MAJESTIC LANE wants to make sure everyone inside the City of Pittsburgh offices understands that “equity is not just a word.” (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
by CHRISTIAN MORROW, Courier Staff Writer
While Majestic Lane may be only a deputy chief of staff to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, as of May 10, he is Chief Equity Officer, leading the city’s re-aligned and re-named Office of Equity. Mayor Peduto announced Lane’s appointment during a press conference after issuing an executive order reconfiguring the former Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment into the new office.
“Five years ago we created the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment to ensure that residents had access to basic services, and to this office,” Peduto said. “Today we are recalibrating that effort, making sure the most vulnerable get the red carpet, not red tape.”
Like the bureau it replaces, the Office of Equity will address neighborhood needs, improving housing, education and business conditions and seeing that city services—like street paving—are not prioritized by politics but by need.
However, the office will also focus on internal structures and departmental procedures that can be coordinated to improve racial, gender, and age-specific equity issues and modifying or eliminating those that don’t.
Lane said the new office will partner with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity to develop metrics that can be used to measure the office’s effectiveness, which he expects to have in place before the end of the year.
“It’s about being more intersectional because, say, child care is about more than just child care. It’s also about job security, and access to transit,” he said. “So we’ll also be working with the city’s authorities liked the Urban Redevelopment Authority because housing isn’t just housing—it’s housing and healthcare, housing and jobs. We want to make sure these activities are no longer siloed.”
Lane said once the metrics are in place, the office will begin looking across all city departments for ways to improve conditions for all city residents. He expects to issue reports annually.
“I want to be able to ask the directors, ‘What have you done that had an unintended detrimental consequence for a given population?’” he said. “Conversely, there may be policies or procedures that have yielded beneficial unintended consequences. We want to work across departments so that initiatives involving race, gender, homelessness, veterans, new immigrants, youth can be optimized. We want to make sure the directors understand equity is not just a word.”
Lane said the office will assume the $1.5-million budget of the former Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment. The bureau’s 13 staffers are also being retained, though some may handle additional or different tasks.
Lane and Mayor Peduto also thanked former Chief Urban Affairs Officer Valerie McDonald-Roberts for the groundwork she did to establish the bureau and establish the foundation the new office will build upon.
In addition to its local partners, the office will also coordinate with established equity offices in Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, and Albuquerque.
“Based upon the research from the Equity Indicators Report, OnePGH and the concerns I hear from constituents daily, we know we have more work to do on equity,” said Mayor Peduto. “But I am proud of what this administration has been able to do thus far.”
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