One-on-One Interview With Kellie Ware-Seabron, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Analyst for the City of Pittsburgh
Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Councilmembers R. Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess introduced legislation that will require City of Pittsburgh Departments to embed equity and inclusive practices into their operations. The Councilmembers, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition (PBEOC), worked with Mayor Peduto and the Pittsburgh All-In Cities’ Equitable Development Collaborative to draft the legislation.
The legislation consists of four primary components:
- A resolution declaring the City of Pittsburgh to be an “All-In” city;
- An ordinance supplementing the Pittsburgh Code to add equity reporting requirements of Department Directors;
- A Resolution establishing an Equity and Inclusion Implementation Team
- An ordinance amending the Pittsburgh Zoning Code to require Affordable Housing Impact Statements
All-In Pittsburgh caught up with Kellie Ware-Seabron, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Analyst for the City of Pittsburgh, to see how the legislation is coming to life in the day-to-day operations.
Kellie Ware-Seabron is working hard to create a more equitable Pittsburgh, a city, according to Ware-Seaborn, where your race, the neighborhood you live in, your finances, your sexual orientation, your gender identity or expression, your immigration status and your education level doesn’t determine your quality of life. It’s a Pittsburgh where all communities are doing well, and every resident is meaningfully participating in and enjoying the city’s success.
One way to get there is down a policy path. How does the legislation begin to address inequities and disparities?
The legislation acknowledges the existence of the inequities and disparities present in Pittsburgh today. It explicitly acknowledges the sense that there are two different Pittsburghs that our residents are living in and that is a huge start. You can’t address what you refuse to see and in that way, the signing of the legislation itself is groundbreaking for Pittsburgh. Beyond that, it calls on every department to become more equitable, and no that can’t happen overnight, but we’ve begun the process. We’re making every department think about equity, and eventually a failure to do so is likely to reflect negatively on their budget requests. Yes, there is more to the quality of life of city residents than what goes on in individual city departments, but we’re trying to get our own house in order and lead by example.
Regarding the ordinance requiring department directors across the city to regularly report progress on diversity and equity, how many departments are currently adhering to this recently adopted ordinance? What diversity benchmarks are required to receive public funds via City Council?
All city departments recently underwent a training from GARE (Government Alliance on Racial Equity) and Race Forward, which challenged them to ask as they make every decision, how will this choice impact people of color in Pittsburgh? It was a wonderful training, and the first step in fulfilling this piece of legislation. Selected departments underwent a more detailed training. We will work with each of these directors to develop equity and diversity goals tailored to their department, and they’ll work towards those goals over the coming year. These departments will serve as a pilot so that we can become more familiar with the process and work out any kinks before rolling the process out across all city departments.
Another ordinance amended the Pittsburgh Zoning Code to require Affordable Housing Impact Statement prior to any new construction. Are prospective developers now required to study and report how projects will alter the local housing market? When will this go into effect, and how will this benefit residents?
The statement itself is winding itself through the approval process to become official. In the meantime however, prospective developers are required to go through the process of meeting with the registered community organization (“RCO”) of the neighborhood they’re developing in, if there is one. The RCO has the opportunity to ask those questions and is tasked with gathering community feedback. As developments accepting most public dollars are required to go before the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the community has another opportunity to hear about the development and provide input. These existing processes will catch some, but not all impacts of a proposed development on the local housing market and that is why the Affordable Housing Impact Statement will play an important role in standardizing the information that is presented to the community and other decision makers. I think that the three processes working in tandem will really help to protect residents and ensure a more equitable development in the future.
A resolution established an Equity and Inclusion Implementation Team to oversee these initiatives. Has that team been formed, and does this include the equity analyst position?
While I have been involved in the implementation of All-In initiatives, the Implementation Team hasn’t met yet as we are still in the foundational stages of unrolling this initiative.
How is the city supporting All-in Pittsburgh after formally declaring Pittsburgh a part of the “All-In Cities Initiative”?
The city is supporting All-In Pittsburgh by participating in its leadership and action teams. This not only shows its support but also helps to foster a connection and increase communication between the various groups that are doing equity work, stakeholders and community members and city government. Councilmen Burgess and Lavelle have also recently introduced legislation to combat racism that if adopted, in part would create an All-In Cities Leadership Forum, doubling down on the commitment to be an All-In city and using the All-In Cities policy recommendations.
Kelli Ware-Seaborn says equitable development is a priority for the City of Pittsburgh. She states they are still figuring out what that looks like and how to get there, but it is a priority, in part because it’s the right thing to do, but also in part because there’s this increasing awareness that you can’t sink half of a ship and if the city allows certain segments of the population to sink, we all go down together.
Written by Heather Hopson of Motor Mouth Multimedia