Support BikePortland

More details emerge on PBOT’s ‘Plan to Become an Antiracist Organization’

Posted by on August 19th, 2020 at 5:40 pm

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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”:

Advertisement

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

91
Leave a Reply

avatar
10 Comment threads
81 Thread replies
2 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
28 Comment authors
ChampsOneJonathan Krallbike ped planner9watts Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

How is an organization like PBOT in a ultra liberal city like Portland currently a “racist” organization?

9watts
Subscriber

What makes you think they wouldn’t be, wouldn’t have perpetuated racist policies of yore? Those practices don’t just evaporate; they must be recognized as such and rooted out, which is what this item on the list, I think, is about:
– Complete History of Racist Transportation Planning in Portland

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Go to a PBOT budget meeting. The top management are almost entirely white, though there is a good mix of gender. (To be sure, so are the other engineering bureaus like water and BES.)

Jon
Guest
Jon

Keep in mind that if every profession in the Portland Metro Area matched the makeup of the region, for every 100 person organization 76 would be white (non-Hispanic), 11 would be Hispanic, 6 would be Asian, 3 would be black, 1 would be native/Alaskan, 4 would be two or more races. Due to rounding errors those numbers don’t add up to 100. Engineering is over-represented by Asians and under-represented by Hispanics and blacks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_metropolitan_area#:~:text=White%3A%2081.0%25%20(Non%2D,%25%20Korean%2C%200.4%25%20Japanese)

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

We are assuming, of course, that every distribution should mirror the makeup of the overall population. I think that is a spurious assumption.

What would the makeup of the Blazers be?

Emily
Guest
Emily

And please keep in mind, very few minorities are in excetutive positions where they are exclusively white. As David has mentioned, PBOT executive staff is all white.

Sure, companies will hire minorities, but will exclude women and POC from management level positions.

https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2019/02/05/missing-pieces-report-the-2018-board-diversity-census-of-women-and-minorities-on-fortune-500-boards/

If PBOT really want change/address equity, then promote a POC to the board.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.
Emily
Guest
Emily
Kcommentee
Guest
Kcommentee

Sure, but that boss of that team is Millicent (article linked by Kana) who is a black woman. Same is true of Irene Marion on that team page you linked, but she’s not pictured. Far from perfect and yes Chris Warner is a white man, but I don’t want these black women leaders to be overlooked.

Emily
Guest
Emily

Thank you Kana and Kcommentee for your points of view. I’m taking your views to heart.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/530964

8 people listed under office of director, no POC.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Glad we straightened that out…

Returning to your original claim (“If PBOT really want change/address equity, then promote a POC to the board”), appointing a POC to an executive position is neither a prerequisite for doing impactful equity work nor a guarantee that that work will get done; there are plenty of people of color with policy ideas, preferences, and mindsets that will not get us any closer to erasing identity-based disparities. Agitating for more POC leadership (which we have) for the sake of having POC leadership is probably more a symbolic action than one likely to create the widespread changes you and I want to see.

Emily
Guest
Emily

“…there are plenty of people of color with policy ideas, preferences, and mindsets that will not get us any closer to erasing identity-based disparities”

What you are describing are white values. These are not values of POC. See Jonathans description of ant-racist below.

POC do not feel that their positions are symbolic. Would you say women leadership positions as symbolic? of course not…so give that same empathy and compassion to POC?

POC leading PBOT would tell other minorities that their commitment to be anti-racist starts at the top.

POC want change in leadership. White folks…not so much.

Lots of research on why minority leadership matters:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/another-reason-top-managers-are-disproportionally-white-men/

https://fisher.osu.edu/blogs/leadreadtoday/blog/the-importance-of-minority-leader-representation

https://associationsnow.com/2020/06/leading-during-a-pandemic-why-diverse-leadership-matters-more-than-ever/

https://hbr.org/2002/11/dear-white-boss

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello Kitty

What are “POC values”? The notion that “values” and “race” bear any relationship to each other is highly questionable.

Emily
Guest
Emily

Here is another way to look at your statement. Replace POC with women and gender:

What are “women values”? The notion that “values” and “gender” bear any relationship to each other is highly questionable.

Would you say that about women? if not, then why would you question POC?

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello Kitty

Indeed… what are “woman values”? Or “man values” for that matter?

Ted
Guest
Ted

Thank you Emily, THAT is an excellent example of exclusion and white bias.

Racism is everywhere and in our everyday choices and the words we say. Be anti-racist indeed.

Hello kitty, care to explain why POC and womens values are highly questionable by you, a white man? In an intelligent manner that matches Emilys fact based statement?

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello Kitty

I am saying that I question the existence of some set of “values” that can primarily be attributed to or that are somehow unique to any particular gender or racial group.

If you want to suggest any examples, I’d be happy to consider them.

Ted
Guest
Ted

Got it, you as a white man, were invited to show facts and respond w intellectual dialogue as a sign of respect to others. Discuss adults.

Instead you deflect and decline to back up your racist judgmental opinion of minorities and women with evidence and facts. Highlighting lack of your facts here.

On the other hand, a woman presented evidence, white papers, articles, etc. Was respectful, and showed compassion and respect for others.

You a white man, didn’t respond w same kindness, does not feel empathy or remorse. Got it.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

If I question the existence of something, what sort of “facts” do you want me to present? I cannot prove a negative, and I am open to considering the possibility that I am wrong. The easiest way to convince me it is to present a clear example of a value or set of values that is specific to a race or gender. Simply becoming increasingly abusive is not likely to sway me, though it is likely to entertain a certain segment of the readership.

If all you have to add to the discussion is to call me racist without cause, then I will bow out.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Are these POC women representative of the POC and women values?:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candace_Owens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_and_Silk

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Many of the top 8 (and most of their underlings) are “classified employees” who can’t be dismissed or fired by the mayor, but only for serious crimes such as bribery or murder. They are gradually promoted through a complex system of internal merit and politics. The PBOT Director on the other hand is hired or dismissed by the mayor (but managed by the transportation commissioner), as are some of the deputies. I may be wrong, but I think the PBOT communications director, chief traffic engineer, and planning director are also directly appointed by the mayor.

Trying to change any bureaucratic culture is very hard, it takes years of constant and consistent pressure. The move from an all-white-male culture at PBOT to one of mixed gender even at the senior level is all the more amazing when you discover that most other city and state DOTs in the USA still have overwhelmingly white male management. Portland’s change of gender culture is largely due to a consistent policy by both Katz and Adams to push diversity not only at the top, but also at the bottom (interns, which they have some influence on) and the middle (no political influence except by persuasion).

Emily
Guest
Emily

Thank you, David for you insightful comments! I learned something today.

$4000istoomuch
Guest
$4000istoomuch

I believe BikeLoudPDX’s leadership is all white (and has been since its inception).

***Spider man pointing at spider man meme***

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)

Black Transportation Academy sounds pretty cool but what does it mean? A masters in planning program at PSU and provide full scholarship to black portlanders?

One of the things PBOT could do to help get more black portlanders involved with the bicycling economy would be to offer scholarships to UBI bike mechanic school or help start one at Portland Community College. If they asked local bike shops we would also contribute.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

In my community of Greensboro NC (and many others) the city offers a “citizen’s academy” and a “citizens police academy”, with an equal representation of community members from each council district. Some districts are more popular than others during the application process, so nonprofit leadership, women, and visible minorities are given priority when there are a lot of applicants. The citizen’s academy a 16-week “course” one evening a week in the fall (Thursdays in my community) in which community participants meet at different bureaus and learn about the workings of each bureau, what they do, who does what, they even have fun entertaining hands-on exercises. Of course what you learn is a sugar-coated version of who they really are – they show you what they want you to see, not necessarily what you want to see. But it is a good opportunity to meet and ask questions of top management that I’ve found helpful later on as a community advocate.

Related to this whole process are the exercises each bureau does – there is a very intense competition between bureaus to have the most fun exercises that gets them recognition by council afterwards. For years the Fire Department always won, with participants putting out fires, driving the fire engines with flashing lights and sirens, working as a team on controlling the huge hoses, all in their training facility. Eventually the police caught on by having “drive alongs” in which individual participants would be in their passenger seat witnessing routine police procedures, including the boring paperwork, but also visiting the shooting range, learning tactics, wearing armor, etc – hence the later citizen police academies (I’ve never done it, but I know others who have and absolutely loved it.) Now even the maintenance and parks bureaus are getting into it, with riding lawnmower, shoveled asphalt, and recycling competitions.

The whole thing is free for the participants, except the time involved and some reading before each class. It costs the city quite a lot in personnel costs and vehicle time, but they benefit by creating a larger and more diverse pool of candidates for city boards and commissions (rather than just retired white people). And the participants act as sympathetic liaisons between the city agencies and their community. (It’s a form of brainwashing I suppose, but then all education is, isn’t it?)

Tom
Guest
Tom

I hope you are kidding about PBOT encouraging black people to become bike mechanics. Let’s go for better paying jobs like engineers and planners if this is about lifting up communities.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)

See my above comment about the need to address class inequality.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

It will be pretty funny when it is determined that BIPOCs want more parking, less congestion, and more pavement capacity.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

That’s typically the case here in the Deep South. The poorer you are, the more likely you support (and even use) public transit (over 80% of our transit users are black, versus 40% of the overall population); the closer to college age you are, the more likely you support and use bicycle facilities (according to the 2010 census, a majority of Greensboro NC cyclists are black college students); and the better off you are no matter your race, the more you support repaving city streets, building bypasses, reducing speed enforcement funding, building more parking ramps, and raising speed limits. Being BIPOC doesn’t necessarily mean supporting the exact same things as white liberals support – I’ve even met many black and Asian MAGA supporters here who are also registered Democrats.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Oh, yes there are tons of black MAGA supporters…..laughable…
Projecting your own views…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

And I know many registered republicans, including BIPOC voters, who view the other guy as a moderate republican (as he would be in the 70s) and plan on voting for him accordingly. We humans are complex creatures.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I think you nailed it…white liberals do seem to think that they know what minorities want, because that is what they want for minorities. And I think many minorities pick up on the white saviorism (intentional or not).

Tom
Guest
Tom

To be fair it’s not a liberal thing. White people have been telling people how to live and what to believe in for centuries.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Tom, that is entirely true. It’s a little ironic to me that the people who are supposedly against it still do it.

PTB
Guest
PTB

Is this just a people thing? People like telling other people how to live and what to believe in for time immemorial.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

A speeding car killed my beloved dog on the quiet street right in front of my house last friday afteroon. But yeah lets abandon vision zero in favor of some meaningless woke bullshit that makes us feel good. Vision zero is too hard!!! Leftists are garbage.

maxD
Guest
maxD

RudiV,
I am terribly sorry to hear about your dog. Dangerous drivers are a horrible plague and appear to be getting worse during the pandemic

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

Thank you. I’m devastated. Can’t eat can’t sleep. Getting a lot of riding in though because I can’t be home, alone. I got her ashes back yesterday along with a little plaster of paris paw print. I found myself sniffing it, hoping that it would smell like her.

I suppose eventually this will pass but I don’t want it to cuz then she’s really gone and it’s all, “hey remember that little dog you had way back when? What was her name?” I don’t want that world. I want my dog with her head in my lap.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Can you abandon something you never actually adopted? PBOT is busy making our roads wider and faster while fighting tooth and nail against any change that would mildly slow down SOV traffic.

casual observer
Guest
casual observer

This all looks very good and will be great to see how it develops and is implemented. Might be a good structure for other business to follow. This isn’t meant to be an all lives matter comment, but is there any plan for multiple items #3 for Empowering Hispanic Portland, or Empowering Asian Portland? Or, conducting focus groups with other minority community organizations around the city? Seems like a logical next step or phase, especially around projects in east Portland or SE Portland.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello Kitty

For an agency that once made traffic safety their number one priority…

Is safety no longer PBOT’s top priority? If so, that would represent a very disappointing turning point for the agency.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

HK, I served on the PBOT budget committee from 2009-15, and in that 7-year period PBOT’s official priorities changed from “safety”, to “neighborhood livability”, to “equity”, then “Vision Zero”. But we also had some wonderful opportunities to sit down with actual underprepared senior engineering management and ask them what they think PBOT’s priorities are: “We select projects based on how much additional funding we can leverage and a minimum of political fuss.” I suspect this is still PBOT’s predominant operating priority, especially during budget cuts.

mh
Subscriber

Ouch. That sounds like not just the ring of truth, but a resoundingly hard whack on that bell.

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

PBOT will struggle with this. How can they prioritize the traffic flow of all people and especially black/brown/native communities when they already prioritize the traffic flow according to business/wealthy demands?

It’s akin to what is happening at many organizations. We are in a dire financial depression and attempting to correct 100s of years of social ills at the same time.

PBOT would completely have to change their algorithm for how they design traffic and allocate resources.

It’s a worthy cause, but they just mean their HR and recruiting department are changing to not be racist.

bike ped planner
Guest
bike ped planner

“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.”

Really? Nice dichotomous thinking going on there. Indeed, VZ can and should be cognizant of how the specific policies and actions may have inherent bias, or may enable bias. But to claim they are meaningless otherwise? Not to mention that things like “equity” are highly subjective and can be manipulated to advance specific agendas which in turn can in fact be shown to be inequitable, and thus the whole thing caves in on itself, failing under the weight of do-gooder machinations that take initiatives so far off track of their core aim.

Jonathan Krall
Guest

FWIW, one of Kendi’s main points is that racist outcomes, regardless of intent, are immoral. I would have been very encouraged to see “measure and correct racially disparate outcomes” as part of the PBOT plan. Perhaps pro-active anti-racist action (versus anti-racist teaching/training or reaction to BIPOC community pushback) is too much to hope for.

Champs
Guest
Champs

What it means for me is that after lobbying for traffic calming on my street, then joining a neighborhood coalition and finally getting through, PBOT now wants a Black community group to co-sign our request. I don’t see what is racist about speed bumps, but never mind that.

The problem I’m seeing is that this is a neighborhood coalition with multiple Black households like mine. We don’t need the blessing of a group led by people who don’t know or even live near us, we can speak for ourselves.

The minds at PBOT don’t seem to have considered this in their rush to antiracism, maybe making the point that the wrong people are drafting policy there.