“We need to approach the crisis of vehicular violence with the same urgency and all hands-on deck strategies being implemented to address gun violence”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, Commissioner-in-charge of transportation
“Chaos”, “nightmare”, “terrible tragedy”, “horrific”.
That was how people described the actions of 64-year-old Paul Rivas after he drove his Honda SUV through 1.5 miles of southeast Portland neighborhood streets and tried to run over as many people as he could.
“He accelerated and turned even more towards me,” recalled one of Rivas’ 10 victims who was hit while riding his bike on Southeast 18th. “I had nowhere to go, but was sure he would correct himself somehow. Instead he hit me head-on, lifting me and my bike up onto his hood as he accelerated more.”
That person was lucky. Jean Gerich did not live to talk about what happened one year ago today. She was out on a walk, happy to have recovered from an ankle injury and to have received her first Covid-19 vaccine when she was struck and killed by Rivas. Dozens of people showed up on a rainy night to remember her.
This violent rampage forever changed the lives of its victims. It should have also forever changed how we tackle our collective goal of street safety. But it mostly came and went, dismissed as a one-off “accident” by a man who was easy to point a finger at. Like I shared a day after it happened, Rivas’ murderous acts were not new and they’re likely to keep happening as long as our streets and our society remain so dysfunctional.
One thing that has changed is how some of us talk about traffic violence.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the transportation bureau and is making a push for re-election based on her record of street safety projects, told me recently that the Rivas incident fundamentally changed her outlook. When I interviewed Hardesty for our podcast last month, I asked her to name one thing she’s done as a result of the Rivas rampage. She mentioned PBOT’s work to “daylight” intersections and to give crosswalk users a head start through intersections — both of which are projects PBOT started long before Hardesty took office.
Given that unsatisfying response, I emailed Commissioner Hardesty to give her another chance to address what happened on January 25th 2021. Here’s what she said (emphases mine):
“This horrible tragedy totally changed my thinking on the necessity to urgently address and talk about vehicular violence. I had never used that language until this incident. Now I believe that language is important to ensure drivers understand the weight of their responsibility operating a vehicle with the potential to cause great harm during a crash. We saw over 60 unacceptable traffic fatalities last year throughout Portland, but this incident was especially sinister as they intentionally killed people utilizing their car as a weapon.
We can improve street safety overall by design and with appropriate enforcement of our traffic laws. That’s why in my first year as Transportation Commissioner, I’ve prioritized fixing our highest crash corridors and rapid street safety improvements – mostly in the long-neglected neighborhoods of East Portland. While those investments are not in the same area as last year’s tragedy on inner Southeast Stark, they will be helpful in mitigating crashes in those neighborhoods. I would love to bring these kind of improvements throughout the City – but I will also prioritize based on the resources available and the data we analyze.
As a proponent of accountability and transparency in policing, sometimes I get mischaracterized as not believing in any kind of law enforcement, which is not true at all. I hope this individual is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the murder and harm they committed. It should go without saying that I support PPB enforcing serious traffic violations. Currently less than half of PPB employees are assigned to patrol and 911 response. I’ve been pushing for a re-alignment that allows more officers to be dispatched to Portlanders immediate needs.
This is also why we need more speed safety cameras and traffic light cameras to help enforce our traffic laws. I’ve been pushing for the policy changes that will allow us to do that as we wait for supply chains to produce more of these cameras. Once we get them, PBOT will be ready to install them.
The combination of improved safety infrastructure and enforcement for serious traffic infractions is what will bring more calm and peace to our streets. I’m grateful my Council colleagues supported my $450,000 request for rapid street safety improvements last year, but we must acknowledge that is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions we are investing in mitigating gun violence, despite a similar number of fatalities resulting from both crises. We need to approach the crisis of vehicular violence with the same urgency and all hands-on deck strategies being implemented to address gun violence. If we do that, we can help ensure another tragedy like what occurred one year ago isn’t able to happen again. My colleagues are beginning to understand the gravity of the traffic violence occurring on our streets and I hope advocates will push the entire Council, including myself, to make this a top City priority in 2022.”
I just witnessed a car going at least 50 mph down Morrison the wrong way, turn onto 10th, take out all the bike racks and almost run over the man on the sidewalk.
— SaySay Boutique (@saysayboutique) January 20, 2022
Sadly, we don’t even need to rely on what Rivas did to help us see the epidemic of traffic violence in Portland. In the past year, it’s been around us every week (note the date on the above Tweet). It comes in different forms, like speeding and drunk driving and hit-and-runs, but it is just as violent and deadly to the people who feel the devastating impacts.
Much like this problem remains acute, our system is still trying to bring Paul Rivas to justice.
After pleading not guilty to the 31 charges (including eight felony murder charges) against him, a judge deemed Rivas unfit to stand trial in May 2021. According to court documents and sources at the District Attorney’s office, Rivas was later evaluated by the State Hospital and found able to stand trial two months later. Today he remains in custody without bail and is scheduled to appear again in August with a jury trial set to begin in September.
While consequences for Rivas and justice for his victims is important, we focus on him as the cause of this violence at our own peril.
The question we should ask ourselves is: If our society and our streets create the perfect storm for vehicular violence, does it really matter if it’s intentional or not?
As well-meaning as our City Commissioner is, I must look with a skeptical eye. A couple things, as you said were already being done before they were assigned PBOT. Also, a long list of things that we as non-car users want to hear that have had nothing but talk done.
I only wish they could have done more well before now with elections coming. To me, it just appears to be electioneering. Of course, that’s what a politician does, but nothing said makes me want to vote for them.
I’ll be looking at the other candidates much closer.
Agree. My vote goes to her opponent.
You’re assuming her opponent will be better?
Oregonians’ laissez faire attitude towards the drug epidemic one of the major contributing factors to, among many other problems, our crisis of traffic lawlessness. It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots on that, but, for some reason, Oregonians keep making it easier to be a drug addict and decreasing the consequences for their behavior.
You do realize that there are consequences from drug addiction regardless of what laws are enacted or enforced, right? Having an addiction sucks, and although I can’t speak from experience, I’m pretty sure that there is not a universe where being addicted to drugs is “easy”. Oregonians’ attitude toward the drug epidemic isn’t laissez faire. It’s a recognition that a heavy handed punitive approach doesn’t actually work, as has been demonstrated in a number of jurisdictions such as Portugal.
Let’s say you arrest someone for using drugs. Do you know what happens to that person? They go to prison, which in the United States is an exceedingly harsh environment. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to realize that they won’t thrive in that environment, and that their addiction disorder will only be exacerbated. Then, once they’re released, they now have a record, which will make employment and housing more difficult. Lack of employment and housing further exacerbates addiction.
You should explain your reasoning as to how this punitive approach would fix traffic lawlessness. Show your work. Include statistics that prove that traffic lawlessness is worse in Oregon than in other states with more stringent drug laws, and that demonstrably prove, if our crisis is indeed worse, that it is worse specifically because of decriminalization of drugs and treatment of those with an addiction disorder, as opposed to any number of other factors. I know you can’t do that since you didn’t actually put any thought into your comment.
Addiction is a medical and psychological issue, and should be treated as such.
And I will laugh at you or anyone who says “oh, but they shouldn’t have started using drugs in the first place.”
I’ve been dealing with and cleaning up the messes addicts in my own family have made all my life. My lifetime supply of compassion for them is all used up and then some. My compassion for the addicts’ friends and the people who love them whose lives they destroy is deep and understanding. I don’t have to explain or justify squat to you. But I will say this, an addict in prison for the crimes they commit isn’t running over people while using, destroying the livability of our community, committing property crimes to feed their habit, or killing or being killed by others in the drug life.
If you have been addicted/had substance use issues then you would know that you have to hit rock bottom to change. Prison/jail can do that. Jail did it for me with my drinking. Ask other addicts. Getting arrested, then released, fed food, offered and refused services and then given another tent, does not encourage a reevaluation of ones life choices as much as being faced with time—and this I say “apparently” as we have an unprecedented level of depravity around us now that “decarceration” for drugs has been fully implemented. Also prison usually gives people a period of sobriety during which their neurotransmitters can reset and allow them at least the chance of deciding to get sober.
Often the addiction as disease model when used by non-addicts tends to diminish the agency of people—they are autonomous and without their being on board, treatment isn’t going to work. A spell of forced sobriety where you are given time to decide whether this is the way you want to live might. The current system of offering treatment which is then refused is not working at all. For anyone. I want to be able to ride the Max and walk at night again. If that’s selfish then fine, I’m selfish. The violent drug rages need to go away from my city.
Portugal is miles away literally and figuratively. A small country with intact social networks, compared to the lonely transient population of the US west coast. The number of distressed individuals there is so low, the level of individualism and depression so low.
Do you think Portugal had “intact social networks” when they decriminalized drugs? During their crisis, 1% of their entire population was addicted to heroin and virtually everyone had a family member with an addiction problem (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it). I don’t know in what world that could be considered an intact social network. In fact, it’s precisely because they had a broad societal emergency that they decided to implement change, which ended up significantly reducing the number of people using heroin.
I’m glad jail helped you to become sober. I really am. However, if providing prison as a means for people to “hit rock bottom” in the name of maintaining their agency were broadly applicable as a solution, then given the number of people who end up being imprisoned for their addiction throughout the country, we shouldn’t have a drug crisis. But we do. Furthermore, I think it’s naive to assume that prison is a drug/alcohol free zone. People smuggle drugs into prison and/or brew alcoholic concoctions in prison all the time. Even if that were not the case, “resetting neurotransmitters” through imprisonment (aka untreated withdrawal) is dangerous.
It’s hard to know if measure 110 will end up mitigating addiction, given that it’s not even been a year since it came into effect. Addiction is a complicated issue that doesn’t have one clear cut solution. I’m not going to pretend that this policy will result in a utopia where everyone with an addiction will all of a sudden seek treatment and sober up. Portugal after all does still have drug addiction, even if it’s greatly reduced. What is clear is that the incarceration model is a failure. And policies have to be enacted according to broad societal trends, statistics, science, medicine, and lessons from policy successes or failures in other jurisdictions, as opposed to any individual’s anecdote.
The purpose for prison isn’t to benefit criminals. It’s intended to protect society from the crimes criminals commit. I’d like our society to be better protected than it currently is from the crimes that addicts commit.
Sure, and what happens once those addicts complete their sentences and are released from prison? By maintaining the status quo of incarcerating drug users and meanwhile not addressing the medical and psychological issue of addiction, how exactly are you protecting society from addicts? Or are you seriously proposing life sentences for any and all drug-related crimes? Throw away the key? We can’t possibly build enough prison space to accommodate all of those additional prisoners. It isn’t about “benefiting criminals”. It’s about benefiting society by addressing a social ill through means other than incarceration by a method that has worked elsewhere. The fact that you’re not even willing to consider a solution that has the potential to reduce the number of addicts really makes me doubt that you’re serious about “protecting society” from addicts.
As Don, the recovering addict, stated, society can’t force an addict to turn their life around. That has to come from within the addict. Sure we can offer treatment and humane spaces for homeless addicts to live. But the vast majority of them will refuse because that means they have to stop using. They have to hit bottom. And by society enabling them to continue with their addictions and the attendant problems that creates for non-addict society, they’re never going to get there. Ask any recovering addict or family member of an addict, they’ll tell you the same thing.
We could do both. I know we generally don’t, but that’s a failing of the system, not an inherent feature.
Unfortunately there are some addicts who reject treatment no matter the terms. For those, we should have other solutions.
It’s hard to disagree with this statement. We also need to recognize that the giving folks tents and letting them fester on the streets while gleaning bikes and catalytic converters from the land doesn’t actually work, either.
We need zero-effort gateways to treatment for those who want it, a place to go for folks who would otherwise be living on the streets where they can wallow in their addiction without impacting the rest of society, and consistent sanctions for those who victimize others, addicted or not.
Some of that can be accomplished with money (and more competent administration than Oregon seems capable of at the moment). The rest is more difficult.
The complete lack of enforcement is not helping things. Like it or not, the threat of fines and/or prison do have an impact on driver behavior. It won’t stop people from doing 5 to 10 over routinely, but it will impact some of the more extreme cases we see around town (people completely ignoring stop signs, red lights, etc). Obviously, the rampage above has more to do with mental health than traffic enforcement. I don’t see any comments from our commissioner about hiring officers to rebuild the PPB traffic division.
It is going to take a major shift to automated enforcement to see any major improvement, now that we have four issues compounding this deepening period of chronic unsafe streets:
– Those most affected by roadway violence are seen as ‘at fault’ or the ‘price of doing business’ due to most thinking there is no alternative;
– Cops generally don’t get into policing & the academy to enforce traffic laws;
– The mis-use of traffic enforcement by the ‘policing industry’ as a class / race based control tool has undermined its effectiveness for traffic safety; and
– Now we cannot even hope for ‘smart cars to save us’ – based on more and more details about ‘Telsa et al’ software settings allowing users to detuning their AV’s traffic safety behaviours…
Did I miss anything else?
Yes, you missed something. ***Editor: I cut the first three words, insulting*** policing as a “class/race based control tool”. THAT attitude has resulted in police not stopping people for fear that the person will be a POC, etc. This results in criminals not being caught in many cases, THEN people don’t understand why the police didn’t stop the person before they did a serious crime.
My recommendation: Follow the words of MLK – judge each person by their character, not by their skin color. If they did something wrong, PUNISH them according to the law. Stop molly-coddling criminals (of any color). If you can’t do that, then stop complaining about crime.
I think it is clear the only crisis we have in Portland is that of competent leadership in city hall. These people have systematically ruined one of the most pleasant, livable cities in the country with pandering and grandstanding instead of doing the hard work of making sure the city and all bureaus are run effectively.
They have failed at the most basic of tasks; to ensure a safe and orderly city, in favor of a bacchanalia of identity politics and virtue signaling.
It’s telling that the first and most important response Hardesty cites is her own shift in language. Sorry, but this kind of disorder doesn’t care what you call it. It is the natural result of a virtually no traffic enforcement and a completely unaccountable PD intent on a work slowdown.
I nominate that for comment of the month!!!
I wonder about all those people who keep voting for the same politicians, as well as all those potential voters who don’t bother voting at all – are they part of the problem?
Agreed. As long as we live in a democracy (sorta) the problem of bad politicians are the direct result of the voters. But that is just a simplistic way to evade the argument that we should expect more.
If you don’t have the gumption to get off your butt to vote, then IMHO you shouldn’t vote! When you hear about all the people who don’t vote, say to your self: “Thank Gawd that they don’t!”
Yep. Vote the incumbents out. Hardesty just doesn’t understand transportation, and we don’t have time to teach it.
But also: change the city charter
It’s absurd the entire city votes for a commish who demonstrates the things we want collectively, but that person gets assigned a different job by the Mayor for political reasons. Totally blows up the right to representation for voters.
I’m with you on the second point more than the first. It’d be cool to try a system where the mayor isn’t so readily able to set up colleagues/rivals for failure (at the expense of the electorate).
And while I’m not as hyped up as you are about getting rid of Hardesty, yeah, let’s change the charter. I’d like to see us do away with commissioners and move to a City Council setup, with more representatives representing more of the city. Let Hardesty run for one of those seats.
I would lay 100% of the blame for the lack of enforcement and PD work slowdown on the policies of city hall for not backing the police when they do their jobs, plus the same lack of support for them by the loudest mouths of many ***Editor: I cut the final word, use of scare quotes is insulting***. They’re afraid of doing their jobs for good reason.
“Identity politics and virtue signaling…” Nothing at all like your own comment, I’m sure.
And in Vancouver/ Clark County…sadly similar:
“Pedestrians narrowly avoided being struck by a pickup being driven recklessly Monday morning in east Vancouver before it crashed into cars and two houses, according to the Vancouver Police Department.” – The Columbian
‘The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help identifying a man deputies said ran from a fatal crash hit-& run Sunday in Hazel Dell (NE Highway 99 and 88th St.) Investigators said the driver of a gold Ford F-250 pickup that had been reported stolen in Washington County, Ore….’- The Columbian
Only slightly related – mainly posting because of how angry it made me: on NextDoor yesterday, a mother posted that a car pulling out of a bar parking lot almost hit her kids and then drove onto the sidewalk, hit a light pole and drove off. Out of the several comments on that Nextdoor post, two people told the mom that her kids should have been wearing brighter clothing.
It’s amazing how many posters instinctively defend the driver and blame the ped/cyclist. I suspect it’s from a suppressed knowledge that they themselves do not drive safely and routinely blame others for their mistakes and poor decisions.
Totally – it is super gross.
So sad and true.
I guess the two houses just weren’t visible enough lol
Hardesty is running for re-election? Hilarious, good luck with that.. We have the worst run city in America right now, with traffic that is our of control, no enforcement to speak of at all, mostly due to her….
She is running on that???
Tear Gas Ted runs PPB, not Hardesty.
Minimizing Hardesty’s role in running the city is patronizing. She is a full-on member of City Council, and has (or had) outsized power due to her early popularity and the sense she was more in-sync with the times than her colleagues. Circumstances have changed, she hasn’t adapted, and Hardesty is now badly out of sync with Portland voters.
You’ll probably call be a racist for saying it, but Hardesty has been a big contributor toward the strained relationship between city leadership and the PPB. And that is going to cost her dearly in November.
The primary election is May 17th, 2022. Be sure to vote Watts!
I’m all for the blaming and crediting Hardesty for the things she has done and for the things she hasn’t. You on the other hand, want to blame 1/5th of the City Council for the total collapse of the city.
Can you elaborate on this mystical ‘outsized-power’ she had? My understanding is that she has control of her Bureaus and then 1 vote just like everyone else on the city council.
You’ll are gonna be crushed when she cruises to victory.
Well, I do think you are a racist, but that mostly has to do with you blaming a single Black women for the decades long slow collapse of a city government. It’s not like you articulating why she is responsible. Should she just ‘shut up and dribble’ Watts? The relationship between City leadership and PPB leadership/PPA is that City leadership is trying to navigate a situation where a rogue city agency has fostered a cultural of brutality and hate which has caused the population of the city to detest that agency.
Hardesty didn’t make those PPB officers drop dead opposums on the door of a Black bar. Hardesty didn’t force PPB to have such sustained level of brutality that the federal DOJ took the city to court. Hardesty didn’t make PPB insert alt-right content into their protest training materials. Hardesty didn’t make PPB respond with terrible ultra-violence on video for all to see. Hardesty didn’t make Eric Kammerer beat a Black man who was calmly asking PPB officers to stop tear gassing his children in their beds.
The ‘strained-relationship’ is the result of decades of PPB choosing the wrong path. Choosing hate and divisions. Choosing to nurture and recruit white supremacists. Hardesty has faults but its too her credit that she has the courage to continue to stand against the most powerful street gang in the city.
This is technically true, of course, but completely ignores the nature of political power, which is based more on influence and public support than ability to vote. It’s why you think neighborhood associations can “veto” projects they have no role in approving. Used properly, political power can change one vote into 3 or 4. Political power can be used constructively or destructively, even when one has the best intentions.
I don’t know if I’ll be “crushed” so much as astounded. My analysis is that it will be very difficult for Hardesty to win unless the candidacy of her opponents somehow collapses. I don’t get emotionally involved with candidates or politics in general, which is why I can have conversations like this without resorting to insults and baseless accusations. Similarly, I hope you will refrain from lodging further personal attacks.
I agree with your closing sentence that Hardesty has shown courage, and that is one of several reasons why I have a lot of respect for her, even if I think she has done great damage to the city (which has nothing to do with her race or gender, but solely based on how she used her (now greatly diminished) political power).
So you’re saying Hardesty is bad for continuing to support the same actions while in office that she campaigned on? Maybe she should be more like Ted and just be an empty suit?
There is a huge amount of irony when you have this paragraph follow the first. If you don’t think NAs carry weight just look at the blowback Eudaly got for trying to limit their power.
The difference is that Hardesty does just have one vote while the neighborhood associations have lots of influence in their ability to oppose candidates for office.
So in your mind, the other city councilors have to follow Hardestys lead because she is the most popular city councilor? In your world, it’s Hardesty’s fault that the other city councilors are too spineless to stick to their principles? Wow, yet another thing Hardesty has ‘done’. What’s next?
I’m guessing your “analysis” is the other dudes you talk with message boards on and your circle of friends. Not everyone has built up Hardesty as this antifa super soldier, most people see her as the only person on the city council who cares.
Lots of people think they are ‘enlightened rationalist’ and aren’t swayed by measly emotions! You blame a single person for the CoPs troubles, which in itself is irrational. I don’t make baseless accusations and I’m not calling you a racist as an insult. It’s the logical conclusion when you can’t even begin to articulate why you blame her for every problem under the sun. Just making vague statements about power aren’t very convincing. I’m waiting to hear about Hardesty’s deep state shadow government though.
You blame our current issues with the police on the Black female leader of the PBOT cause she said words that hurt LEO fee fees rather than the white, male, two-term Mayor/Police Commissioner. That speaks volumes.
No. I’m not saying “she’s bad”. I’m saying she is seen by many, including me, to have used her power in a way that has damaged the city (and her re-election prospects). You obviously disagree with this statement, and I’m willing to leave it at that until we see if voters agree with my assessment.
They do carry weight, but it’s only because they enjoy broad support from residents. They have very little formal power, with no ability to veto anything.
This assertion is far from “ironic” — it follows directly from my first point.
This statement is grossly unfair to others on city council (including the mayor). I am confident they all care and are doing their best to improve conditions, it’s just that they have not been effective.
Finally, though I have repeated this often in our past conversations, it appears I need to state it again. I do not hold Hardesty solely responsible for conditions in Portland, but I do think she has made an outsized contribution to them.
You haven’t really defined what her ‘power’ is. You seem to under the impression that she controls the other city councilors and is responsible for their votes as well?
Do they enjoy broad support from the residents? I’d bet good money 95% of my neighborhood is unaware the SJNA exists.
Your statement is definitely ironic, you’ve just walked it back by acknowledging that NAs have power. Some of that power is the ability to kill city projects they don’t like.
Well, you truncated my quote which is actually “most people see her as the only person on the city council who cares”, which is a commentary on how they are perceived. Now, I don’t believe for a second Ted Wheeler cares about Portland, or else he wouldn’t have run for Mayor again and would have let someone competent run for the conservative party. It’s really hard to say if the others care because most of the city council doesn’t seem to exist. I have no idea what Mapps or Rubio are doing and I follow city politics. Dan Ryan is sadly puttering around Portland trying to see what working class community he can move all the homeless in to. Wheeler might not even live here for all I know.
“She’s probably done more damage to the city than any other individual in recent times, elected or not”
You can’t even articulate what she’s done that is so horrid. She used her ‘power’ at some unspecified time to do some unspecified way and the result was so horrid that Hardesty, the leader of the Transportation Bureau has done more damage to the city than any other individual in recent times. That’s impressive amount of damage when you can’t even articulate what she did. You’d think for such a terrible person, you’d be at least able to point what she’s actually done rather than making vague references.
Most of your questions were answered in my earlier posts; I explained what political power was, how it differs from formal power conferred from an elective office or role in a process, and how both neighborhood associations and Commissioner Hardesty (at least earlier in her tenure) derived their power from popular support, and are/were able to use it to magnify their impact.
I have said that I believe that Hardesty has contributed more to our current problems then any other individual (though on further reflection I might put her in the top three). This is entirely consistent with my statement that I do not hold her solely responsible for Portland’s problems, which have many authors, so I’m not sure you “got me” on that one.
Again you minimize and discredit Hardesty’s important role in Portland since she joined City Council, and I think she deserves more respect than that. Again, Hardesty is not a bad person, and has many attributes I want to see in a politician, she just used her power in a way that led us to where we are today. Not alone, just more than most folks, in part because she had more power to start with.
You continue to attribute words to me I did not say (Hardesty is a terrible person? I clearly said the opposite!), and since you consistently respond with such a hostile tone, it is hard for me to believe that you are arguing in good faith. Since we are just going around in circles, I will let you have the last word.
I have a whole degree in Political Science and feel very comfortable discussing political power if you want to elaborate but I’m not going to do the work for you. What you haven’t answered (and wont) is what her power is (i.e. does she control her the other city councilors? Does she control the city staffers?), and how she used it (i.e. Did she blackmail somebody). Your “She used her unspeficifed power in an unspecified way to do terrible damage to the city” just isn’t compelling. You believe she is in the ‘top 3’ of folks who have done the most damage to the City and you can’t even articulate what she did much more how she did it.
Ah, did you learn that from Bill O? I don’t have a hostile tone. I think a lot of people who are comfortable in an echo chamber perceive pushback as hostility. In your circle of friends you can get away with saying super vague stuff in criticism of Hardesty because your friend group dislikes Hardesty also (I’m sure for totally legit reasons). I’m just challenging you to articulate what she actually did and you wont touch it with a 15 foot stick because you probably understand that your criticism goes no deeper than a dislike of her personally OR you understand that your criticism is completely irrational and you don’t want to get in to specifics because it will only highlight just how irrational it is.
For example, Ted Wheeler is in my top 3 worst people for the City of Portland, but if you asked me why, I could probably write ten pages specifying the actions he’s taken or not taken that contributed to our current problems. You’ve had many chances to clarify what she’s done that is so terrible and punted on all of them.
We all know Hardesty doesn’t run the PPB, but she will probably be making hay of the fact that she has also been abused by the PPB as a selling point in the election, so thanks / no thanks officer Hunzeker.
The PPB needs some serious reform, and not just more warm bodies in uniforms, before there is any real change in PDX. The same goes for the Commission form of gov’t in PDX. FWIW, the City Charter reform survey is on-line now.
Mostly due to Ted.
I think focusing on people who intentionally causing harm with their vehicles is a bad look. The majority of people who die on our streets this year will be victims of vehicular crimes that society has normalized like speeding, blowing stop signs, not looking for pedestrians, driving without the proper lighting equipment, and realistically drunk/drugged driving.
If we really want to make streets safe, there are plenty of evidence-based, easy and cheap ways to do it. The only caveat is that safe streets come at the cost of slowing down motorists and that’s something PBOT is simply unwilling to do. So PBOT will continue on its Quixotic quest to build fast, safe streets.
And I’ll also point out again that PPB and OSP both used their lobbying arms to kill a bill in the last legislative session that would have allowed cities to greatly cheaply expand automated traffic enforcement. Law enforcement communities are playing an active part in making sure our roads are dangerous.
PBoT seems to be pretty intent on lowering speed limits and implementing road diets. They just don’t care if anyone actually follows the rules. Remember “20 Is Plenty” and Vision Zero? Florid exercises in CYA and branding.
That’s what I’m saying. PBOT does stuff like lowering speed limits because they know that it wont actually slow motorist down. It’s performative attempts at creating safe streets.
The critical failure in some 20 zones is the failure to introduce appropriate traffic calming. If a street looks to be designed for 30mph, then the natural tendency is to drive that speed. As example, I find (when driving) that it requires specific intent and focus to keep my car rolling below 25 at or near 20. And most days, this means having someone tailgating me. The road is wide with long sight lines. Building real traffic calming is an opportunity to really get it right aesthetically and functionally while improving the area’s feeling of community and safety. It does cost money to do it right. But such investments will improve livability of our city.
I agree, cmh89. Ordinary drivers don’t see themselves as having anything to do with a guy like Rivas. They can dismiss him as “crazy” while they continue to speed, blow through stop signs, etc. These behaviors are acts of vehicular violence also – just more subtle.
Recently I was running on a major street in SW Portland, on the left side of the road (most SW Portland streets do NOT have sidewalks), facing traffic. An SUV driven by a woman approached at high speed from a street on my left that teed into the main street I was running on; the smaller street had a stop sign. I strongly suspected the driver had no intention of stopping, even though my trajectory would put me in the intersection ahead of her SUV. So I slowed down and waited just in front of the intersection as the driver started a right turn and looked over her left shoulder and started to accelerate into the main road. At the last second she saw me and slammed on her brakes – and boy was she angry! She let out a tirade of epithets – not about her own lack of care but about me for having the audacity to be running on the side of the road and needing to cross the intersection at the same time she wanted to make a right turn onto a main street.
This experience sums up what’s wrong with a huge percentage of drivers today: since they will *NEVER* get a ticket in Portland, they push the envelope to go as fast as they can, at all times. They do NOT react and slow down when there are peds, bikes, kids, dogs etc in the roadway – they are not aware of anything outside their vehicles. They follow the rules at a minimal level, doing only the things that keep them from being killed, such as NOT stopping for a right turn and just glancing over the left shoulder to make sure no car is coming up a main street, even though the law sensibly compels them to stop and make sure no peds are in the intersection. Drivers normalize these kinds of violent behaviors and are never held accountable for them.
I am quite convinced at this point that driving an automobile inherently generates sociopathy. Like anything, it doesn’t affect everyone or everyone the same, but I’m sure I’m not alone in how many perfectly nice folks I’ve witnessed turn into angry sociopaths when they start driving.
That’s a great point, damiene. I’d love for someone to examine the issue that could be labeled “driver entitlement” – the sense that a driver is entitled to go as fast as possible, to disregard whatever rules impede going as fast as possible, and the like. As a cyclist, ped, transit user, etc, I see this problem all of the time. Get outside of a car (which hardly anyone ever does), and you’ll see this problem all of the time.
I think there is something to this. It may not be so obvious as conscious entitlement, but I think road rage derives from the gulf of expectation (e.g., “My car can go 60, therefore I should be going 60”) versus reality (e.g., “There are things in my way preventing me from going 60”). And it’s easy to imagine – which does not mean it’s true, but I suspect it is – that completely isolating oneself from one’s environment as automobiles do invites sociopathic tendencies. Road rage simply being the most obvious manifestation.
You may be confusing sociopathy with being oblivious/unaware, which I think is a fairer charge.
I am not.
Right on. The “oblivious/unaware” argument is used all the time to rationalize vehicular violence. “He’s a really nice person but he’s just unaware when he drives his 8000-lb vehicle that he endangers children, walkers, cyclists etc with his oblivious driving habits.”
Reminds me of the state legislators who objected to the use of the phrase “vehicular violence” at all. To them it’s just good people driving cars.
It’s not a rationalization, it’s an explanation. I think it is more accurate that claims of sociopathy. A sociopath wouldn’t care who they harmed, and I think the problem with most drivers is that they are oblivious to the harm they could potentially cause.
It may be more cathartic to call people sociopaths, but I don’t think it’s accurate.
These are not mutually exclusive. One can often be a shield for the other, even.
I would say the same thing about a strict adherence to a perceived “centrism”, which is usually code for “this works for me and mine, please don’t rock the boat”.
Here, I’ll put this as a more concrete argument than I have so far. From Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri (https://www.mha-em.org/im-looking-for/mental-health-knowledge-base/conditions/127-psychopathy-vs-sociopathy), my emphasis added:
Watts’ objection focuses exclusively on the last point (while conceding the fifth), but I certainly claim many drivers often behave with three or more of these (including, sometimes, the last point) who do not when they aren’t driving. Hence “driving an automobile inherently generates sociopathy”.
I agree. Look at how drivers get so many signals about the “rightness” of their actions in the larger culture. Two strong signals:
– Car ads, which emphasize going fast, having no cares, even ripping up the natural landscape (4WD plows up a dirt road and plunges into a creek and then up the opposite bank).
– Speedy services of all sorts: Note that the emphasis in “Door Dash” is on speed, not on safety. I strongly suspect that a lot of the speeding cars on the roads now are these so-called gig workers who are incentivized to drive as fast as possible to get as many passengers (Uber, Lyft) or deliveries (Door Dash, Amazon and UPS sub-contractors) in as short a window as possible, thereby maximizing income. Meanwhile we all await the day Door Dash changes its name to Safe and Careful Food Delivery Within a Realistic Timeframe Given the Prevailing Transportation Conditions.
Watts’ objection is most fundamentally the misuse of psychiatric diagnoses by non-psychiatrists in an attempt to explain an observed social phenomenon.
The fundamental problem is that many drivers are inattentive and give too little weight to the hazards (to themselves and others) inherent in driving, not that they manifest a hidden mental disorder when they turn the ignition key of a car.
That said, I do think this may say something interesting about human psychology and cognition.
Based on your posting history, I do not believe this is your fundamental objection.
Yes…manifesting often as breaking or flouting the law, having little regard for the safety of others, being impulsive and not planing ahead, being prone to aggressiveness and fighting, and, less frequently but still more often than is comfortable, not feeling remorse or guilt. I.e., sociopathy.
I’ll leave it there.
Very little attention is ever paid to the perpetrators of these crimes. Does anyone really think that a gang-shooter or a dangerous driver has not committed similar acts multiple times before? I have seen numbers as high as an average of 400 times driving drunk, before they get their first DUI citation. Same with gang shooters; does anybody really think this was there first crime? or the drivers who go rogue and mow down pedestrians and cyclists? There are many many warning signs, but our so-called criminal justice system has become an revolving door for low-level perps, who eventually become killers. Look at European nations, that jump all over first-time offenders. Their rates of serious driving crimes are fractions of ours. Everybody there knows that the motor vehicle is considered a dangerous weapon. You can play nice all you want, but there is a price for blanket ‘mercy’.
I don’t think the views of one commissioner are going to change anything with regard to this issue. We need a city government that focuses on professionals making administrative decisions as opposed to politicians. This coupled with a more diverse and representative city council focusing on policy could bail this city from the bottom tier it has wallowed in the past several years. I also agree with many of the comments below about the lack of appropriate enforcement is driving the lawlessness that many of us witness on a daily basis living here. We need more traffic enforcement by a more accountable police force. We also need to get the homeless population off the streets and into more designated areas where they have sanitized living conditions, so that the ones who refuse to live according to basic rules can be kicked out, jailed, or whatever it takes to bring up the abysmal standard of living we are subjected to.
I agree with everything you’ve written here, JB, except for the first sentence and the last sentence:
– Voting OUT a sitting commissioner who fails to provide services is THE most direct and important thing we can do to change the transportation situation in this city.
– Most people will take a dim view of jailing people for being homeless, unless you mean that someone could be arrested for illegal camping. But the city is looking the other way right now b/c they have failed to come up with alternatives for housing people. (See point #1 and help vote out the politicians who have failed to provide services.)
Just saw this article posted on the forum. Feel so bad about this tragedy. Written by son of victim
It’s clear that Commissioner Hardesty’s messaging has sharpened around the scourge of vehicular violence. Her recent conversation with The Street Trust is further evidence of that. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of the commissioner’s push for transformative change in our city with regard to infrastructure and culture. She has my support if we start seeing substantive moves to focus on people rather than cars within PBOT and in her own policies.
Jonathan, I agree with this question that you pose: “If our society and our streets create the perfect storm for vehicular violence, does it really matter if it’s intentional or not?”
Without cultural change it doesn’t matter how many protected bike lanes we have. We need to chart a new, more compassionate path in our society.
My thoughts are with the family and loved ones of Jean Gerich and all others physically and emotionally injured by this tragedy.
I was just two hours ago nearly hit on Williams by a man driving a grey Hummer. He was careening down the bike lane between Alberta & Killingsworth honking at probably 40 miles per hour being chased by 2 marked and one unmarked police cars. I was barely able to get out of the way and would have likely been killed. He blasted through a red light at the intersection of Killingsworth and Williams and proceeded the wrong way down the one way section of Williams. A few blocks further along, when I got to the intersection of Williams and Ainsworth, there was a man gathering himself off the ground after seemingly having been hit by this guy and knocked off his bike, which was sitting a few feet away with a tacoed front wheel.
I gotta say, as a police abolitionist and a dedicated transportation and recreational cyclist, I am a bit conflicted. On the one hand, protecting vulnerable road users is basically the main thing I feel like requires some kind of enforcement mechanism. But I don’t feel like the cops are actually doing their job in this regard. And in this case, they almost certainly made the situation worse (if they hadn’t been chasing this guy at high speed, also in potentially deadly vehicles, he probably wouldn’t have been driving quite so recklessly).
Anyways, thought I’d share and curious what other people think about this )especially other people who believe we need at the very least to fundamentally re-examine policing).
I think that your attitude towards society’s need for law enforcement is dangerously naive.
This occurred in Washington state. I don’t know the laws in Washington, but with drug decriminalization in Oregon you can expect to see A LOT of this in the future:
Want to stop this type of thing? Stop voting for the political party that enables it.
A political party didn’t decriminalize drug use in Oregon. That was the naive citizens of Oregon through various ballot initiatives.
Yup, we’re all just naively following the science and blindly making decisions that make our justice system more equitable. The idea that decriminalizing something that people were already doing somehow makes it more rampant is ‘naive’ in this application of that logic because it completely discounts how unevenly drug laws were being applied to PoC communities. Simply calling out other people as being naive without acknowledging why those changes were asked for is a dogwhistle by another name.
To see how well drug legalization and decriminalization is working out, take a look along any of our multiuse paths (particularly the I-205 one), under any large interstate bridge, along Powell Blvd in East Portland, or just about any other public space. Also, check out property and violent crime statistics since legalization and decriminalization went into effect. Oh, and as to your racial argument, the vast majority of the drug addicts destroying our public spaces are white.
A political party in all 50 states loves to let criminals out of jail, loves to complain about the number of criminals of certain colors in jail, and loves to molly-coddle criminals. It may have been citizens in OR decriminalizing drugs but a certain political party has done, and is doing, worse things around the nation.
If you like lots of crime, keep voting for that party, otherwise, stop doing it. What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
Then there’s another political party that tries to overthrow a free and fair election and install a fascist dictator who pardons his fellow traitors. So there’s that.
Jonathan, allowing people like this to post lies like decriminalization of drugs causes traffic accidents is NOT promoting discussion of important issues, it is allowing your website to be used for right-wing propaganda. You seem to think you’re doing something positive for the community, but in fact you are simply perpetuating misinformation, and thus the status quo. Wake up bro.
We do know that driving while high leads to traffic accidents. We don’t know that decriminalization leads to more driving while high, but it’s certainly plausible that it does.
Making that connection is more along the lines of a speculative or unproven assertion (which this site, like any forum populated by humans, has plenty of). Labeling this propaganda is itself a form of propaganda.
Watts, here’s a Bloomberg article about an Insurance Institute study that showed that legalizing pot led to more crashes. I don’t know if the results still hold, years later. Also, my BP interview last year with Wa Co Assistant DA Kimberly Silverman touched on these issues.
Quote:”While consequences for Rivas and justice for his victims is important, we focus on him as the cause of this violence at our own peril.
The question we should ask ourselves is: If our society and our streets create the perfect storm for vehicular violence, does it really matter if it’s intentional or not?”
I asked myself that question and here is the answer: He apparently intentionally killed people. If your intent is to kill people, no street design could have stopped it. His vehicle did not commit violence – HE DID! Vehicles and guns do not commit violence – people do. Period.
Getting old to hear, but there’s no doubt Portland is really out of control. Only the strongest and richest have any safety.
Latest case in point for nextdoor: A driver hit and ran a parked car. By sheer luck, police were driving by and pursued, but relented after 1 block when driver went against traffic wrong way on Broadway (hot pursuits are dangerous, but still! ). SO at least they got a plate right… no, this car had no plates like so many. I can’t believe it is totally acceptable now.
I’ve personally witnessed numerous minor crimes by drivers of such vehicles. Just had one today that paused in front of our open garage and stared inside while wife was unloading young children.
I’ve lived and traveled many places and never felt fear like I have creeping in here in Portland. 🙁