Ever been to a transportation-related government committee meeting where someone reads the names of recent traffic victims? It’s a practice that has become more common in Portland in recent years as agencies have adopted Vision Zero campaigns.
I’m at meetings where this happens relatively often. It’s done at the outset of a meeting and I find it a powerful and somber reminder of what we’re fighting for and why making roads safer is so urgent. It’s often followed by a moment of silence.
When the names were read out loud at Metro’s March 16th Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) meeting, it spurred a notable exchange between a Metro councilor, a Metro staffer and commissioners from Washington and Clackamas counties. As I watched and listened to the meeting, it made me realize that this reading of the names has even more value than I’d previously thought.
In this short podcast episode, you’ll hear the audio clips from the meeting along with my commentary interspersed between them.
What I found notable was how Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai used the reading as an opportunity to ask Metro about their road safety work. And in doing so, she spurred not just a quality dialogue with Metro Deputy Director Margi Bradway, but also an eyebrow-raising response from Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas. Savas chimed in by saying he was in alignment with Fai (“I actually appreciate what Commissioner Fai is trying to tease out and identify,” he said) and then shared how he feels we shouldn’t just blame road design because, “sometimes people are careless, and it’s unfortunate if it cost their lives and also the impacts to the people driving their cars as well.”
After Commissioner Savas’ response — which tiptoed a very fine line around straight-up victim-blaming — there was an awkward pause from JPACT Chair and Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez. And then Commissioner Fai responded with, “I’m not sure I was teasing that out.”
It was an entertaining exchange. Beyond the Savas part, it shows how reading the names of road traffic victims at the outset of meetings like this can actually have a lot more value than you might think.
The BikePortland is a production of Pedaltown Media, Inc. If you liked this episode, subscribe and browse our archives for past shows, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and tell your friends about it. BikePortland is a community media source that relies on individual subscribers to stay in business. Please sign up today if you aren’t a subscriber already.
Listen in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.