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The Street Trust will get more political with launch of 501(c)(4) ‘Action Fund’

Posted by on June 26th, 2018 at 1:59 pm

“The public concern about traffic is a great opportunity, but also a great risk if we don’t have right leaders in place.”
— Jillian Detweiler, The Street Trust

If Portland has any chance of reaching its transportation goals and bashing through the ceiling of the driving-dominated status quo, we must have more progressive politicians who fear the consequences of inaction more than a few angry constituents and tough headlines.

That’s the thinking behind the newly created Street Trust Action Fund, a new 501(c)(4) arm of the Portland-based nonprofit.

The Street Trust as we know it today is a 501(c)(3), a federal status that limits their ability to get directly involved with politics — whether through lobbying for specific legislation or the support of specific candidates for office. As a 501(c)(4) The Street Trust Action Fund will be able to endorse political candidates and lobby for issues without limitation. Unlike a 501(c)(3) however, donations to the new entity will not be tax deductible.

Reached for an interview via phone today, The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler said they plan to launch the new organization with a fundraising party this Thursday (6/28). In the short-term, they plan to focus on two key political races: a Portland City Council seat that’s up for grabs and a Washington County Chair race. “We think it’s really important to connect with those candidates and provide some guidance [to the community] about who we think will be strongest for transportation.” In addition, Detweiler says the new 501(c)(4) status will help them more fully engage with the ongoing effort to build support for a major transportation funding bond that will emerge in 2020.


The Street Trust ED Jillian Detweiler.

The Portland City Council race will have an obvious impact locally, but Detweiler says the Washington County Chair position is equally important. “Who Washington County sends to the regional table to divvy up the money and set policy — and ultimately to move forward with a transportation measure in 2020 — that person can either hold us back or move the region forward,” she said. Referring to Washington County as, “a kind of purple state in this region,” Detweiler agreed that if the Street Trust Action Fund is successful it’ll play a role in flipping it to blue (to continue the analogy).

Asked if the launch of this new entity is an acknowledgment that the current crop of local electeds aren’t doing enough to reform transportation, Detweiler said it’s more about helping politicians connect the dots from how streets work, to more high-profile issues like housing and congestion. “We think there are really important intersections between housing and transportation; but we haven’t been successful in creating an environment where people running for office think that’s important. At the same time, we’re seeing a lot more public concern about congestion and we don’t want to see that turn into frustration that leads to bad transportations decisions that are about just moving more cars. The public concern about traffic is a great opportunity, but also a great risk if we don’t have right leaders in place.”

The Action Fund will have a separate board that will be chaired by current Street Trust Board Member Leslie Carlson.

If you’d like to learn more and get in on the ground floor of this new advocacy initiative, attend the Street Trust Action Fund Launch Party and fundraiser on Thursday night.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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19 thoughts on “The Street Trust will get more political with launch of 501(c)(4) ‘Action Fund’”

  1. Avatar Kittens says:

    What a perverse world we live in. This poor little 501(c)(3) is hyper concerned with the appearance of impropriety meanwhile corruption and malfeasance run rampant thorough the White House. I might also add, churches have long sought tax exempt status while simultaneously engaging in blatantly political activities. Good on The Street Trust for finding a legal path but also silly to pretend any of this matters anymore.

    1. Avatar Chris I says:

      I wish they had named their new 501c(4) “The All Powerful Bike Lobby”

    2. Michael Andersen (Contributor) Michael Andersen (Contributor) says:

      Sadly, the people ignoring the law at the top seem happy to have their employees enforce the law on everyone else … at least on everyone not explicitly politically sympathetic to them.

  2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

    I don’t want TST to “turn Washington County blue”, I want them to support candidates that will be strong and positive on transportation issues. I hope Detweiler doesn’t think those are the same thing.

    1. Avatar Jillian Detweiler says:

      Understood and I agree with you Hello Kitty. I meant it as a metaphor, but I see where that lacks clarity.

      1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

        I understood the metaphor, but it is pretty wonky. 🙂 For those that didn’t – here it is, painfully explained in detail:

        Washington County is already solidly blue (Democratic) but not nearly as solidly a proponent of non-gas-car modes of transportation (or some of the other progressive causes that the Street Trust is in coalition with) as Multnomah County or Portland. Currently, Washington County and Clackamas County form a pro-freeway-expansion, pro-arterial-expansion, shoehorn-in-a-little-bit-of-non-car-stuff-using-the-money-leftover majority on the low-profile but high-powered government body called JPACT. JPACT has vast power over metro-area transportation funding. Given that Clackamas County is more conservative than Washington County, Washington County is the jurisdiction to work on re: changing the composition of JPACT. It’s at least within the realm of possibility that Washington County would flip its JPACT vote(s) to being truly pro-non-car transportation. Hence, Washington County is the “purple state” that holds the balance between “red” Clackamas County that is solidly in the use-almost-all-our-money-for-cars camp and “blue” Multnomah County that is solidly in the use-a-majority-of-our-money-for-non-car-transportation camp.

        1. Avatar Jillian Detweiler says:

          Great explanation, Alex! Thank you!

        2. Avatar Ned Dragston says:

          For all you still buying into the idea that Clackamas County is RED and pro-car…I’ll challenge you. Many of Portland’s newer and younger North, NE and SE residents fed up with the congestion, tight living quarters and rabid development have moved into Clack in droves. People like me. Clack county is rapidly going blue and incidentally also pushing back on Clack’s old boy drivers’ rule oppression. My home in Oak Grove is now surrounded by new young neighbors, many of them I see commuting to work by bike, albeit with plenty of ebikes among them too. The Orange Line parking lot at Park Ave is always packed, as are the trains. And in the evening our streets and cul de sacs are a steady stream of families and couples out walking. So be careful who you stereotype.

      2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        I understood the metaphor, but by choosing those particular colors, you make a connection that I think is better unmade. It probably is true that “blue” tends to have better instincts on transportation issues than “red”, but not in every individual case.

        1. Avatar soren says:

          blue also has an awful track record when it comes to transportation and the intersectional housing crisis. portland and the USA needs more RED. the red that helped bring about the right to unionize, the weekend, job safety regulations, child labor laws, the minimum wage, 40 hr work weeks, and old-age pensions.

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            Ah… the extinct kind of red.

          2. Avatar rick says:

            Oregon has had a one party rule for about 30 years. Multnomah County commissioners recently voted to spend $150,000 to study giving free internet yet many of their super busy roads lack bike lanes or even shoulders..

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              At the state level, this is true: it’s mostly been the AOI Toady party.

  3. Michael Andersen (Contributor) Michael Andersen (Contributor) says:

    Well-chosen races!

  4. Avatar rick says:

    Some help would be nice on the westside..

  5. Avatar Buzz says:

    Meh, the street trust has wussed out on way too many significant issues over the years; they are way too conservative for a ‘liberal org’ if you ask me.

  6. Avatar Scott says:

    One point the article did not make is that donations to the new 501(c)(4) are not tax deductible.

    1. Avatar logged out says:

      Really? “Unlike a 501(c)(3) however, donations to the new entity will not be tax deductible.”

  7. Avatar Greg Spencer says:

    It’s great to have an active-transport like Street Trust working on these important elections!

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