How do we Measure Equity for Oakland’s iBond?

In the first two months of 2017 Transport Oakland participated in an Infrastructure Bond Working Group, convened by the Mayor’s Office, along with representatives from over 30 community and business organizations. Over three meetings the group tried to tackle the hard question: How do we measure Equity, Mobility, and Resiliency when investing the $600 million raised by Measure KK (aka the iBond) over the next ten years? And how does that translate into actual projects that go into the City’s Capital Improvement Plan – aka the CIP?

So we Passed the iBond – What’s Next?

Measure KK was one of Oakland’s largest-ever electoral successes – this past fall, 82% of Oaklanders voted to reinvest $600 million in our streets, our housing, and our city facilities – partly on the promise that funds will be spent in a way that is equitable, addressing historical disinvestment in Oakland’s underserved flatlands communities.

For the first stage of the iBond, speed is of the essence: the first $200 million of the iBond must get programmed soon into the City’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) in order for any project get built over the next two years. With the looming City budget deadline of June 30th, decisions need to be made now on how the CIP gets programmed.

What Does it Mean to Measure Equity?

But what is the best way to measure Equity for projects as diverse as roadways, libraries, park facilities, firehouses, affordable housing, and more? City staff started by gathering all the data sources they could marshall, then tried to make it accessible and understandable for decision-makers and community members alike. The Working Group representatives provided strong feedback and critiques on this approach – not all data sources can be equally trusted, and there are many factors (historical, institutional, and societal) impacting disadvantaged communities of color that simply aren’t measured. If the point of the iBond is to deliver projects equitably, greater input is needed from disadvantaged communities themselves in how we measure equity and what types of projects best close the gap of historical disinvestment.

With the assistance of the Working Group, staff’s efforts resulted in an Equity Dashboard – mapping information on the demographic and socioeconomic data that will result in objective equity analysis for Measure KK investments. The layers tab (on the far upper right corner of the map) also allows you to overlay lots of other interesting data, like public health data, high collision corridors, or even where there are missing curb ramps at intersections. Give it a spin for yourself – TO approved!

Equitable Outcomes Need an Equitable Process

While the Equity Dashboard will be a useful tool in measuring equity, the biggest takeaway from the working group was that there just weren’t enough people in the room. If we want equitable outcomes from the iBond, we need to have an equitable process in establishing measurements for equity, mobility, and resilience, what that means for how projects are prioritized across Oakland, and how we measure success according to community needs & desires.

To better address equity in the iBond, the City will start a community-driven process this fall to define and measure equity in a way that reflects Oakland’s diverse neighborhoods and needs. The updated equity measurements will be applied to the remaining $400 million of the Infrastructure Bond in future years.

Transport Oakland applauds the City’s commitment to equity and we will work to keep them accountable for an equitable community process later this year.