For an agency that once made traffic safety their number one priority, recent protests in support of Black Lives Matter have exposed a hard truth: Initiatives like Vision Zero are meaningless if they don’t address the root causes of racism, harassment and discrimination people of color face on our streets every day.
To their credit, the Portland Bureau of Transportation was working on this issue long before protests flared up in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In 2011 PBOT did an about face on the North Williams Avenue project when local residents raised concerns about gentrification and legacy of racism. They also changed course on a neighborhood greenway project in the King Neighborhood when some Black residents raised similar concerns, ultimately leaving it up to them to decide whether or not a diverter should be installed.
Back in June PBOT Director Chris Warner vowed to steer the agency to becoming an “antiracist organization”. But as we saw with the rollout of the Safe Streets Healthy Business permit program, this organizational shift is a work in progress.
So what exactly will it entail? Details were slim until a July 30th meeting of the Central City in Motion Working Group where a PBOT staffer shared a bit more about what we can expect.
Here’s what we know so far about PBOT’s “Plan to Become an Antiracist Organization”:
1: Workforce Support and Accountability
– Required equity and antiracist training for managers and supervisors
– Revamp talent recruitment strategy and enhance existing internship program
– Antiracist speaker series
2. Transportation Policy Intervention
– Complete transportation justice framework and refresh Racial Equity Plan*.
– Review and revise (if necessary) existing policies, plans, and practices.
– Conduct regular focus groups with Black community organizations.
3. Supporting and Empowering Black Portland
– Black Portland Matters art initiative and COVID-19 frontline communities partnership
– Complete History of Racist Transportation Planning in Portland
– Black Transportation Academy
4. Re-imagining the Right of Way Using a Racial Equity Framework
– Street renaming in coordination with other citywide actions (statues, parks, etc.)
– Evaluate PBOT program outcomes to ensure alignment with racial equity goals.
– Assess and address infrastructure priorities with Black-serving organizations.
It’s good to see a few more specifics emerge on this plan. Stay tuned for more coverage and details on various elements like the speaker series, art initiative, transportation academy, and so on.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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