Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Council candidate Sharon Maxwell played role in Williams Ave re-design process

Posted by on January 9th, 2014 at 9:43 am

Sharon Maxwell at an open house for the
Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations
Project in April 2011.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Sharon Maxwell, the latest challenger to Commissioner Nick Fish’s seat on Portland City Council, might be a familiar name to many BikePortland readers. Maxwell spoke up early and often during the public process to update the design of North Williams Avenue.

For those who don’t remember, the City of Portland’s North Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations Project began as just another transportation project, but ended up as a citywide conversation on bicycling, race, and gentrification. The project became a case study for urban planners, garnered national media attention, and became the subject of academic research.

At the project’s first open house in April 2011 (just four months after it officially launched), at the urging of project staff, I interviewed Sharon Maxwell (who went by Maxwell-Hendricks at the time) to hear her perspectives and concerns about the proposed changes. As a Portland native who grew up and owned a business near Williams Avenue, Maxwell had a lot to say. At that time, she was opposed to major bike access improvements. She felt that the changes were being pushed by a “small percentage of bicyclists”, that the bike access would take up space needed to park cars for her church and local businesses, and that bike traffic should be routed over to Rodney Street instead.

At a subsequent meeting on the project a few months later, Maxwell once again voiced concerns. At that point, she began pushing the City to make the decision-making process more inclusive. During an address to the Stakeholder Advisory Committee she said, “I’m trying to paint the picture that we’re not against bicyclists, we’re not against change, but we as a community of color, we want to be involved in the change, we want to be participators in the change.” It was at that meeting, in June 2011, that the bureau of transportation announced they would delay any decisions on the project in order to address Maxwell’s (and other people’s) concerns.

I happened to record several minutes of Maxwell’s address to the committee and you can listen to it below:
[audio:WilliamsSAC_Hendricks.mp3|titles=Sharon Maxwell Hendricks at the Williams project meeting]

When the topic of racism once again dominated a project meeting in July 2011, Maxwell was more blunt in her frustration about the biking and walking safety improvements that were on the table: “You say you want it ‘safe’ for everybody, how come it wasn’t safe 10 years ago?,” she asked. “That’s part of the whole racism thing… we wanted safe streets back then; but now that the bicyclists want to have safe streets than it’s all about the bicyclists getting safe streets.”

In her professional life, Maxwell is a carpenter and tradeswoman who owned her own contracting business. She is also active in the community and has developed youth job training programs. On her campaign website, Maxwell lays out her perspective on many issues, including why she deserves to be on City Council:

We can raise our level of shared community, wellness and cultural inclusiveness with all aspects of City services and citizen interactions so that all residents will benefit from true community support, cohesion and “belonging”. I want to do everything I can to help this happen.

Commissioner Fish’s term is up at the end of this year and the elections will be in May.

If you’d like to learn more about Maxwell, check out her official Facebook page and campaign website.

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  • medium-fat tyres January 9, 2014 at 9:54 am

    what is her position these days?

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  • Rob Chapman January 9, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I’m not sure how the North Williams redesign is much of an issue since PBOT has yet to take any actual action on it. It’s going to be even more “exciting” to ride there once all of the new housing goes up. I may start preparing for that by rewatching the Mad Max films as a form of training.

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  • A.K. January 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I’d like to know if she is happy with how the process turned out.

    Did the extra inclusion result in a better final product?

    I know the design has nothing to do with Sharon Maxwell, but it seems like the city tried SO HARD to please everyone that the final design will be a complete cluster-f and worse than the current situation.

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    • Rob Chapman January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      What IS the final design? The header photos on PBOT’s project have a caption saying “Final Report August 2012” yet there is a big empty hole under the Final Report and Recommendation header. Awesome.

      You may not need to worry about a final product happening any time soon A.K.

      Regardless of her possible views on bike facilities, Ms. Maxwell’s bio suggests a person who actually makes things happen. She certainly has my interest as a Council candidate.

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    • are January 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      please be specific

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  • medium-fat tyres January 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    so far I find her objections to be vague, puzzling and devoid of any plan for the future. wondering what her role as a contractor has to do with all of this, and if she is angry about bids that she did not win.

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  • KRhea January 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    medium-fat tyres
    so far I find her objections to be vague, puzzling and devoid of any plan for the future. wondering what her role as a contractor has to do with all of this, and if she is angry about bids that she did not win.
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    Sharon is not “angry” at anyone nor about any thing. Sharon like many others from an community, long forgot about, is simply frustrated. I was at a few of those meetings and I heard what she had to say and how she said it “live and person”. It wasn’t anger, it was frustration, emotion and a sense of seeing her community, a community she grew up in, once again in position for a major change without the powers that be listening to and more importantly “hearing” what long time residents, businesses and supporters had to say. I don’t have any idea where she stands today on the subject, however, kudos to her for standing up for her community, voicing her concerns and doing so without anger yet with concern and dedication that whatever happens related to the project, the actual members of that community will be heard. Kudos to Sharon for not being one of 1000s who complain and complain loudly, especially on message boards, yet sit on their butts and do nothing about what it is their complaining about. Sharon wants change and she wants a direct say in that change, so she was moved to action, good for her. More of us should be so inclined.

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    • Huey Lewis January 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      That’s awesome, but her actions seemed focused on the wrong face of change for this neighborhood. Williams Ave. lane markings has more to do with keeping people safe than pricing people out of a neighborhood/changing a neighborhood. Am I way off base? Super wrong?

      There are what looks like 2 wine shops on Williams now….

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      • Chris I January 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

        Come on. We all know that if you build bike lanes that your neighborhood will turn into a white male hipster paradise. Just look at SE Holgate east of I-205 now…

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  • medium-fat tyres January 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    this is sort of what i’m talking about.

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    • Rob Chapman January 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      I think she makes some good points. I’d hate to lose Cherry Sprout Produce because of Trader Joe’s.

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    • KRhea January 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I still don’t see “anger”. I see a person asking questions, wanting answers and being frustrated perhaps by the sound of “crickets”…If you “touched base” with the area you’d realize she’s not alone in her feelings as it relates to local businesses being awarded contracts for local “improvement”, however, again, that’s not her “soap box”, she wants/wanted the entire Albina/N.Williams community simply to have a voice and be heard. A pretty fair request I’d say AND, if it were the neighborhood I grew up in, raised my kids in, supported both with my wallet and my business then I’d be a bit emotional, direct and perhaps even raise my voice as well.

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      • Oregon Mamacita January 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

        I am very interested in what she has to say. She may be the best advocate for Brentwood-Darlington. I can imagine her drawing support from East Portland. Heck, she should not write off the Eastmoreland vote- even prosperous homeowners don’t like what is happening in their neighborhoods. She needs to take what she learned from Williams to all the neglected parts of the city (Brentwood) to the abused-by-developers
        sections (Richmond, Williams).

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        • davemess January 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm

          East Portland, BD, and North Portland have a few things in common (more poverty and minorities), but I don’t think that automatically means their interests are intertwined. I can’t imagine an advocate for North Portland would be very interested in unpaved roads and lack of sidewalks in BD. I may be wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

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          • davemess January 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

            Granted I’m all for diversifying and shaking up the council.

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      • Mossby Pomegranate January 9, 2014 at 5:56 pm

        Agreed. This city ignores a vast majority of its citizens. Good for her for standing up and making herself heard.

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        • cold worker January 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

          Depending on who you talk to and who their employers are, this city listens to it’s citizens to the detriment of many projects. A lot of people get to sound off on topics despite their lack of expertise on a topic just because they don’t like it.

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  • Esther January 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I had the opportunity to ride the buffered/protected bike lane on 8th Ave. in NYC which looks very similar to how Williams will look this summer-with mixing with left-turning cars at intersections. It actually worked out great; my only complaint was stoplight timing (regardless of speed, all bikers, even fast one got stopped every 3-5 blocks) …and I feel confident in Pkoonce handling that issue 😉

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  • spare_wheel January 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    This facility provides so many different ways to violate the mandatory sidepath law. I can’t wait to violate it!

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  • Jayson January 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Who else is running?

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  • Charley January 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Ms. Maxwell, at least in her public actions so far, seems more interested in jamming a wrench into the machinery than working toward safer streets. Guess I’ll be voting for Nick Fish again!

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    • Itgoesbothways January 11, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Ms. Maxwell seems to be interested in her neighborhood that she has been a part of more way more than anyone else on this site. Once again no mention of her personal life but Joe Rowe gets labeled as a father and gets put in a more positive view. For someone that loves to point out the verbiage from other press sites, something seems a little off. I am starting to notice a pattern.

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