it's hard enough to figure out where this money can go and how to track the grants and all this, but has that progressed in Austin at all? Is there a specific mandate on equitable allocation of these funds, and if so, what are those standards, who decides, how are you tracking? I imagine it's kind of a work in progress right now. But-

Brion Oaks: Yes, there are a lot of important conversations going on around ARPA funds, and I think one of the ones that we as an Equity Office are really tracking closely is hopefully this city is going to leverage the ARPA funds to make a significant investment in being able to help in homelessness in our community. It's been an issue that has been really frightened center for us. It's very racialized. We are in a lot of spaces where if you look at our data, 40% of people that experience homelessness in the city of Austin are black people, yet black people only represent 6%-7% of the total population. I can't do my map. It was like a 300%, 400%, over representation, right?

Joe Supervielle: Yes.

Brion Oaks: I think we are at a really unique opportunity locally to leverage those dollars to really be invested in helping us address I think a significant issue, especially for Austin's black community here. That's one of the conversations that we are really following and tracking as it relates to ARPA locally, and it can have a real big impact on equity at the end of the day.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. So other ICMA members, whether it's a city manager or an equity officer, I think that is an opportunity with some additional funds coming in to really address this and make a positive change. Zooming out a little bit more, just to wrap it up here, a little bit bigger picture. We've heard the reference on how the moral arc bends towards justice, but we also know what that means, it could be slow. What would your message be just to keep this positive and not let people time back to how we started with the burnout or the fatigue?

Sometimes I think there's hesitation to celebrate or recognize those small positive changes, but what are your thoughts on that? How can local government managers acknowledge the positives, which can be tricky with this topic, because, again, it's ongoing and there's no finish line, but how can we do a little bit better job with positive energy instead of it always being a drag a little bit?

Brion Oaks: I think as you said earlier, trying to really lift up some of those small wins, and taking time just to look retrospectively. I speak personally, is that, there are days where I necessarily don't feel that effective, or that I feel like I'm making a difference, but I'll get a phone call from community members saying, we need you, we need your help, we need your voice, we need your guidance. To be honest, those are the things that really started to lift me up, because they really believed in us and even within our staff with our departments where they reach out for support and help.

Oftentimes, that's really like my light, that's really my energy. The sheer fact that other people are really counting on you and believe in you and they believe that when the Equity Office joins the conversation, that it makes a difference. That's really brings a real positive feeling. I probably get the most energized.

Once a month, we actually have a community meeting, we call it an Equity Action Team. We usually have probably like now during the pandemic, probably about 60 folks on a Zoom meeting. We do a big part of ... we probably burn maybe the first hour of just letting people check in and see how they're doing, what's going on. It really helps to bring you alive. It really does help pick me up, when we have the community meetings, and gather and just see the energy of people wanting to come together to actually improve my community really excites me and gives me life.

Joe Supervielle: Yes. It goes beyond just numbers or policy that human connections, whether it's individually, one-on-one, or small groups or the bigger community ultimately is what it's about. Well, reasons to be optimistic. Again, we will list some of Austin's resources and tools on the podcast page linking back to what's been successful for them for others to get ideas are try to implement similar systems so they can be successful. Mr. Oaks, thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it. And for the listeners out there, if you have any questions or follow-up comments, please post on ICMA Connect, and we will follow up. Thank you.

Brion Oaks: Thanks, Joe, for having me. Bye, everybody.

Episode is sponsored by

Guest Information

Brion Oaks, Chief Equity Officer, Austin, Texas

Episode Notes

Brion Oaks, Chief Equity Officer of Austin, Texas, joined the show to talk about his experience helping the City of Austin build and develop its equity program, and he shares guidance to help other local governments, no matter the size or region, do the same.

Resources

Austin’s DEI Homepage

Austin’s Community Dashboard, where city staff and residents connect

Austin’s equity consultation or workshop requests, where local governments can seek help getting started.

Government Alliance on Race and Equity tools and resources

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