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BikePortland Podcast: An interview with Aaron Brown from No More Freeways


33-year-old Aaron Brown is one of the hardest working transportation reform activists in Oregon. For the past four years he’s been one of the relentless, three-headed monsters from the Portland-base nonprofit No More Freeways (along with Chris Smith and Joe Cortright) in a battle against the the Oregon Department of Transportation’s I-5 Rose Quarter project.

“ODOT doesn’t have to be terrible… I want a State Department of Transportation that’s funding high passenger rail up and down the Willamette Valley, that’s funding buses from Eugene to Bend to Baker City… They’re just too road-focused and it will require systemic cleaning house.”

In this episode of the BikePortland Podcast, Aaron and I talk about his approach to fighting freeways, a style he refers to has “benevolent antagonism” (although he also admitted that when it comes to ODOT, he can “be a jerk sometimes on the internet”). We also talked about the status of the three lawsuits No More Freeways has brought against the I-5 project and which of the four institutions — between ODOT, the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Governor’s office, and the Legislature — are his biggest hurdle and biggest hope. In one exchange, I asked Aaron to respond to sharp criticism from Estelle Love Lavespere, a Black woman whose family was displaced by the construction of I-5. Lavespere is on ODOT’s Historic Albina Advisory Board. At a meeting last April, she objected to “paternalistic” comments made by Aaron and other white No More Freeways activists.

I think you’ll appreciate how this conversation illuminates the nuances, methods, and complexities of effective community organizing and transportation activism — as well as the honesty and thoughtfulness Aaron brings to his work.

This podcast is made possible due to BikePortland subscribers and supporters. Thank you!

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