Anchorage to have an Equity Index
Last April, Clifford Armstrong III was appointed Anchorage’s first Equity Director by Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson. In Tacoma, Washington, where he is from, he was manager of gender and race equity in hiring workers. He has drafted multiple government ordinances against racism and workforce development. He is a skilled speaker and has extensive experience in leading and motivating work teams. He advocates for fair practices in business and governance.
Today, Clifford Armstrong III faces new challenges and has to work in partnership with Mayor Dave Bronson. Challenges aimed at making Anchorage a more equitable and fairer city.
“Well, first of all, I’d like to dispel the notion that I, exclusively, can do such a thing,” Armstrong clarifies. “My role is as a catalyst for the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) to more quickly build the capacity to make more equitable decisions over the long term. Part of that job is to ensure that we meet the equity requirements imposed on us by the federal government when we accept their grants. Another part is transparency. How do we engage our communities so they know what our efforts are and have been, where we have fallen short, where we are trying to go, why we are trying to go there, and how they can be part of that process? In a phrase, it’s about transparent continuous improvement.”
“Then there’s the question of how the municipality engages the community in its own efforts to be more equitable or, in some cases, simply to feel seen or properly understood. Sometimes that’s a resolution, sometimes it’s being present or contributing to their events or efforts, and sometimes it means helping people understand services the municipality does or can provide that people may not have access to,” he explains.
- You were appointed by Austin Quinn-Davidson, but the mayor is Dave Bronson, backed by the far-right Save Anchorage group. Will you be able to work freely and independently?
I assume my work will continue in the same way, regardless of who the mayor is. When people take the time to understand the details of what the actual job is and how it is done, it is usually hard to disagree as to its purpose. However, there are reasonable disagreements to be had in good faith about prioritization and timelines once you have a collective understanding that certain commitments must be met as a government entity, a recipient of federal funds or an employer of a certain size, and most importantly as a holder of the community’s trust.
- What are your projects for Equity in Anchorage and how are you going to carry them out?
I have been working on analyzing how the MOA is currently meeting its obligations, as I mentioned above, as well as the risks associated with not having met them. I will propose practical policies and procedures to ensure that commitments are met and to avoid duplication or isolation of efforts, which tend to be less efficient in terms of results and costs.
I am also working on an Equity Index, which is an interactive GIS (“Geographical Information System”) tool that displays relevant socioeconomic indicators and is broken down by census block and some protected classes. Many jurisdictions use tools like this to help the community understand what the different indicators look like in their area, as well as to help policy makers in their decision-making process.
Overall, this first year will be one of assessment and capacity building to be able to evaluate things. I am sure that, in the years to come, the mayor and the assembly will have their own priorities in terms of things they would like to see improved and for which I will also be responsible.
– Do you think Bronson will allow you to make a fairer city?
It’s not something I can do by myself with all the support in the world. No one can. It’s more a question of what we, as MOA, have done, are doing or are going to do. I’ve already talked to him about some of the things I’ve noticed and possible improvements.
- What are the most pressing needs you need to address to achieve fairness and equity?
As an individual, the most pressing thing I need to do is to be honest, transparent, and forthcoming about what I see. A lot of the equity work takes care of itself when you do those three things.