Port of Camas-Washougal leaders say they are ready and willing to be part of critical conversations and collaborative solutions for racial and social equality in East Clark County.
At their Aug. 5 virtual meeting, Port commissioners approved an update to the Port’s code of ethics policy that includes a section about diversity and inclusion.
“The Port of Camas-Washougal respects and values the rich diversity of our employees, customers, contractors and stakeholders. We have zero tolerance for racism, harassment or intimidation in any form,” the section states. “We are committed to a work environment that is inclusive and values diverse thought and expression.”
“Our highest priority is providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive experience for our employees, tenants and community, free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. As such, the Port of Camas-Washougal strongly condemns acts of discrimination and oppression in all forms, including institutionalized racism,” the new section states. “We further pledge to actively strive to become more inclusive and representative of our entire community, and to encourage our community to do the same.”
The commissioners approved the statement after several weeks of discussions between Port administrators, commissioners and community members.
“I think we’ve had a very good last couple of meetings and discussion in regard to updating (the policy),” David Ripp, the Port’s chief executive officer, said in mid-July. “I feel that we’ve had some good public input (while) going through this policy. The big thing for us was including the diversity portion of it. I think it was vetted very well among the commission, staff and public.”
The policy allows the Port to “take a fresh look at (its) practices and goals with a stronger equity and inclusion lens,” Commissioner Cassi Marshall said.
“Ports are drivers of economic development, and a more inclusive economy is a more productive economy,” Marshall told the Post-Record. “A welcoming and inclusive community helps us attract and retain top-notch businesses and employees to Camas and Washougal, and we all benefit when everyone is able to fully utilize their talents and abilities.
“But the bottom line is that it’s just the right thing to do,” she continued. “As a predominantly white community, we have a lot to learn. I’m sure we’ll stumble through this as we move forward, butI hope we can capitalize on the momentum and the energy that the community has right now. If we have a more tolerant, accepting, open-to-conversation kind of community that’s more informed about these types of issues, we’ll have a healthier community.”
Commissioners John Spencer and Larry Keister also voiced their support for the policy revision.
“I think the most important thing is now we have something in writing to live up to,” Keister said during the Commission’s July 15 virtual meeting. “The most significant factor is the fact that we conduct our business in an ethical manner. We always should look at how we can improve with everything that we do and all the decisions that we make. I think at (our upcoming) strategic planning meeting, we could review this (policy) and say, ‘How are we doing? Are we living up to the standards that we’ve set for ourselves?’ and see if we need to make additional changes at that time.”
Spencer said he believed that, although the Port has good intentions with the policy update, the agency should do its best to follow through and ensure that its actions match its words.
“It does say that we are actively striving to be more inclusive. So what does that mean?” Spencer asked at the July 15 meeting. “We think we’re inclusive, but I look around the room and I see a lot of old, white people. My point is that obviously we’re not meeting a level here. I don’t think it’s purposeful, but we don’t have much diversity.”
“It does bring up the question, ‘What are we going to do about it?'” Spencer continued. “One thought I had was, maybe we should hire somebody to take a look at our operations and tell us if they see a problem in the way we’re operating. I fully recognize that puts another burden on staff, and now might not be the best time. Nor is it necessarily what I’m saying we need to do. But the policy brings up questions for me.”