‘Frustrated’ climate activists tweak demands for Oregon Governor after six months of protests

Photo from August 18th Sunrise PDX protest outside ODOT headquarters by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland.

Saying they are “deeply frustrated” by the lack of progress from Oregon Governor Kate Brown, youth climate activists with Sunrise Movement PDX have boosted and tweaked their demands in a new letter that was also copied to Oregon’s congressional delegation, US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and other elected officials.

“Sunrise PDX has been holding climate rallies outside the Region 1 Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) headquarters for over six months now to call attention to the agency’s devastating contribution to Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions,” states the letter, “When you began serving Oregon as governor in 2015, you promised to fight for the youth, for our futures. And yet, 6 years later, you have not kept that promise. We’ve sent you this letter in hopes that you finally will.”

Two dozen activists (average age of 23) signed the letter (below), which comes after their bi-monthly protests outside ODOT headquarters have gained wider notice from regional elected officials, advocacy coalition partners, and the media. Sunrise PDX activists celebrated last week when their climate concerns around ODOT’s planned freeway expansions made the front page of The Oregonian.


Among their demands first unveiled in April, these activists want: a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Rose Quarter
freeway expansion; an immediate moratorium on all freeway expansions within Portland’s Urban
Growth Boundary; and a youth climate advocate to be appointed to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the five-member panel that oversees ODOT.

Sunrise PDX says Brown has, “actively ignored” every demand.

Their hopes for a youth climate member of the OTC were dashed last month when the state announced the selectiono of UO Law School Dean Marcilynn A. Burke. Now the activists say Brown should expand the commission to seven members, and add one person under 35 and another who doesn’t or can’t own a car or drive — a condition they say would represent an estimated 1 in 3 Oregonians.

Now the activists have turned their sights to the upcoming influx of federal funding from the Biden administration. They have a new demand related to that:

“… every dollar from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better legislation (if passed) go towards transportation projects that will reduce vehicle miles traveled and carbon emissions by increasing investment in transit, passenger rail, biking and walking.”

Read the full letter below:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/12_2_21-Sunrise-Mvmt-Letter-to-Gov.-Brown.pdf” title=”12_2_21 Sunrise Mvmt Letter to Gov. Brown”]

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Bill Stites
1 year ago

Very proud of these young people. I suppose the torch has officially been passed down.

Sure, all hands on deck, but after years of effort my optimism is waning quickly – especially after COP26.
While we need top-down policy change very quickly, it’s clear that the average citizen just doesn’t give a shit … at least not enough to change their behavior and that’s very sad.

1 year ago

So glad to see these folks are continuing to hold Brown’s (and ODOT’s, and the OTC’s) feet to the fire!

This, in particular, is so clear:

If there is a need for the OTC to retain an odd number of commissioners for potential tie-breaking vote purposes, we urge you to appoint anotherfull voting member who doesn’t or can’t own a car or drive. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 Oregonians (approximately 1.4 million people) currently can’t or don’t drive, and yet this population does not have their needs met by the current commission.

Time and time again, we have watched the OTC prioritize road expansion over investments in intracity transit frequency, transit pass subsidy, disability access, intercity passenger rail investments, and improvements for biking and walking. We refuse to let this continue, and demand you instead work to empower and meet the needs of Oregonians depending on these alternatives.

(emphasis mine)

1 year ago

I continue to be impressed by the perseverance and creativity of these youth activists. We are really lucky to have them doing this work, and I’d encourage everyone to do what they can to support their efforts.

1 year ago

These young people are awesome! Oregon’s older environmental groups need to clue in and focus on the ODOT carbon dumpster fire.

Joe Friday
Joe Friday
1 year ago

Mr. Biden is going to help them out. He has ordered a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), to lower the cost of oil in the USA because he believes this will improve his polling numbers.

Derek D
Derek D
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Friday

Glad Biden is working to help lower costs of travel for working class families going to see family during the Holidays.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek D

It won’t make a noticeable difference in the price we see at the pump.