Dear Friends & Neighbors,

2020 has been such a tumultuous year. That’s especially clear here in Portland, as anger and frustration with systemic racism and violence against Black people by police have led to over 90 days of nightly protests.

Two weekends ago, right wing antagonists brawled with counter protesters in downtown Portland. Videos and photos showed at least one right wing protester pulling a gun on the crowd. This was a prelude to the tragic shooting downtown on Saturday night, which should have been anticipated and prevented.

While the right has tried to portray our city as dangerous, it was out of town vigilantes who sought to sow violence. On Saturday night, trucks bearing Trump flags plowed through intersections, firing mace and paint balls at bystanders.

Right wing extremists have been emboldened by the President, who has condoned and encouraged violence, demonized our city, and enabled and endorsed the dangerous “parade” we saw on Saturday.

Now someone is dead, and my heart goes out to his family and friends who are suffering from his needless loss of life. 

No matter what the circumstances, this murder is an escalation that may lead to even more violence and chaos, though that doesn’t have to be the case.

Yet the President won't use this event to bring us together, calm the passions, or tone down the dangerous rhetoric. No, instead he’ll use this tragedy to try to further scare and divide us.

Don't take the bait. This is our opportunity to say that violence, especially violence against Black people by police, has no place in the community we seek to build.

We must continue to center that goal - an end to violence.

At the exact same time as the protests were taking place downtown on Saturday, I witnessed a shooting outside of my home. Miraculously no one was hurt, though multiple shots were fired in a neighborhood park. The intended victim was a Black man, and the increase in shootings that we have seen both locally and nationally speak to the fact that systemic racism takes many forms. It shows itself in police brutality, in the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color, and it shows itself in violence. 

High rates of poverty, mass incarceration, job discrimination, education inequities, health disparities, all play a role, and all need to be reimagined in the name of racial justice and equity. It is not just police reform. 

After the shooting, a Portland police officer questioned me about what I witnessed. He was thoughtful, patient, understanding. He was a Black officer, and the entire situation spoke to just how difficult this moment is. 

There are things in this debate that are clearly right and wrong - racism, violence, and greed being chief among the latter category. But there are also shades of grey. Those who try to broadly categorize others - protesters, police, Portlanders - do exactly what our adversaries want: we demonize and prejudge others, we erect walls instead of foster understanding, we identify differences instead of similarities. 

Saturday night was a reminder of our shared humanity. If you wondered “what side of the issue” the murdered person was on, you are on the wrong side. We all need to strive to be better than that. To deconstruct racism and build a beloved society, we have to be. 

Sincerely,

JVP


Help select a preferred alternative for an earthquake-ready Burnside Bridge

If a major Cascadia zone earthquake happened today, none of Portland’s downtown bridges would be available to use for weeks, months, or years.  Multnomah County is working to solve that problem by ensuring that its Burnside Bridge is earthquake-ready.  You can learn about our next major bridge construction project by visiting an online open house through August 31.The open house has a short survey that seeks input on two major decisions: 
  • What is the best alternative for making the bridge earthquake-ready?
  • How should we manage traffic during the four to five years it will take to build a new bridge?
The project’s Community Task Force has recommended the Replacement Long Span option as the preferred alternative. Their recommendation includes:
  • A new bridge with a movable span in the middle, and long spans on each side, reducing the number of columns in unstable soils near the river bank.
  • Closing the bridge during construction, instead of building a $90 million temporary bridge that would include two traffic lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes. Building a temporary bridge would extend construction by 1.5 to 2 years. 
The open house includes animated videos explaining the alternatives and traffic management options.  Another video provides a tour of the bridge and its neighborhood, which includes a world-famous skatepark. Public input on the recommended preferred alternative will be shared with the project’s Policy Group that is co-chaired by me and County Chair Deborah Kafoury. The Policy Group will vote on the recommended preferred alternative on October 2. Construction of an earthquake-ready Burnside Bridge could begin as soon as 2024.  For more information, visit www.burnsidebridge.org.

Preschool for All

Expanding access to preschool for families in our community has been a passion of mine since I first ran for office, and after years of work and countless hours of community, partner, and supporter involvement, we are one step closer to providing Preschool for All in Multnomah County. 

Last week, members of our coalition joined me in briefing the Board of Commissioners on our detailed proposal to provide all 3- and 4-year old children in our community with a high-quality, culturally-appropriate, free preschool education. You can read the full plan, which would be funded by a tax on high income households, here

I hope you'll be as excited about it as I am. At this historic moment, to be able to invest in our underserved Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, in our children, in primarily women-owned businesses, and a women-dominated workforce is a tremendous opportunity and a fitting referral for this Board of Commissioners. 

You can send a message to the Board of Commissioners expressing your support for Preschool for All here


In the Community

While we must socially distance, we don’t need to be completely isolated from each other. That’s why I have been happy to participate in a number of events throughout our community over the past month. I served free summer meals to youth at the Midland Library, talked to the Gresham Chamber of Commerce about the importance of preschool, and spoke about the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. 

Next month, my office will be partnering with the Multnomah Youth Commission to host a digital forum on the four crises we face today: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic collapse, the climate crisis, and the national reckoning over systemic racism.I will be joined by young leaders fighting on the front lines of change to discuss how these crises are impacting young people, and what we need to do next. More information, including how to register and participate, will be shared soon. 


Get Involved!

The Office of Community Involvement is now accepting applications for new Community Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) members. CBACs are groups of community members that review and make recommendations on county departmental budgets and operations, and are one of the key ways the county receives community input on its budget priorities. You can learn more and apply here