Dear friends & neighbors,

Growing up, my mom didn’t like to drive. Instead she would take the bus with her two young daughters -- and a third on the way -- one-hour each way from our house in the suburbs to visit her parents in the city. 

For her, the bus was freedom and agency to get where she needed to go without relying on a car. The bus allowed her to go places with her children in the way she was comfortable with and at a reasonable cost.            

The bus we took from our suburb went through neighborhoods that were especially blighted by pollution from oil refineries and steel mills. These neighborhoods intersected with freeways and toll roads. They were neighborhoods where people of color, including my relatives, lived. 

I can’t think about investments in our transportation system without also thinking about how our choices impact the people who have borne the worst burdens of our transportation system and the fossil fuel based economy.  

Last week I had an opportunity to speak at two events and talked about transportation at both. I shared the story of the Albina neighborhood, and how the interstate freeway and urban renewal projects tore a gash through the Black community in ways that we’re still dealing with today. I told them about our region’s poor air quality, particularly around diesel emissions, and how that pollution disproportionately impacts communities of color. I talked about the lack of sidewalks in east Portland. 

This history - the history of marginalized communities - informs how I approach my work today. Whether it's in expanding transit service in east Portland, improving infrastructure along 82nd and 122nd Ave, electrifying the bus fleet to reduce pollution, implementing a low income fare program, or improving safety on outer Powell Blvd, we have to recognize that many communities have been systematically neglected over the years, and we need to lift up those voices and those communities.  

That’s one of the benefits of having a board of county commissioners composed entirely of women, a majority of whom are people of color. We bring with us a natural focus on marginalized communities - because we’ve lived and experienced that marginalization. We have an understanding of how to empower people, because we ourselves have been empowered through the work of others. And we know how to make space for new ideas and new voices - in fact, we welcome them. We think about equity and inclusion and embed it in our policies, our decisions and in our investments. And it makes a difference.  We can’t right all the wrongs of the past, but we can recognize those errors and try to do better going forward.  

In your service,


PS: Find more information on our various strategies and programs..


Pride 2019: 50 years after Stonewall

JVP; LS; SM at Pride 2019 BOCC Pride 2019

Here at Multnomah County we will remain a safe and welcoming place for our LGBTQ siblings. To reaffirm that commitment, I was honored to co-sponsor the 2019 Pride Proclamation with Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. We were proud to declare June 2019 Pride month in Multnomah County, and excited to join the annual Pride parade later that week. 

50 years ago this month members of the LGBTQ community, led by trans women of color, stood up for themselves at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village after years of oppression by the NYPD. The struggles of the Stonewall Uprising eventually built the modern LGBTQ rights movement. 

Today, while we have seen much progress in the fight for equal rights, members of the LGBTQ community are still facing terrible oppression. Trans women of color are being murdered on our streets -- with at least ten lives lost just in 2019 due to violence. The federal government under Trump has begun an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, including allowing discrimination against gay parents and banning trans people from serving openly in the US military. It is essential that every leader, at every level, step up to say that we will not stand for this discrimination, and we will fight alongside our LGBTQ friends and family every step of the way on the road to equality. 

Subscribe to Commissioner Vega Pederson's newsletter.