We have a responsibility to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color are leading our efforts to address climate change and to create healthy communities. As a graduate of the NAACP Climate Justice program I am equipped to address these pressing needs at Portland City Council. Though the City of Portland has a vision of moving us to a 100% renewable future by 2050 I am concerned that low income communities once again are not being included at the front end of this process. We must:
- Reduce harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gases
- Advance energy efficiency and clean energy projects that benefit all of Portland while improving the economic prospects of those left behind
- Strengthen community resilience and livability
- Be a national model of responding to climate change and economic inequality
Portland Just Energy Transition
In order to move towards our vision, we need to pass and implement the Portland Clean Energy Fund. I support and have helped champion the creation of the Portland Clean Energy Fund which will be on the November 2018 Portland city ballot. This measure will create a Business License Surcharge of 1% on large retail operations with at least $1 billion dollars in national sales and $.5 million sales in the city of Portland. This will raise a pool of resources estimated at $30-35 million annually that will be focused on those left out of the economic prosperity in Portland, through investment in the people and communities most impacted by climate change and economic inequities. This fund will be managed by a community oversight board of community members modeled after the Portland Children’s Levy.
The measure is a partnership between Coalition of Communities of Color, Portland Audubon, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, APANO, NAYA, Verde, 350PDX, Sierra Club and the NAACP Portland Branch. There are currently 140 community, faith and non-profit organizations already signed on in support of our efforts. This measure is a model of centering communities disproportionately impacted by these issues and engaging them in problem solving that benefits the entire community.
I live on Portland’s East side and use our bus system. My experiences as a Trimet rider have helped shape my belief that our community needs access to free and widely available public transportation. I believe in a Portland where you can get where you need to go without using a car and that you shouldn’t be punished for taking the bus by having it take twice as long to get there. This Portland is possible if we prioritize expanding our current system, making it free and securing and expanding our Youth Pass for students. We must make these changes because transportation is the second biggest expense for households after housing. As Portland grows we also need to support options like the SW Corridor Project that Metro is working on, and I look forward to working in coalition with Metro leaders to make these projects a reality.
All of this work needs to be done before we consider congestion pricing. People of color in our community have been pushed to the edges of town, and I don’t believe that it is just to then charge those community members for the privilege to come back for work or play. Additionally, when drivers look for alternatives to taxed roads, we know they will turn to other options. Those roads won’t be prepared for additional traffic and will jeopardize our commitment to Vision Zero. I am committed to building a Portland where no one should die trying to get where they need to go. I also believe that consideration of congestion pricing requires deep community conversations where everyone can participate. Under some models, the money raised through congestion pricing can only be used to build more roads such as freeways. That is not compatible with our city’s climate solution goals and we need to be thinking about how to invest in other modes of transportation. I look forward to working with community advocates and the team at PBOT to supporting the work they have been doing on these issues and to break through the political gridlock that has been holding us back.