“The hope is that through traffic changes… we can slow down activity at these gun violence hot spots and make it more difficult to commit a crime and get away with it.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, city commissioner
For many years, Portland’s problems of gun violence and traffic violence have operated on separate tracks. At times they have even been in conflict with each other. But finally, thanks to recent moves by Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, solutions to these complicated issues have found common ground.
Last week, Hardesty announced a notable collaboration with the Mt. Scott Arleta Neighborhood Association to curb a spate of shootings and ancillary traffic safety dangers. Residents worried that the vehicles used by gun users were just as dangerous to their community as the guns themselves. Hardesty’s response has been to implement traffic infrastructure and other public space changes. It’s a natural evolution of a holistic approach to neighborhood safety that Hardesty has been advocating for since at least a year ago when she injected the idea of public health instead of armed policing into the enforcement conversation.
Back in August, when violent extremists came to Portland to peddle a message of hate, we pointed out that Hardesty had a huge opportunity to use her oversight of streets to combat vehicle-based violence. She has now done that.
In Mt. Scott-Arleta, Hardesty has given the green light to install temporary traffic control devices that aim to calm traffic and tempers. “From police to community-based organizations to infrastructure design – we all have a role to play in this emergency,” Hardesty said in a statement. “I’m directing PBOT to be more active and engaged in holistic solutions to community safety that can supplement police and other bureaus’ roles in this effort.”
Calling it an “experimental pilot” that could be made more robust and permanent pending outcomes and fall budget negotiations at City Hall, PBOT has placed orange plastic traffic barrels with “Local Access Only” signs at several locations with a six-block area near Mt Scott park (SE Woodstock and 72nd), where shootings have even occurred in broad daylight. In total, 24 barrels will be placed in the street.
The list of ideas proposed by neighbors (backed up by recommendations from Dr. Jonathan Jay, a public health expert hired as a consultant by the City of Portland) include: more lighting; gating a large parking lot; banning drivers from the Woodstock Interchange, a slip lane at SE 72nd and Woodstock, and creating a public plaza to be designed in coordination with Better Block PSU; community art projects; and a reduced speed limit on 72nd Ave.
“The hope is that through traffic changes… we can slow down activity at these gun violence hot spots and make it more difficult to commit a crime and get away with it,” Hardesty said.
As many of you can attest, since PBOT has used a similar system of movable plastic barrels and signs to create their open streets network, it’s not likely any criminal will take much notice. Drivers in a hurry to get home often pay them no attention. To someone with the pedal-to-the-metal after just firing a gun, they’ll just be an orange blur. I worry PBOT puts too much faith into a measly plastic barrel. But the thought counts, and hopefully they’ll follow up with the concrete variety as well as other more permanent traffic calming measures.
It’s also interesting to note that neighbors reached out to Commissioner Hardesty to help solve a crime-related issue, and not Mayor Ted Wheeler, even though the latter is in charge of the Portland Police Bureau. According to local resident Nadine Salama, that’s because they’ve been told the PPB doesn’t have the capacity to help them.
“It has been a nightmare situation for many of us afflicted,” Salama said in a statement. “Knowing we are being supported and protected by Commissioner Hardesty’s office and seeing tangible results so quickly has undoubtedly given many of us a sense of relief and hope that things can turn around.”
This could be the start of a new chapter in how Portland responds to community violence. If the results are positive, expect to see it formalized and replicated citywide as the need arises.
Get more details from the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association website.
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My block has been pleading for this kind of help in private and through its neighborhood association for more than a year. Every member of the city council, including Hardesty, as well as formal and informal PBOT contacts, has ignored or dismissed the problem.
I hear you Champs. And based on their statements (linked above), so do Hardesty/PBOT. They know this is needed in a lot of place but they say they don’t have capacity to do it everywhere. The good news is now that it’s been done here, it is much more feasible elsewhere. And IMO your best tactic will be to vociferously support additional funding for more of this if/when Hardesty makes a request in the Fall Budget Monitoring Process (“Fall Bump”) that is very likely to happen soon. Hang in there and try to stay positive.
Last year they didn’t have the capacity, and it had to be “anti-racist,” in any case. This year, “the data doesn’t show any need” in the same month we had three shootings.
Clearly, the only way to get anything done in this city is to have an in with a commissioner because they don’t represent our communities.
Charter reform! My neighborhood hasn’t had representation at the city for at least a decade and it shows.
Your neighborhood will likely resemble Sellwood/East Moreland in 7-15 years (parts of it already do). How is charter reform going to prevent wealthy folk who can afford to buy/own property in this city from dominating city politics?
IDK, did something change? The last time I checked renters and people without permanent addresses were allowed to vote in Oregon.
Are you asking about how geographical representation will change who the city actually represents and works for? Right now, the wealthy neolibs only need to pick and bribe 5 people to get control over the entire city. More representation means more races, more candidates, more variance and its easier to kick out bad actors.
Renters in Portland have been “allowed” to vote for many decades but have little, if any, political power. What little political power renters, and especially lower income renters, recently gained was destroyed when the property class and those who carry their water pushed Chloe Eudaly out of council. IMO, district-based voting reforms proposed by BAU politicians are unlikely to change this power dynamic and may make things worse due to gerrymandering.
Well, this is America. I don’t think Oregon or Portland can do much to overrule federal laws.
Chloe got voted out because she was a terrible politician, full stop. I held my nose and voted for her because Mapps, but she was awful on so many levels and I actually agree with her attempts to weaken the NIMBY associations. If progressives want to win elections, stop endorsing terrible candidates. It’s the same story with the mayors race.
As a tenant, Eudaly was the best thing that ever happened to my political and economic interests in Portland. Moreover, as someone who unapologetically loathes SUVs/trucks/(sedans), her support of Rose Lanes was not only a risky political move but has been a continued win for progressive transportation politics under our current transportation commissioner (also a very strong supporter of transit).
I totally disagree that supporting bus lanes was a “risky political move”. Buses are easy politics when compared with other options (like biking). I make the argument that the reason Rose Lanes has leapfrogged protected bike lanes (remember the Central City in Motion plan?!) is precisely because buses are great politics in Portland. When’s the last time you saw a controversy around a plan to increase bus service? Or a hit piece on buses in the local media? Or a local politician who said something disrespectful (or ignorant) about buses? Exactly. It just doesn’t happen.
the removal of general access cage lanes was risky and there most definitely has been pushback (nextdoor hates the hawthorne rose lanes).
I haven’t heard much pushback at all. And I disagree it’s inherently risky to re-allocate road space away from car use. It’s 2021 and the climate crisis is the most salient public/political crisis we face and everyone knows cars are bad (to some extent, I’m not saying the War on Cars is over). And BTW, it seems to me that no one in City Hall cares much about Nextdoor. It’s sort of like old people on n’hood associations… They are so out-of-touch that they’ve lost all credibility.
I don’t think the war on cars has even been declared and it is my baseline assumption that this pandemic has caused Portland to be even more SUV/Truck/(sedan)-centric. (I hope your more optimistic take is correct.)
“Both Commissioner Dan Ryan and Mayor Ted Wheeler underscored the role Clean & Safe can play in strengthening the “reputation” of downtown Portland as it works to attract tourism and new businesses. The men cited negative reviews of the city found on websites such as TripAdvisor and Nextdoor.”
Yeah, its the next generation and the generation after that will pay for it. No different than San Francisco. The folks who were housed when they installed their anti-housing policies hit the jackpot and everyone since has been screwed.
Eudaly was far, far more supportive of market rate housing than I. Moreover, Eudaly had been close to finalizing a tenant opportunity to purchase ordinance (e.g. fighting speculative displacement by creating city and/or non-profit-funded coops) but this is now dead in the water.
Multi-member districts would go a long way to alleviate this. Or at least open the door to alleviation (even the most perfect configuration won’t work well if the right people aren’t running).
i prefer getting rid of primaries and implementing RCV or STAR voting but the chances of this happening in portland are almost zero, according to my opinion.
Oh, likewise. These aren’t mutually exclusive, though. The ideal configuration would be multi-member seats elected in a primary-less general election via STAR, hands down.
I would argue they’re much better than close to zero (I would not go so far as to say “great”, but…) – the City Club of Portland put out their report shortly before the Charter Commission convened extolling the virtue of multi-member seats, and I know STAR is known – and in fact favored – by at least a couple of commissioners. I think the city’s dysfunction may have reached a boiling point that real change has a chance of occurring. Emphasis on chance, of course.
I live in Brentwood-Darlington close to this park and support all the Mt. Scott-Arleta’s suggestions. It seems really strange that this quiet neighborhood is now a hot spot for gun activity! I hope they also add stop signs and crosswalks to Woodstock and 72nd to reduce speeds on those streets and make it them safer to cross. The are no marked crossings on Woodstock for about a mile from 52nd to 72nd! 72nd is marked on Google Maps as a bike-friendly street but in my experience it is not at all.
For more information about the Boston University professor, Jonathan Jay, who has been hired as a consultant by the city, see this Willamette Week story from August: https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2021/08/18/portland-safety-officials-believe-an-algorithm-can-pinpoint-the-citys-most-dangerous-places-and-make-them-safer/
Apparently Jay was brought in by Mike Myers, a new hire by PDX to coordinate the safety bureaus. What Myers noticed was that traffic and gun violence were happening in the same locations.
I am not confident that this is anywhere close to a solution. The speed bumps on Harold haven’t worked as a neighbor stated to me-
“ Half the shootings are on Harold, which is the main getaway drag because it meets up with foster. Unfortunately they won’t do anything on this street, just blocked off the side streets and making sure all the shooters drive pst our place!”
We are in a no win situation. City council seems inept and their solutions are nonsense. Meanwhile, our kids have to stay inside so a stray bullet doesn’t have to hit them. This city is in a very bad place. If you can move, do so.
I don’t think any rational person could make anything but the most tenuous connection between traffic and gun violence. It is kind of the ultimate ‘grasping at straws’ approach, and I think most of the advocates would acknowledge that. Gun violence is being perpetrated by a fairly identifiable cohort, at least the gang-related shootings are. Everyone in law enforcement knows who these guys (mostly) are. Unfortunately, the City Council has taken away most of the resources designed to confront this cohort. Add to that the discouragement of law enforcement, the lack of guidance for these youth, and you have a ‘crisis’ that will last for many years in Portland.
Gun violence has been rising in Portland and nationally for years. The CoP employed a ‘war on guns’ methodology for combatting gun violence and gangs. It’s not an evidence based practice and focuses on ‘stopping’ gun violence by pulling over random people and searching them for guns.
In fact, one of the main issues PPB is facing is that they DON’T know who is doing the shooting. It’s one of the many drawbacks of having no relationship or support in the community.
The reality is that police respond to gun violence after it has happened. It’s not that the youth don’t have ‘guidance’, it’s that they don’t have opportunity and frequently food and shelter.
Folks who think gang affiliation is a moral failing are part of the problem. Gang affiliation almost always is the result of our own failing as a community to provide for our children. In other countries, the welfare state provides, which is why they have much much much lower rates of violence. In the United States, we let children starve. It’s eat or be eaten. Only privileged folks expect those who have nothing, never had anything, and wont ever have anything to adhere to the social contract.
People do not generally join gangs because the alternative is starvation. Joining a gang may or may not be a moral failing, but shooting people certainly is, though framing it as a morality play probably isn’t the most helpful way to reduce the threat people willing to shoot one another pose to their community.
I support crime prevention as well as law enforcement. It seems pretty clear we need both.
I get your point. I actually do think that gangs and related shootings are a ‘morality’ issue, but I would choose other descriptors, just because ‘morality’ is such a loaded term. But, there is clearly an ethical and values war going on. The values of the street. The ethics of the gang. The lack of compassion and empathy for one’s fellow human beings and the community at large. These qualities are taught at home, and, maybe the church. And, they are usually taught in a somewhat stable home environment, by parents (preferably) or one good parent, who exemplifies those qualities. Unfortunately, there is a significant number of young people who never get those lessons, and the outcomes are obvious.
Joining a gang that you know kills people is a moral failing.
I didn’t know you were an ACAB type!
Haha, okay. Could you elaborate on your background that qualifies you to say that? I’ve known and worked with multiple people in my life who worked with gang-affected youth and I’m basing my understanding on what I’ve been told and read.
Gangs provide protection, resources, and activities for youth who frequently have a deficit in all three.
So I’m assuming you believe the American military is full of immoral people?
Shooting people is bad, but refusing to understand the motivation and just passing it off as ‘moral failing’ is unproductive and ignorant.
Sure, just don’t get crossed. Law enforcement is not crime prevention. You should arrest folks who are shooting each other, but don’t live under the delusion that arresting the shooter today is going to solve your gun violence problem tomorrow. You’ve just made way for another shooter.
I think you missed the part where Portland eliminated the taskforce that did most of the things that you recommend. That approached worked, but it was viewed as racist, because the cops had lists of those who they saw as most likely to commit gang-related shootings in the future. And the cops still know who is doing the shooting, but getting witnesses to step up is almost impossible. There is no mystery about what is going on in the streets of Portland, despite the media acting as if it is all such a surprise, or due to the pandemic, or traffic or or Undoing two years of neglect by Wheeler, Hardesty, et. al. will take five years minimum, and that is if they start today.
What? It did? Source?
Do you have a source that supports the argument that the GVRT or the gang squad worked? I’ve never seen so much as a program evaluation for the GVRT.
Do you have a source for this? Obviously its well known that witnesses wont talk to cops, but I’ve never seen any indication the police know who is doing the shooting.
I think you are confused or maybe attempting to mislead about what the GVRT did and how effective it was. I also will point out that all four members of the GVRT remained employed by PPB as detectives and our shootings still skyrocketed.
I admit that I have no sources (data) to prove my assertions. I only have my observation of the almost amazing connection between the elimination of GVRT and the rapid increase of gang violence.
Well Steve, that’s why experts study things. The gun violence rate has been up for years
We’ve also had the gang squad for decades. It’s an equally valid theory that the GVRT was so bad at its job, it left us more vulnerable to the increase in violence observed nationally during the pandemic.
You’ve got a conclusion you like and are looking (and failing to find) facts to support your conclusion. If the GVRT was so effective, where are the studies and evaluations?
I have an ‘opinion’, not a conclusion. Sometimes, we need to take steps based on logic, and connection, as opposed to proven causality. Some like to use ‘lack of data’, as an excuse to do nothing. How can one argue that identifying bad actors, keeping an eye on them, and anticipating their future violent acts, will not prevent some shootings? I also agree that it is very tricky to do this without violating individual constitutional rights. But, we cannot sacrifice the ‘good’ for the ‘perfect’, or we end up with the inaction that characterizes Portland’s current attitude towards gang violence. I would like to see ‘proven’ approach that leads to long-term reduction in gang violence. Please line me to that.
When one has an opinion they say things like “I think”. Not “That approached worked” and ” And the cops still know who is doing the shooting, but getting witnesses to step up is almost impossible” because you obviously don’t know if either of those statements are true.
You want them to be true, but that’s a different thing.
Doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing at all. The GVRT has existed in some form for decades and yet we have no data, no program evaluations. Nothing. Portlands violent crime rate has followed the nations generally. We have no reason to think the GVRT did what it was supposed to do.
Well, you can’t really. That’s not what the GVRT did though. They didn’t ‘anticipate their future violent acts’. They had a list of people they decided were in gangs and then they followed them around. That’s it. They aren’t some crack anti-violence team hearing something is about to go down on the streets and then leaping into action. If they ever prevented gun violence, it’s because they randomly stumbled their way into it.
Again, you are making assumptions that the GVRT was even ‘good’ at preventing gun violence. Your baseline is that GVRT worked great and that its only problem was racism. I’m saying, correctly, that there is no proof that GVRT reduced gun violence and there is the possibility that the GVRT was so bad at what they did that they left us even more vulnerable to the gun violence wave from the pandemic.
You don’t seem to need to see proof when you advocated for the GVRT?
I’m not an expert in gang/gun reduction. We should be listening to the experts and I haven’t found a single expert that endorses the GVRT approach to reducing gun violence. Most of the things I’ve read from experts and in the conversations I’ve had with experts, it seems like the pretty basic way to prevent kids from joining gangs is by filling all the needs gangs fill such as security, shelter, and opportunity.
Coincidentally, the rapper Common, was interviewed yesterday on The Newshour regarding how to stop gang violence in his hometown Chicago. His response ‘these kids do not see the god in other people’, so treat their fellow humans as of no value and disposable. He grew up in the same South Chicago neighborhood as many of the gang-bangers, but his parents were a teacher and a plumber. He received an upbringing that focused on values, goal-setting, and discipline. His parents were not going to allow him to be drawn into gang life. Many of the young people committing violent crimes today never got those messages. I know it is not popular to say, but we (society, the BIPOC community) needs to get to young girls (and boys) probably pre-adolescence and cajole, bribe, encourage, motivate them to delay baby-making until they are able to provide a supportive, economically viable, preferably two-parent home. All the rest (after-school programs, mentoring, better schools, jobs, etc.) is all well and good, but will only reach a small percentage of the kids who got off on the wrong foot. It is a cultural approach to a cultural problem.
The rapper Common isn’t an expert on gang violence reduction is he?
He received an upbringing in a middle-class family. He grew up in a nice area close to the University of Chicago. His father got him a job with the Chicago Bulls as a teenager. Trying to paint Common as a kid who grew up on the streets but his god-fearing parents were still able to teach him ‘values’ is gross. I’m not sure if your assertation that all Black kids who grew up on the South Side grow up around gang bangers is more racist or classist but either way its dumb and inaccurate.
Well, I know you are coming from a racist viewpoint, but generally speaking, family planning is a major tent pole to breaking cyclical poverty. I agree with you, we need to strengthen the social safety net. The GVRT didn’t do that did it?
And Common is “one of the good ones” to you I’m sure.
I know you are just grasping but you should really read what you posted. Spoiler: It doesn’t support your argument.
Now, please, you don’t know enough about this to have an opinion. Just let the experts work.
There are countless examples on the Internet advocating something akin to GVRT Here’s just one https://www.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh241/files/archives/ncjrs/243468.pdf
If this improves things for residents, that’s great (though I’ll admit to a degree of skepticism). Neighborhoods should have some control over where these sorts of minor traffic improvements are installed rather than having it stovepiped within PBOT.
I worry about neighbors taking ownership of the local streets though, in a NIMBY way. I’ve heard neighbors complaining about how it’s terrible that people from out of the neighborhood are who cause the traffic on the local major road (say, Burnside). Or that it’s those mysterious Others who cut through neighborhoods. Or that discouraging through traffic will only hurt the locals.
Likewise, letting neighborhoods control zoning would be a goat rodeo.
Neighbors should control their local streets (at least the small ones), and I suspect the result would be beneficial for cyclists.
Obviously there’d need to be some guidelines (restrict the program to local-service streets, for example), but these orange barrels are such small-time stuff that if we don’t trust residents with that, it doesn’t speak well for our democracy. Or maybe I’m just accustomed to working with thoughtful neighbors who really do want to improve things.
Dealing with PBOT feels a bit like a goat rodeo, and their planners often don’t understand how traffic works out beyond I-405.
The problem with this type of thinking is that it allows property owners to decide how safe a stretch of road is for everyone else. Every street has considerations for people who both live on or near the street as well people who are passing through the area on the street and all of those people deserve safety.
It also enables a bloated system like the one Portland has where city agencies spend ungodly amounts of time and money “engaging” with the community by holding incestual committee meetings or attending the local NIMBY association meetings.
PBOT should employ evidence-based practices in road design and not let a vocal minority derail safety improvements.
It amounts to private ownership of a public resource.
Only a few are privileged enough to live where this is possible — they certainly intend to go where they like, and the costs of their control will be borne by those with the least means.
In my experience, PBOT isn’t being held back by neighbors, it’s PBOT playing the role of NIMBY. My neighbors are thoughtful and progressive, and, frankly, our streets would be safer for everyone if we had more voice. Your neighborhood may differ, but I believe in giving power to residents to solve their own problems.
Plastic barrels have not proven very effective in slowing somewhat-law-abiding motorists driving through construction zones. I am confident plastic barrels will have zero effect on motorists exchanging gunfire with each other or cruising for targets.
And NYTimes just posted a guest article today about improving neighborhoods to combat gun violence.
Fascinating country we’ve got here where we’ll look for literally any other way to combat gun violence, because we’ve utterly failed to limit the number of, and access to, guns.
Gun violence, traffic violence, you name it. It’s not only Portland. America doesn’t work anymore and fails at everything (welfare for billionaires an exception). Simply to survive it will, unfortunately, have to shed its democracy and adopt some form of dictatorship. Hopefully, the guy who gets the job has some common sense and ability like Xi or Putin, and is not an inept raving lunatic like you know who.
Then again, Mother Nature is also entering the picture with climate change, so do humans worldwide even matter anymore? In the meantime, have fun with it all and make it work for you.
Yay! Another ineffective ‘experimental pilot’! Sure, there are far superior evidence-based solutions to this problem that have existed for decades, but lets go with a stupid orange barrels that failed to slow down or discourage motorists when they were tried throughout the city. That’ll probably work.
I swear to god, these folks think ‘Local Access’ is some magical phrase or something.
No, the ‘thought counts’ when you get someone a bad birthday present. We pay these people lots of money to deploy effective solutions to collective problems. Stop carrying water for an organization that is so detached from reality and the community they serve, they think an orange barrel with a ‘Local Access’ sign is going to discourage high speed traffic and drive-by shootings.
I don’t know if Hardesty is being dumb or she is getting fed nonsense about the efficacy of the beg barrels, but this is a dumb solution to extremely important and dangerous problem.
The barrels around the corner from my house are all tagged and the A frame is bent as if someone ran it over. At least it contributes to the eyesore of the neighborhood.
Non sequitur, but does anyone know the history of why that slip lane — sorry, “SE Woodstock Interchange” is even there? 72nd doesn’t seem like a major enough street, now or historically, to have had this built. Was this connected to some dead freeway or old state highway?
It’s an old streetcar/ trolley line.
I believe it was the Mt.Scott Trolley line that went down Foster to 72nd to Woodstock & then on to Lents. Someone with better knowledge of that history could probably elucidate better.
That makes sense.
Even better reason to make it into a park/pedestrian-only zone then.
Update: I found an exact route for the line on the excellent Portland Electric Streetcar map — a modern map based on historical data. Worth checking out. https://transitmap.net/project-streetcars-portland-1915/
Violent tailgating is up. I’ve had to drive a fair bit in the last week and found several instances of the ass to mouth driver style. One person blew past us, we were going the speed limit and it was a double yellow zone. I really think cars have failed. Take them away.
I’m all for real diverters, but someone please explain to me how this will stop someone who is already willing to kill someone?