Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 26th, 2011 at 10:11 am
The N Williams Ave project continues to inspire a robust discussion about race, bicycle infrastructure and gentrification in North Portland. If you are interested in how these topics intersect in Portland (or how they don’t), I recommend reading through the many thoughtful comments left on previous posts.
Early this morning, a comment came in from Donna Maxey that I felt was worth bringing to the Front Page. You’ll recall that Ms. Maxey was featured in my recap of the last meeting where she explained the context for the hurt and anger that she and others in the community feel around this project.
Maxey is not only a long-time Williams resident, she is also the co-creator of Race Talks, which is billed as an, “interactive panel presentation and dialogue on race.”
(Photo © J. Maus)
Since my name was mentioned so frequently, I thought I would weigh in on this topic in print. By the way, I, too, am a bike rider and an enthusiastic walker. Somehow the point I made initially about this meeting was lost in the fervor. Let me say at the onset, I am not a spokesperson for “the Black community” because it doesn’t exist as a monolithic entity anymore than the White community does.
Our family has lived in this community and had businesses on Williams Avenue and its corridor since the 1940’s. We were notified of the planning committees’ alternatives for Williams Ave. after the public meetings were scheduled by a local business owner who is a friend (by the way, that person is White and felt we should know what’s going on).
Our concern has always been for the safety of the entire community, whether they are residents, passing through as motorists, bike riders, or walkers. As I stated, these are not the first meetings held in this community about the safety of walkers/bikers on Williams — they date back to 1950’s, at least.
“The hurt and anger are not at the cyclist — it is at the losses we suffered and the historical hubris exhibited by the power structure…”
What we, my family, requested of the staff holding the meetings was to be notified so that we could be a part of the planning process since the changes will affect us. We feel that as property owners on Williams we have a right, and presumably should be given the courtesy, to be a part of this discussion. We were met with some arrogance and rudeness for making that request. We persevered anyway.
As to the quote that “I am pissed”: that comment was made in reference to the fact that our family lost our home (which was on a double lot with 2-3 car garages and full of manicured vegetation), my father’s business, our school, our church and our community — some of whom I haven’t seen in over 50 years. We all were forced to sell our homes and businesses to the City, for minimal value, to provide the land for construction of the Broadway Bridge, the I-5 corridor, the expansion of Emanuel Hospital, and the Lloyd Center.
“I would like to see Williams have crosswalks… and possibly have parking on just one side to help ensure visibility for both walkers and vehicular traffic.”
The hurt and anger are not at the cyclist — it is at the losses we suffered and the historical hubris exhibited by the power structure and evidently now some people who don’t know the history of the many attempts to have Williams be a safe avenue. By the way, check out the corner of Williams and Russell — that vacant lot which has been empty for 50 years replaced a drug store, attorney’s office, shoe store, shoe repair shop, bar, pharmacy, hardware store, and apartments, to name a few.
The community will continue to be concerned. And not everybody was Black — there were many White residents/business owners, who were a part of the concern for safety and displacement, as well.
No one seemed to remember me saying this, so hear me now: I would like to see Williams have crosswalks that ensure the safety of walkers and bicyclists, especially between Fremont and Alberta and extending to Killingsworth and possibly have parking on just one side to help ensure visibility for both walkers and vehicular traffic (I’m including cars, bikes, skateboards, etc).
What also needs to be addressed is the safety hazard that bicyclists pose to themselves, walkers and drivers by their lack of observance of traffic laws and “common courtesy”. I’m a nervous wreck driving down the street watching to make sure that I don’t hit someone — and that goes for every community I drive in.
I believe that we all want and should have the safety and well-being, both physically and emotionally, of the entire community as a goal. How we achieve that is up to us. Continuing with a us and them attitude will not help. For the record, “some of my best friends are White people” as well as numerous family members. (Yes, I was being derisive).
Since it was mentioned, please come to Race Talks, which is the second Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm, (sponsored by McMenamins Kennedy School and Uniting to Understand Racism). Race Talks offers the opportunity to hear speakers from the major Communities of Color discuss their personal and historical experiences in Oregon. The panels are followed by facilitated small and large group discussion. I think you will find it enlightening and may help in your understanding of Oregon’s historical events. It may even help you to further develop your opinions with a perspective that include viewpoints to which you may not have been otherwise exposed.
I will be at the future safety meetings. Here’s to a speedy and cordial resolution to this issue.
— Donna Maxey
— For background on this project, browse our previous coverage. You might also consider attending the next Portland Bureau of Transportation meeting which is scheduled for tomorrow night from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.