Oregon Walks picks Ashton Simpson as new executive director

Posted by on December 22nd, 2020 at 9:37 am

Ashton Simpson

“As a progressive Black man growing up in Houston… he has seen firsthand the unequal development present in our pedestrian infrastructure.”
— Oregon Walks

Ashton Simpson has been chosen as the new executive director of Oregon Walks, the Portland-based nonprofit that has pushed for better walking conditions since 1991. Simpson, an east Portland resident who recently finished third in a campaign for Oregon House District 47, will become the first Black leader of the organization.

Simpson moves to walking advocacy with experience in community organizing and the inner workings of Portland’s transportation bureaucracy. He volunteers as vice-chair of the City of Portland Fixing Our Streets Oversight Committee and is also a member of the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility Task Force and the Rose Lane Project Committee. Simpson will leave behind his job as community asset director at Rosewood Initiative, a community development nonprofit focused on people who live along the Portland-Gresham border south of I-84.

Advertisement

(Photo: Ashton for Portland/Facebook)

“As a progressive Black man growing up in Houston, and now living in Portland, he has seen firsthand the unequal development present in our pedestrian infrastructure, and the dangers this presents for vulnerable communities,” reads an Oregon Walks statement about the hire.

In a Q & A with BikePortland back in September, Simpson was outspoken about transportation issues. He called the I-5 Rose Quarter project a “a waste of money that will not achieve any of the stated goals.” He also shared feelings of blatant racism he’s experienced as a Black man using the streets of Portland that, “encompasses everything from rudeness to overt acts of hostility.”

The choice of Simpson is a natural next step for Oregon Walks. Previous executive director Jess Thompson made a concerted push to make transportation justice and civil rights top priorities. “We’ve tried to expand away from just transportation policy and really look at what the experience of walking is like for a wide variety of people,” Thompson shared with me in a recent interview following the organization’s choice of a member of Don’t Shoot PDX for a Walkstar award. And back in October, Oregon Walks Board Member Timur Ender made it clear racial justice would continue to be a guiding priority.

Advertisement

Simpson takes over at Oregon Walks as Portland two other major bicycling nonprofits undergo leadership changes of their own. In August The Street Trust’s executive director stepped down. Instead of hiring a new one, the organization named three existing staffers as co-directors. One of them, former Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal, left the organization two months later and is now a policy director for Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Last week the Community Cycling Center announced that Momoko Saunders, a former Biketown general manager, would be their executive director.

We expect to hear a lot from Simpson in the next few months as Oregon Walks readies one of their most ambitious initiatives in years: an in-depth analysis of three years of walking fatalities conducted by board member and attorney Scott Kocher. Chief among the findings is people who identified as Black were nearly three times more likely to be killed in collisions while walking compared to other groups.

— 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: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

18
Leave a Reply

avatar
10 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
PNWPhotoWalksMomokoPhil MRobert K. McTrigRoberta Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

Sounds like a fabulous hire. I love to watch how the organization continues to evolve and grow! Congrats, Ashton and Oregon Walks – and thanks for the story, Jonathan.

Musty
Guest
Musty

Can you elaborate on “fabulous hire”? What has he achieved before this? Fixed potholes? Nope.

hamiramani
Subscriber

Great to see this. Looking forward to Ashton’s tenure.

Jonathan, I believe there’s a typo in your story: Momomo should be Momoko Saunders. Just a heads up.

Musty
Guest
Musty

Can you elaborate on what is so great? I see someone using transport infrastructure as a stepping stone without doing any actual Work. It’s easy to attack the I-5 project. But what about our streets?

Fred
Guest
Fred

Great news! I hope Mr. Simpson will help improve conditions in East Portland but also come out to Southwest Portland and see firsthand how little walking infrastructure there is out here. People in SW Portland love to walk, but often we have to walk in the street and take our chances with the cars and trucks.

Musty
Guest
Musty

Naw, nope, unlikely. Oh wait SW PDX gots that good $$$. So, yeah he’ll eventually come visit.

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

Seems like a solid guy and I wish him the best in his new role.
It is interesting that seemingly every non profit is now a racial justice organization. The humane society is now a racial justice organization. The food bank is now a racial justice organization. Oregon Walks in now a racial justice organization. Can’t they just protect animals, feed the hungry and help people walk from A to B. Not that racial equity is not an important issue but it is getting annoying to see everyone jumping on the bandwagon. Follow the money I guess….must be where the donors are.

Musty
Guest
Musty

Can we get an example of “He volunteers as vice-chair of the City of Portland Fixing Our Streets Oversight Committee and is also a member of the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility Task Force and the Rose Lane Project Committee”
What has his volunteerism led to? This reeks of politicization.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Welcome to the nonprofit industrial complex. A lot of what we do as activists doesn’t involve building anything except community coalitions and alliances. Mr. Simpson worked for Rosewood, which is about east as one can get in Portland, the poorest part of the city with the highest crime. Part of his job was to “volunteer” to serve on these committees, often as the token black guy, but they also create opportunities to build partnerships with other organizations and individuals. Now as part of Oregon Walks, he can further connect those built alliances.

Phil M
Guest
Phil M

It seems jobs like this are mainly fluff. Somebody new comes along, everybody gets excited, nothing really gets accomplished, that person moves on. Blah blah blah.

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

Mr. Simpson is an impressive young man. OW has made a great hire here!

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Sacramento is opening up 6 miles of streets for bikes and walking only. And it’s just the start. Let’s go!

Roberta
Guest
Roberta

Very exciting! Congratulations! I really hope someone steps up into an advocacy leadership role in Salem. The Street Trust is making the wrong decision by hiring 3 executive directors. We’ve had 3 legislative short sessions in the last year and NOBODY from Street Trust has provided any legislative leadership or advocacy relating to transport. Or at least none posted on their website. The advocacy tab hasn’t been updated in years at the Street Trust. Seems someone out of three people, should be able to get the word out as to what the policy agenda is for the next session…..Too busy obtaining cooperate sponsorship from freeway builders like Parametrix.

We aren’t going to get there with the current team at the Street Trust. Sometimes you need a strong arm in Salem to hold these politicians accountable. We need a coordinated legislative agenda in Salem that doesn’t require advocates ride their bikes to Salem. Politicians don’t care how you got there, just how many votes can you sway and dollars you can align for their causes.

Good luck Oregon Walks, we got your back, I hope you have the backs of bikers too!

This year we have the opportunity to update and build on the work done by PSU policy advocates to update the Bike Bill. We spent the last year advocating for ADA ramps. I don’t think it’s a stretch to get everybody together to get a new Bike Bill passed. TEAM WORK!!!!

Robert K. McTrig
Guest
Robert K. McTrig

I fully support BLM and racial justice but wonder if it’s good for all these non-racial justice non profits pivoting to racial justice as their raison d’être? Does it take away support from the entities that have been fighting for racial justice for the long haul? It seems to me maybe they are just doing it because it’s trendy.

PNWPhotoWalks
Subscriber

Congratulations, Ashton! I’m pleased I had an opportunity to (virtually) meet you yesterday. I liked your Space Walk suggestion 🙂