Meet AJ McCreary, the city council candidate looking to unseat Dan Ryan

Person with curly hair and light brown skin making a hand gesture and holding a folder outside.
McCreary at a Youth vs. ODOT event in March.
(Photo: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

Portland nonprofit leader AJ McCreary is running for the Portland City Council seat currently held by Commissioner Dan Ryan. Her platform puts her to the political left of Ryan and it has earned her support from some young climate activists. But will it be enough to unseat an incumbent?

I talked to McCreary yesterday to learn more about her views on transportation.

“As somebody who deeply cares about the environment and is loudly looking at what we are proposing to do and what we should be doing, I definitely want to lean into our opportunities to make sure Portland is a bikeable, walkable, public transit-friendly city,” McCreary told me.

McCreary, 36, is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Equitable Giving Circle, an organization founded in the early days of Covid that collects and distributes food boxes and other necessities to Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Her background has been heavily focused on mutual aid work, which McCreary says she is very passionate about.

McCreary says growing up in an interracial, working class family in north Portland informs her perspective on the city today and has shaped her vision about what needs to change.

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“I remember a Portland that was very bike and transit friendly, and we’re moving in a very different direction.”
— AJ McCreary

“Right now, there are parts of Portland that are bikeable. But not all of Portland is bikeable. And that has to do with lights, bike lanes, bike safe streets, streetlights,” she said. “It also has to do with where folks are living and which places are being economically developed. We need to make sure that we’re not just revitalizing downtown, but we’re revitalizing Lents, 82nd and St. John’s, and making those areas easier to get around with bikes, walking and public transit.”

If elected, McCreary would be the youngest person on City Council. She has pointed out the age discrepancy between other commissioners and their constituents. McCreary says she has a connection to Gen Z (born 1995 to 2010) via her son, who she raises as a single parent, and who has helped inform her belief in working with and for youth.

“We are only stewards for a temporary time,” McCreary said. “I’m really trying to make things better for the next generations. We should be thinking about what we’re leaving the people we’ve never met.”

Danny Cage, a student representative of the Portland Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education Policy Committee who helped create the expansive PPS climate policy, is McCreary’s youth coordinator. Cage has been advocating for McCreary at Youth vs ODOT rallies and is trying to build her support among climate advocates.

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“In the last two years Portland has been through so much political turmoil, To fully address our city’s needs we need someone with a background in community to help our community,” Cage tells BikePortland.

McCreary has made climate a top priority and says she’s strongly against I-5 freeway expansions. “As someone who lives right by the freeway, I’m horrified by this expansion. It’s not going to resolve any traffic – what will resolve traffic is making sure our city is bikeable, walkable and has working public transit.”

At a Youth vs. ODOT rally in March, she signed the “Green New Deal” pledge. She has been endorsed by environmental justice organization Sunrise Movement PDX, among several progressive organizations and policymakers.

To McCreary, transportation is interconnected with everything else. She says she wants people to be able to connect with their city and each other by the way they get around, and by doing this, to help restore and give pride to Portland while keeping us on a forward-looking trajectory.

“Transportation is a language that connects things. It interconnects with housing, it connects with economic development, it interconnects with the environment,” is how she put it.

“I remember a Portland that was very bike and transit friendly, and we’re moving in a very different direction. And while I don’t want to go back, I do want to reconnect with some of those core values that we’ve had.”

— Learn more about McCreary at her campaign website.

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pigs
pigs
9 months ago

A candidate I’m excited to see

dwk
dwk
9 months ago

Her position on the homeless problem is laughable… she has some good qualities but the numero uno problem in the city she has no answer for…

Markka Eubanks
Markka Eubanks
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

Nah, virtually all of her ideas are laughable. She gives discounts for her $300/hr fee only to black people. ***portion of comment deleted for personal insult*** Take a look: https://www.alannajoymccreary.com/contact-us Here it is: “If you want to work with me, get on my radar by sending me an email about what kind of work you’re looking for at or through my scheduling link here! You can book me for a 90 minute consultation for $150, and my hourly rate starts at $300, with a minimum of a 3 hour session. I can happily provide discounts to Black orgs and businesses, if you’re not a Black person, please do not ask for a discounted rate. Let’s work together! I am a busy woman, but I am taking clients on a weekly. You can email me by clicking the button below or by emailing me with the email provided or through my scheduling link to find a time to work together.”

Sigma
Sigma
8 months ago
Reply to  Markka Eubanks

How on earth is that legal?

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Sigma

According to the ACLU:

Your rights
Federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination in housing, credit, employment, and “public accommodations” like restaurants, movie theaters, parks, and trains.
You cannot be denied a home, a job, or service at a business that is open to the public because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin, and you cannot be charged a different price because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin.
The Constitution prevents the government from subjecting you to worse treatment because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin in any situation.
State and local laws may also provide protection against discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/discrimination-on-the-basis-of-race-ethnicity-or-national-origin/

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
8 months ago
Reply to  Markka Eubanks

The whole racial thing is incredibly off-putting. We already get the race hustling from Hardesty.

rain panther
rain panther
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

How does her choice to discount the cost of her own time equate to “the whole racial thing”?
Does a line lifted from the “Contact Us” page of her website amount to “race hustling”? (whatever tf that is)

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

This is no Dan Ryan support either, I may vote for her because possibly she is competent enough to change her position to one of real compassion and Fix the problem, Ryan is just so bad at this, 2 years to build 35 tiny homes for 250 million…a complete joke.
There is no one else to vote for, No one wants a job in this stupid style of government Portland has.

SECommuter
SECommuter
8 months ago
Reply to  dwk

I don’t want to sound like a Dan Ryan apologist but the man doesn’t really control the purse strings to the homeless bonds. The county controls most of the funding for homeless services , with a small say from the Joint Office.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
8 months ago
Reply to  dwk

It’s like asking drug addicts what they need to make their problems go away. More drugs!

cc_rider
cc_rider
9 months ago

definitely want to lean into our opportunities to make sure Portland is a bikeable, walkable, public transit-friendly city,” McCreary told me.

It should be noted that McCreary is in favor of continuing the status quo of sacrificing our bike paths, sidewalks, parks, bike lanes, and public transportation to a minority of bad actors who are taking advantage of Portlands compassionate approach to homelessness.

I really really really hate Dan Ryan though, if they go to a run off I’ll probably just sit that one out.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago

This election is going to be a bloodbath. I can’t wait for the day-after posts from the local alt-weekly papers and echo-chamber Twitter crowd. The city is burning and people like McCreary are running on a “continue to ignore the problem” platform.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Thing is, who’s the problem? How about that KGW story about local businesses dumping their trash at Dignity Village, a homeless camp. The homeless are stepping up to clean it up.

Quit blaming the homeless for all your problems.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

Quit blaming the homeless for all your problems.

*Citation needed

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

You are making an exception-based argument. Just because you’re seen something once or twice does not make it the norm in a population of 1,000,000 events.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Maybe more gasoline will help put out this fire…

Norman
Norman
8 months ago

Hopefully BikePortland will do a bio on Sharia Mayfield. Most candidates this election cycle are offering the same policies that have gotten us to where we are today. By contrast, she’s willing to address problems pragmatically. That means going against the current orthodoxy in progessive circles. She’s smart, articulate, and passionate. Multnomah County would do well by giving her a chance. If she’s elected MUPs might actually become usable again.

Sharp
Sharp
8 months ago
Reply to  Norman

100%
I haven’t been as excited to vote for a while. Mayfield is great.
It’s one thing to wring your hands and talk about compassion and outreach, it’s quite another to take a stand and make solutions.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
8 months ago

Sorry but she sounds as low-performing as Ryan. Pass.

John L
John L
8 months ago

Her platform and priorities sound like something from several years ago. You know, when transportation infrastructure was actually the most pressing issue facing Portland.

JR
JR
8 months ago

I didn’t want to vote for Ryan, but AJ’s platform doesn’t offer any benefit over Ryan with regard to illegal homeless camps. I voted for one of the other candidates who at least has a platform supporting some positive change to the streets of Portland.