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Activists target Portland's 'worst polluters' with mass bike ride

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 21st, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Activists took to the streets on bikes
to protest local corporations.
(Photos: Hart Noecker)

"While often lauded as being a bastion of sustainability and forward thinking green politics, Portland houses some of the most ecologically destructive corporations on the planet."

— Hart Noecker, activist and author of Mismanaging Perception

That quote sums up the motivation behind a new series of group bike rides being organized by environmental activists who have been spurred into action by their opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

According to one of the ride's participants, Hart Noecker (who's also a noted anti-CRC activist and organizer of the PDX Bike Swarm), the event attracted 60 people who rode en masse from Lloyd Center to downtown Portland. Along the way, the riders stopped inside offices of various corporations that they believe have ties to tar sands oil interests.

Swarming a Chevron station.
Group shot outside the offices of David Evans and Associates.

Activists listen to a speech given on the steps of ESCO Corp.

The riders stopped at the ESCO Corp factory in the northwest industrial area. ESCO is a company they say is "invested heavily in manufacturing the drill bits and dragline buckets needed for ecologically devastating tar sands extraction, strip mining, and hydraulic fracking." To raise awareness of their concerns, people on the ride made speeches outside the ESCO offices and then hand-delivered a "letter of condemnation" to an ESCO rep inside.

"Returning" a bag of coal to Brian Gard.

The riders also "swarmed" a Chevron gas station and made a stop outside the headquarters of the Portland Business Alliance, an organization they resent for their "1950s car-only rhetoric" and for supporting "auto-centric infrastructure like the Columbia River Crossing." Upon hearing that U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer is slated to speak at a PBA luncheon next week, they stopped and dialed his office on-the-spot to express their disapproval. At the downtown PR firm of Gard Communications, whom the activists accuse of being paid to represent an Australian company that is lobbying to build a coal export terminal in our region, a few riders entered the office and delivered a bag of coal to Brian Gard himself. The ride also stopped at the offices of planning firm David Evans and Associates, which has made millions off a consulting contract for the CRC project.

You can see a full recap of the ride and watch videos of the demonstrations and office visits on the Mismanaging Perception blog. And if you missed the ride, Round 2 is slated for tomorrow at 5:30 pm. Meet at Holladay Park in the Lloyd District at 5:00 (FB event listing).

To give you sense of the perspective these activists have, here's a description of tomorrow's event:

"There will be good music and merriment to accompany our sense of outrage at people who would profit from destruction of the planet. It might sound strange, but there's no better way to demonstrate the absurdity of our current societal course than to contrast it with positive energy."

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Comments
  • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Hurrah for cheerful, human powered, protests of nasty corporations!

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  • Nathan March 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    How is swarming a Chevron station being productive? Unless these activists are offering the employees there better jobs you're just being a dick; pumping gas all day is bad enough.

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Why are you assuming that the protesters (or the employees for that matter) are unable to differentiate between an oil company that is hell bent on ruining everyone's future in the name of profits--climate change be damned--and employees who happen to work for said corporation. If the protesters were pieing the attendants or cat-calling them that would be one thing but I somehow doubt that this was their approach, from reading Jonathan's article here.

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      • Nathan March 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

        The term, "swarming" and the picture accompanying it don't put the protesters in a positive light for me. The rest of the article doesn't really either. It's not that I disagree with their positions, it's that I don't care for their methods, as they've been portrayed in the article at least.

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    • Todd Hudson March 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Moreover, the Chevron station is most likely a franchise - it's owned by someone local, not Chevron. Basically the only thing blockading a gas station has done is take money out of the pockets of one of the 99%.

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      • BURR March 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm

        doubtful it's a franchise, more and more gas stations are corporate owned these days; at any rate, you would need to invest a couple million to get and operate a gas station franchise, so you'd need to be doing a bit better than the 99% in the first place.

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      • Hart Noecker March 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        Less than 2% of the money from filling up at the pump goes to the franchise owner. The other 98% leaves our community to go live in offshore, untaxed bank accounts of billionaires who couldn't care less about the working class or the toxic air their product produces.

        And when are we finally finally finally going to stop putting jobs and profits above the environment? If somebody's job involves poisoning the air, then I'm sorry, but their job means absolutely nothing to me. They should know better.

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  • Jon March 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    My guess is that 90% of the components on those bikes were made in the the most polluted country in the world (China) and shipped accross the ocean in ships burning bunker oil. If you want to decrease pollution don't buy things made countries like China that either don't have environmental laws or don't enforce them. The worst factory in Europe or the USA is probably 10 times cleaner in terms of emissions and 10 times safer for the workers. The only reason we are exporting coal to China is so their factories can make all the low cost junk we buy here in the USA.

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      I agree that not buying anything made in China is or should be very high on anyone's list of actions/non-actions, but I'm not sure I follow your logic that suggests these folks have no legitimate gripe/should stay home/or whatever because their bike tires were made in China. If we have to wait to figure out how to be perfect we're likely going to lose lots of unfought battles.

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      • naess March 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        it's the typical: "if you can't be 100% about a cause then why even try" mentality.

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        • rain bike March 22, 2013 at 6:48 am

          If you can't be 100% then you've defined your "cause" poorly. Focus your argument/action and stop being sloppy just because it's easier.

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    • spare_wheel March 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      I have 4 bikes and the frames, components, pedals, and fenders all came from the USA, Taiwan, Japan, Germany or Malaysia.

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    • Jon March 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      It seem to me that people want to do the easy thing which is hold a protest march/ride for a couple of hours instead of doing the difficult things like reducing their purchases of things made in heavily polluting countries and shipped long distances. To me it is like slapping a "buy local" bumper sticker on a SUV build overseas.

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      • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 3:29 pm

        I think the easy thing is sitting at home taking potshots at folks who actually did something.
        Where do you get the idea that this is an either-or thing? Do the protesters look like flagrant consumers to you? Maybe you should ride along, get to know some of these folks before you judge them.

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        • rain bike March 21, 2013 at 4:01 pm

          "Sitting at home taking potshots"? Excuse me. I'm at work. Uh oh, I think I hear the boss coming. Gotta go.

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    • BURR March 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      No, we're exporting coal to China because demand for coal is dropping in the US, China is a willing buyer, and the coal mining companies are responding to the laws of supply and demand in order to protect their profits.

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    • Dan March 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Well, Jon. I was on that ride and I can say for certain that most of the bikes were made in Taiwan or Japan in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Don't forget that the computers you and I are using are made of toxic, destructive components that cost human and non human lives; that is to say, I don't think you have a point.

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  • Phil Kulak March 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Politicians don't give a crap about "protests". If every one of these guys had stayed home and just called their representative, they'd have done for more for their cause. This just seems like a farce to me.

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Phil,
      did you call your representative?

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    • Hart Noecker March 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      I guess Phil didn't read the article too well, looks like he missed where we ALL called our representative. No matter. He can sit home, and we'll keep putting bikes in the street and disrupting business as usual for ecologically bankrupt corporations.

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      • Phil Kulak March 23, 2013 at 10:40 pm

        Yup, I'm sure ExxonMobil was super disrupted that day. Just do one more march. You've got 'em on the ropes!

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        • Hart Noecker March 24, 2013 at 1:44 am

          We didn't go to ExxonMobile, thanks for paying attention, Phil.

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    • Caleb March 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      If I call my representative from home, nobody in the public learns my perspective. Perhaps those protesting weren't thinking as narrowly as whether or not politicians learn anything.

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  • jim March 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I talked to a tanker driver one day that delivers to different stations. He told me it is all the same gas from the same tanks. The only difference is the additives that they put in the tanker of gas when it leaves the yard.

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  • SilkySlim March 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Portlandia Alert !!! Protesting against others protest methods !!!

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  • jeff March 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    lots of plastic helmets in those shots, made from oil.
    lots of synethetic cloth, some made from oil.
    riding on a road...made with oil.

    photos taken, produced, edited, and published using oil products.
    paint, steel piping, shoe rubber, tires, all made from oil products.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • spare_wheel March 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      the perfect is the enemy of the good.

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    • Dan Kaufman March 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      There is no hypocrisy here, Jeff. What is being protested is the unwise and over-polluting extraction and use of fossil fuels.

      You are right to point out so many incredibly petroleum products. It so obviously counterproductive that we would just burn it for a little temporary energy output and short-term profit.

      It'd be like burning old-growth Sitka Spruce to heat your house.

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  • J-R March 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    This is just what bicyclists need - another reason for the general public to hate us for being "better than they are." I'd much rather these dedicated protesters used other modes to get to the protest locations. I don't want some pissed off employee, owner, sympathizer deciding to show his disgust with the protest by buzzing (or worse) a convenient target of opportunity like me (or my child) on a bike.

    By all means protest what you oppose, but please don't drag me and my kids into it. People aren't always rational when they're threatened.

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      "I'd much rather these dedicated protesters used other modes to get to the protest locations."

      You lost me there.
      Folks here on bikeportland are already having a field day criticizing the imagined provenance of these folks' bicycle components and you're suggesting that they should, what - drive? Taking the bus is out I think because bus schedules don't follow protest routes.

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      • J_R March 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        9watts - I'm not sure if you're intentionally trying to misunderstand, but let me try again. People tend to sterotype whether it's right or not. I would rather that protesters against this issue not make bicycles a significant, identifiable element of the protest. Because some of those viewing the protest and disagreeing with it will be offended (rightly or wrongly). What I don't need is having someone else pissed off at bicyclists for a real or imagined challenge or attack againt them. In an ideal world, people don't sterotype and look at the individual's action, attributing that to only the individual, but that's not the real world.

        So, as I said before, go have a great time protesting, but look at the potential negative consequences. I'd rather you dressed in gang colors, drove jacked-up 4x4's, or did anything other than identify yourselves principally as bicyclists. Bicyclists face enough risk with people being careless without adding another possible enemy.

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        • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          J-R, I have a suggestion. Why don't you and your friends dress up in gang colors and drive jacked up 4x4s and conduct your protest, and let these folks do it their way. We can then compare the two on stereotype-portland.org.
          I hear what you are saying about stereotyping, but I don't think Hart et al. are that concerned about hypothetical repercussions against this group to which you see yourself belonging, when the very real issues they are protesting are already underway, not hypothetical at all.

          What you may be missing (my interpretation) is that the bicycles are actually an integral part of the protest, an expression of an alternative, a rejection of the chemicals, money, concentration of power and violence, devil-take-the-hindmost, capitalist thing. Whether anyone understands or appreciates your protest's symbolism or theirs is an open question.

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    • BURR March 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      sorry, but a protester on a bicycle doesn't represent all bicyclists any more than a protester on foot represents all pedestrians.

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    • Caleb March 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      The people being stereotyped are not the ones dragging you and your kids into it. The people stereotyping are the ones who bring you and your kids into it. Please don't fault the protesters for something somebody else did/does/will do.

      Yes, the reality is that people can stereotype in response to such a protest, but because stereotyping is an illogical act, people can stereotype in response to anything whatsoever. Just look at assumptions in this thread about what the protesters' values are, where the protesters' goods came from, etc. Stereotyping won't end until those who stereotype recognize they do it and stop doing it. Such awareness will not be fostered by avoiding expression for fear others will stereotype in response to that expression.

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  • A.K. March 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I'm a cyclist that owns shares in an oil well and tar sand production area in Alberta, Canada. I wish I could just ride my damn bike without having it tied to political positions.

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      "I'm a cyclist that owns shares in an oil well and tar sand production area in Alberta, Canada. I wish I could just ride my damn bike without having it tied to political positions."

      The politics you decry are the direct result of so many people, so many pension funds, etc. giving their money to these corporations who then do two things with it
      - buy politicians, and
      - ruin our climate by drilling for and selling us oil

      The only way the politics will go away is if we stop using oil/coal/natural gas and/or stop investing our money with the oil companies.

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    • spare_wheel March 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      so stop whining about the 1st amendment and ride your bike.

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  • Barney March 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Did I miss the part where they stopped to protest at the Apple Store? They certainly qualify as being one of the worst polluting companies on the planet! Or are we giving them a pass because their stuff is cool?

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    • 9watts March 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      It looks to me like this protest was focused on the oil/gas/car/climate nexus. If you spread yourself over all possible evils the message can get diluted (and you might never get home). Something to be said for focus.

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      • Barney March 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        Oh, I thought it was about the "worst polluters" as mentioned in the headline. Still, I am embarassed by these protesters on bicycles and upset about how it reflects on me as a cyclist. Thanks "bike swarmers" for once again effing up the public image of cyclists!

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        • Dan March 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

          I don't think Apple is based in Portland. This ride was to target companies whose headquarters are in our fair city.

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        • Caleb March 24, 2013 at 9:03 pm

          The public image of anything, like "beauty", is in the mind of the beholder(s). Please don't blame "bike swarmers" for the inaccurate perception others assume.

          Do you think, perhaps, that your embarrassment results from conflating your reputation with that of cyclists in general? If so, such behavior is the complement of those who stereotype cyclists, because it is the act of you stereotyping how others perceive you.

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  • Brad March 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    What Happened - protesters on bikes swarm gas station to speak against practices they disagree with.

    What John Q. Public Saw - "Some d'bag group of bikers or whatever they call themselves was freakin' riding all over the corner Chevron acting like fools. Man, I hate those guys! Never obeying the traffic laws..."

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    • Nicholas Caleb March 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      John Q. Public doesn't exist so instead of inventing a fictional character, you should just stick to your own impressions and stop pretending you have any insight into how others react to things. I'm sure some people didn't understand what was going on, but we talked to quite a few people on our stops and did a lot of media outreach.

      If the bike community in this city had any fight in it like I hear it did in the 90's, we'd have world class bicycle and public transpo infrastructure already. Instead, we get people who think that they have something special as it is and are afraid to demand anything better.

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  • Nicholas Caleb March 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    The whole thing was livestreamed so you can see what happened and apparently no one posting uninformed BS actually bothered to watch any of the videos or read any of the articles posted on our website.

    Meanwhile, you can continue to ignorantly breathe in the heavy metals (lead, arsenic, chromium 6 yummmm) that spew out of ESCO's manufacturing facility and poison you and your kids so that they can construct equipment to mine the tar sands and push us over the climate cliff. Better not say anything or make a fuss! Just accept how things are.

    Sometimes I wonder what the point is of spending countless hours of research writing articles to spell out exactly what's going on so people can casually ignore them and fixate on the first feeling they get. "Gasp! They spent 5 minutes at a gas station! Well, I bet they really inconvenienced someone. I don't even care that they were expressed solidarity with indigenous peoples in BC who are being harassed because why should my precious time have to be interrupted!? Awww jeeez that makes me mad!" Would you believe that we were long gone before we were even asked to leave? Probably not.

    Solidarity.

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    • Nicholas Caleb March 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      One more thing: we're doing it again tomorrow at 5:00 at Holladay Park. Leave to tour the next group of Portland's Worst Polluters (specifically tied to energy exports) at 5:30. Like Jonathan says, this ride will be similarly positive, super informative, and a hell of a lot of fun.

      The comment trolls are invited to come check it out.

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    • Scott March 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      What articles?

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      • Hart Noecker March 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        The articles that Jonathan linked to. Read more betterly, please.

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        • Nicholas Caleb March 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm

          There are tons. Just browse the site. Read the "Brand Portland" article.

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        • Scott March 28, 2013 at 9:22 am

          Are you referring to the blog as 'articles'? Please write more clearerly.

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    • Nathan March 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Your candor here is why I have no interest in your protest.

      Instead of reaching out, you lash out.

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      • Caleb March 24, 2013 at 9:08 pm

        I don't consider "lashing out" ideal, either, but I can see that others were antagonizing them before they directed anything remotely negative toward their antagonists. If they can be seen as "lashing out", surely we could say their critics were also "lashing out".

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  • ActiveTim March 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I too worry that bikes swarms that disrupt business are more negative than positive. The best move is first to engage "wrong doing" business by leveraging our laws and getting engaged legally in our political system. All the participates in the bike swarms could likely have a much more positive social impact if their actions were redirected. BTW- I do appreciate your fight, its the right fight, just not good behavior, nor productive. It is not fair for us as individuals to disrupt business we deem are right or wrong. Its very much a slippery slope. It is ok to vote with your wallet.

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    • Hart Noecker March 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      'Vote with your wallet' yeah, there's a wonderfully subservient market based solution.

      Don't disrupt business as usual? No thanks, disrupting business, general strikes, sit ins, shaming corrupt authority figures, challenging a broken system and engaging in civil disobedience is what Americans should pride themselves on. We don't get progress by obeying the rules. We don't change the course of human events by sitting home and of offering criticisms while doing nothing of actual merit.

      I'm entirely content with the actions we're taking, and I'm willing to tolerate and even respond to negative comments from anonymous internet avatars armchair-quarterbacking the actions of a radical climate justice movement.

      Even more so, I relish it, for we know that being criticized by liberals cozy with the status quo is a sure fire sign we're doing our job right.

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      • Mike March 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

        How about setting up a bunch of tents and inviting as many street people as possible to join your cause. That seemed to work very well.

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  • Randy March 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Perhaps it's the buses... who has measured the amount of pollution from one Metro bus per day?

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  • Peter W March 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    More people should be talking about that Brian Gard guy. I suggest reading this:

    http://www.portlandoccupier.org/2012/09/19/speaking-power-to-truth-brian-gard-and-ambre-energy/

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  • Chris I March 22, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Maybe focus this energy on more funding for bike infrastructure? Or raising the gas tax? Things that might actually have an effect on our city's overall emissions?

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    • Hart Noecker March 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Who needs infrastructure when you're rolling 60 deep? And your carbon tax is a joke. Incentivizing new forms of revenue dependent on pollution will only create more pollution. Even a 5 year old knows that.

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  • tnash March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

    dingbats. at least they are having fun and pretending to be making a difference

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  • Granpa March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

    To Hart Noecker
    I work at David Evans and Associates, and your characterization that DEA is among Portland’s “worst polluters” is bullsh!t. I say this as a liberal, so I know that although republicans can make up their own facts, liberals must have their facts straight and verified. DEA does work on the CRC, and we have an office dedicated to that work located in the state or our Client, Washington. I don’t know how that fact slipped past your team of researchers, but the office visited by the bike swarm does not work on CRC. The person you wrote your memo to (I couldn’t make out the name- Patricia something?), the lobbyist you claim is scandalously unethical, does not work for DEA. We are a consulting and design firm, not a lobby shop. We hire that out. You present two falsehoods (or deceptions) to disparage the name of a local company. That is not cool.

    In making your “protest” you enter the lobby our workplace with an anarchist circus, with people in masks and you bring your left field inquiries to our young receptionist. She remained professional, but she was creeped out. If you were well versed on current events you might recall a shooting in Clackamas, or Newtown Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado. Some bad stuff is going on, and you guys shop at the same stores. Your letter to Patricia (?) was sprinkled with snarky asides and my point is that you really have no idea how to present ideas in an adult manner.

    So, DEA is on the team of many consultants that is designing a transportation improvement to address issues that exist. The United States have adopted cars, trucks and roads as their transportation system. I’ll admit that is inefficient, and the externalities associated with that choice will have negative consequences. Still that is reality so the context for the bridge and freeway work is the world as it is, not the world as idealists wish it to be. Still for the sake of brevity I will concede that the CRC will enable suburban sprawl, facilitate global climate change and compromise the character of down town Vancouver and Jantzen Beach.

    DEA is not a monolithic target of hate. We are leaders in the design of just the type of projects that you want done. We have environmental scientists, urban planners, light rail designers and the vital but unglamorous surveyors and engineers whose unheralded work is so vital to our way of life. Retired DEA landscape architect Mel Stout won a national award from the American Society for Landscape Architects as one of the founding members and strongest advocate of the 40 Mile Loop. (Back when it was only 40 miles) DEA is designing multi-use trails all over the metropolitan area and we are even involved in visionary and creative projects like the Oregon City boardwalk and Gateway Green.

    I won’t say DEA is perfect. In fact I frequently mention to executive leadership just how I think it is flawed, but I first know of what I speak and don’t make my presentation a theatre of the absurd.

    The narrow minded ignorance and juvenile antics with which you disrespect MY HOUSE is worthy of an apology. Jonathan has my email, so he can contact me for a meeting. I would be happy to meet Hart Noecker in a local pub to discuss.

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    • Granpa March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Oh, The name is Bob Marshall

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    • 9watts March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am

      "We are a consulting and design firm, not a lobby shop. We hire that out."

      That's quite the defense, Bob.

      The name is Patricia McCaig. You might want to read the Willamette Week's cover story from last month
      http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-20317-the_woman_behind_the.html

      "I will concede that the CRC will enable suburban sprawl, facilitate global climate change and compromise the character of down town Vancouver and Jantzen Beach."

      No one is holding you responsible for this, but I think holding David Evans & Associates responsible is not a reach at all. Why exactly do you think fingering DEA is wrong? Or is it that you would have preferred if Hart & friends had worn suits and sent the missive by e-mail?

      "...know of what I speak and don’t make my presentation a theatre of the absurd."

      grouchy blog posts vs. protest theater in the streets... hm. Clear winner?

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    • Barney March 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Granpa, an excellent response!!! Dont get your hopes up that it will dissuade the swarm though. They have their delusions, and having the facts can only confuse them!

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    • spare_wheel March 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      "DEA does work on the CRC..."

      but they should not have protested at *your* office. i remember when "liberals" actually supported the right to protest.

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