Just more than a year after Mayor Sam Adams first pitched the creation of a noble-sounding Office of Equity, and then gave it to Commissioner Amanda Fritz to boot up, the two elected leaders have finally found someone to run the thing—a coda for the months of political drama and tension over the office's mission and finances.Dante J. James, an African-American political consultant and former administrative hearing officer from Denver, stood out in a national search to pick what eventually was renamed the Office of Equity and Human Rights.
James, who did legal work for the Clinton administration, also worked as Denver's contract compliance director, making sure city construction jobs were equitably handed to women and minorities. The city's bio for James points specifically to equity-promoting work he did on behalf of Denver's light-rail system:
Dante has been active in social justice causes throughout his more than 25 years in Denver, serving on many political and community boards and commissions. He was most recently the Manager of the Small Business Office for the Regional Transportation District where he oversaw the District’s compliance with federal regulations regarding utilization of disadvantaged and small business on the build-out of metro Denver’s light rail transit system.
Fritz called James a "proven leader in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who will bring energy, passion, and a wealth of varied experiences to help us address the inequities that are apparent in our community.”
But will he bring results? Dan Saltzman, after all, is watching the office. I'll repost his threat from last fall, when the council made the new office official:
"$1.1 million can buy a lot of swimming pool hours, a lot of mental health crisis workers. I'll be watching very closely. If the Office of Equity and Human Rights does nothing more than brown bags and diversity dialogues... then you will not have achieved success. You need to achieve tangible practices, things city employees and city supervisors can get. I will not be supporting $1.1 million in ongoing funds if you fail. But if you succeed, and i hope you do, we will all be better off."
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