“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 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.
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.