Opinion: Portland’s problems – and solutions – are in our streets

Our streets can be joyful places where bonds are built, not broken. These images made possible by a traffic and gun violence intervention collaboration between a neighborhood and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Many of Portland’s problems can be seen in our streets. And it’s the same place we should look for solutions.

This morning I read a tweet from Lakayana Drury, founder and executive director of Word is Bond, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps young Black men reach their  full potential (you might recall our story about the group’s walking tours):

I agree with Drury. Every day it seems there is more bad news about our city. And every day it becomes more clear that so far, no one who works in City Hall is willing and/or able to lead us out of the darkness. So it’s up to leaders like Drury and folks like you and I to come up with ideas, and pressure our leaders to help us implement them.

I try to be very aware of how bias creeps into my initial reactions to things I read and how it informs my opinions and hunches. And I realize to many folks this might seem like just the “BikePortland guy” pushing his agenda again. But when I read Drury’s tweet this morning, all I could think of is: The problem is in the streets, and the answer is in the streets.

Our streets are the city’s largest public space. Portland has 4,842 lane miles of public right-of-way. Unfortunately, right now this vast resource is the cause of much of the inequity, violence, suffering, stress, and divisiveness that plagues our city: Many of the deadly shootings originate from people driving cars on our streets; Many of the assaults that go viral in the media happen in the streets; Many of the crimes and behaviors (street racing, car and bike thefts, dangerous driving, road rage, etc…) that erode the social fabric of our city, start on the streets; And the most visible form of despair that has hurt Portlanders for far long — people living in makeshift encampments under tents and tarps — happens on the street.

But what happens on our streets isn’t a force of nature. We choose to be bystanders, but we can choose to take control of them.

The City of Portland has all the tools to defend and renew our streets. We have permit programs for neighborhood block parties, public plazas, dining in the streets, painting intersections, and more. We have already shown we can do this, we have just been way too timid.

Consider just a few examples:

This can help our city heal. We should do much more of it. (Photos: Portland Bureau of Transportation)
  • Faced with concerns of car-based gun violence in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, the Portland transportation, police, and parks bureaus formed an alliance and created interventions in the street. That effort could use more permanent traffic diverters and less flimsy, wooden signs and plastic cones.
  • Our transportation bureau has done great work lowering speed limits throughout city; but without enforcement and stronger street designs, it has only limited impacts.
  • After George Floyd was murdered, Portlanders took to the streets by the thousands. We joined arms, built communities that supported each other, and demonstrated the true potential of how streets can help us heal.
  • When there were shootings and dangerous driving outside a high school in north Portland, the transportation bureau responded with basic traffic calming measures.
  • Eager to give kids a healthier way to get to school, Sam Balto formed a “bike bus” which has ballooned in popularity and now there are nine of them across Portland. Now he and others want more funding to grow and solidify the movement.
  • In 2008, with inspiration from Bogotá, Colombia, we launched the open streets event Sunday Parkways. The event has been a massive success, but has failed to grow to its full potential because the City of Portland has been unwilling to adequately fund and grow it. 15 years after it began, this program that has widespread political and public enthusiasm, yet for some reason it is now smaller than it used to be.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can empower Portlanders to take to the streets — and they will do it — but only when the streets are safer, more accessible, and more fun. And while it certainly would help, we don’t need expensive infrastructure projects or even permission from City Hall to create these safer, more accessible, and more fun streets. 

One of Drury’s main programs is simply meeting in the street and letting young men tell stories about their neighborhoods. Another nonprofit in town, Talk a Mile, pairs young Black leaders with local police trainees so they can walk together and learn each other’s perspectives. Portland’s amazing cycling community has also done a tremendous amount in leading on this front. Saturday’s Ladds 500 was just one recent display of how events can bring people from all walks of life together to share joy together in our public streets and spaces.

Streets aren’t just for driving, they aren’t just for biking, they aren’t just for transportation. They are places to connect, where community organizing can happen, where neighbors can meet, and where locals intersect with folks just passing through. These interactions are more important now than ever. They form bonds. And these bonds act as our community’s defense against all the bad things many of us are anxious about.

Our “new narrative that inspires hope and creativity” can begin in our streets. Streets have always galvanized us. They can be a direct reflection of our values. We just need to stop acting like bystanders and take control of what happens on them. When we defend our streets, we defend our city.

So let’s not despair, let’s get out there!


Can’t wait to talk more about this and whatever else is on your mind at our weekly Bike Happy Hour this Wednesday, 3-6 pm on SE Ankeny and 28th.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

88 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dwk
dwk
1 year ago

“I would rather not have outdoor dining if it means losing bike lanes. My safety is more important to me.

This is the leading comment on using the streets for something other than transportation on this topic just yesterday.
In fact most of the comments on that thread were against using the streets for the kind of activities you suggest.
It’s good you started the conversation here because most people here don’t seem to want the “public spaces” used for anything but there own needs, that includes car drivers and apparently cyclists.

ED
ED
1 year ago

I agree with Jonathan–the problem is an imposed sense of scarcity and limited imaginations. The city (both the formal City and all of us as residents of the city) should have a much broader conversation about how the ROW should be used as our biggest public asset. If the question is simply framed as, do you support street seats or bike lanes, then it makes sense for people to strongly prefer one or the other. While there are very real physical constraints on the roads, most of those stem from the prioritization of parking and car travel space which isn’t even up for debate in the recent street seats survey.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago

well said Jonathan!

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

It’s certainly possible for both people on bikes and bar/restaurant seating to flourish on Clinton and on Akeney but that’s not happening. The plazas in both locations have led some to feel that people cycling are frowned upon by the businesses that are adjacent to these plazas. In particular, business have been placing barriers in the increasingly narrow corridor allocated to bikes that makes it seem like they would prefer that people biking dismount and walk through this area. Perhaps making these areas ped only and re-routing bike traffic around them is the only eventual solution — and especially given how little interest this city has in transportation cycling.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

This is just not the case at all on 28th and Ankeny. The only issue biking through there is navigating crossing 28th, which can be a bit busy sometimes. I guess you may have to slow down if it’s a busy, sunny day and lots of people are at the tables – but that’s hardly an issue. 26th and Clinton suffers a bit from poor visibility (especially going east), but again the issue is only really relevant because of the car traffic on 26th, and drivers propensity for running that stop sign.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

This is just not the case at all on 28th and Ankeny.

The construction barricades have been frequently positioned at offset positions in the narrow corridor open for bikes (presumably by people who want to slow cyclists down). Given that this space is supposed to accommodate bidirectional traffic and is no where near the 12′ + 2′ of shy space needed for a standard two-way facility it definitely feels like people cycling through are less than welcome. Now if you are a WFH person who only visits this area as a destination I’m sure you have a different point of view.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I dunno, I mean it definitely feels welcoming when I go through, though sure it’s not on my commute (I bike downtown to catch the bus to Tigard from Brooklyn). I also go to the area as a destination, which surely does shape my view of things. Do people who commute through an area get the sole voice on how the space should be used?

It’s fine that bikes have to slow down through a public space that attracts a decent amount of pedestrian traffic.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

It’s fine that bikes have to slow down through a public space that attracts a decent amount of pedestrian traffic.

This was a major city bikeway for decades. Should we slow down a major city bikeway any time a couple of businesses want to expand their seating areas? I’m sure some of the businesses on Broadway would love to take over parts of the protected bike lane to create more “public” space.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Should we slow down a major city bikeway any time a couple of businesses want to expand their seating areas?

No. But acting like somehow the businesses expanding their seating areas is the primary benefit of a public plaza is a bit disingenuous.

I don’t think it’s bad to do it occasionally where the surrounding uses allow. Is asking someone biking through a busy area to slow down a bit really that onerous? Seems like a fine trade off for cultivating good public spaces

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Is asking someone biking through a busy area to slow down a bit really that onerous?

It’s not being asked to slow down (which would be fine) but the lack of space for people cycling. I mean, FFS, they could have maintained the rainbow lane and just expanded seating laterally but instead PBOT created a pinch point while encouraging businesses to further narrow space with traffic barricades.

mark
mark
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Thank you, Pierre for bringing this up. I too was frustrated with the barriers put up in the middle of the cycling lane, forcing me to ride too closely to crowded tables. Of course, I slowed down and rode carefully, but it was an unnecessary risk and inconvenience on one of the city’s oldest bike routes.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  mark

I think a lot of newcomers simply don’t understand that neighborhood greenways once functioned as Portland’s equivalent of bicycle superhighways so are at best sanguine about their “activation” into other uses or at worse view them as nothing more than “car infrastructure”.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Somewhere in Portland a neighborhood greenway is blushing because it’s an humble facility with a lot to be humble about. As far as I know an important feature of a “superhighway” is strictly limited access for conflicting traffic.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  X

…limited access for conflicting traffic.

The entire point of the new diverters on Clinton and Ankeney was to make pervasive diversion a centerpiece of PBOT policy.
Oh well…

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I will also note that if this facility had kept to the original rainbow boundaries of the bike path there would would have been close to adequate room for bikes but both businesses encroached on the bike path with the apparent approval of PBOT. The bar on the south side installed a whole row of tables inside the rainbow and the brew pub now has tables the directly abut the north-side of the bike route.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
1 year ago

You’re blaming gun violence on cars?

Matt P
Matt P
1 year ago

lol. YOUR facts Maus…not the THE facts. You are delusional if you think access to vehicles means that kind of violence will decrease.

Daniel Reimer
1 year ago

Well said. Here in SW, there’s Multnomah Days which is hugely successful they could easily do something similar every Sunday of summer. Business associations should step up to encourage more of these people-oriented environments.

Jenni S
Jenni S
1 year ago

Jonathan,
Thank you for the comments.

My opinion is what we really need to get Portland back on track is a heartfelt reckoning and an apology from our leaders, nonprofits and influencers (like you) who jumped on the ideological bandwagon of extremism after Floyd without realizing the unintended consequences. Cutting the police budget, not enforcing our laws, sending millions to inane & unaccountable nonprofits, supporting ineffective unproven solutions to violence, removing SRO’s from schools without a replacement, and using inappropriate calls of “racism” to support one’s agenda has failed us as a community.

We need people like you, not just to pivot to a more rational and pragmatic approach to improving Portland but admitting how one’s actions and advocacy in the past got us to the unfortunate place where we are today. Then the healing and rebuilding will be able to begin.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago

Like enforcement. The progressives (for lack of a more convenient label) just said, “We don’t want police presence here and there.” But they didn’t build the programs, policies and politics it takes to create a functioning alternative. Portland Street Response is great… But not enough.

I don’t think that’s quite accurate, and I hate city leaders so I’m not trying to give them more credit than they deserve.

The hard part about enforcement is that the ineffecitve and violent Portland Police Bureau have a huge amount of control over how alternatives are designed.

For example, the Public Safety Support Specialist position was designed to be a lower-cost alternative to DPSST-certified officers. The PS3 was envisioned as ‘community police’, who could respond to take reports or respond to non-life threatening situations like car collisions. By the time the Portland Police Association was done, the PS3 was effectively a highly paid administrative assistants with almost no ability to act on their own.

The PPA/PPB (they are essentially the same thing) are also the ones keeping Portland Street Response from responding to many calls that PSR would like to.

The people of Portland are in an abusive relationship with the PPB. Like all abusers, rather than work on its problems, PPB has elected to try and make the residents of the city suffer until we say ‘sorry’ for even thinking about holding them accountable.

Portland police are so unaccountable to the public that they didn’t even feel the need to pretend to care about our grievances in the wake of George Floyds murder. Just today another article came out talking about homophobic and racists replies to a DEI training. They truly don’t care about us and they have a huge amount of leverage to make sure we can’t leave this abusive relationship. Portland Police a literal probation officer but we’re the ones who are supposed to be sorry.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

And on top of all that, which I agree with completely, Portland Street Response is like 5 people. Even if one imagined that they were empowered to do whatever they want with no restrictions, they are too small to have had any serious impact.

The PP[BA] have this city, similar to in other cities, in a stranglehold. Like you said, we practically are not allowed democratic oversight of them or control over how we solve problems. They can’t be controlled and I honestly don’t know how they could be dealt with. They can just sit on their hands and wait for people (most of whom don’t actually pay attention until, say, they see a broken window) to be so cowed and angry that you have people demanding we all repent to them like we’re confessing our sins against god.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Portland Street Response has 58 full time employees.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has police department oversight and can do what he wants to. The city council appoints the police chief, they have all kinds of oversight.
Wheeler disbanded the Gun response unit all on his own.
The police department problems here start with the Mayor and city council.
We re-elected Ted Wheeler and someone as worthless as Dan Ryan has been elected twice.
We have the Police dept. we vote for in Portland.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

It’s much more palatable when it’s someone else’s fault besides we the voters.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

But they didn’t build the programs, policies and politics it takes to create a functioning alternative….

But we should have created stronger boundaries around what is OK and what is not OK when it comes to public behavior.

It’s not too late to start!

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenni S

Well said. But I don’t think you’ll get any such apology from Maus. He doesn’t even want you to have an opinion about a pile of stolen bike parts.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
1 year ago

How do you feel about hate and violence directed towards people on bikes just because they rode through some violent addict’s turf? Are you willing to put your family in harms way just because you don’t want to appear judgmental?

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenni S

Is Jonathan somehow responsible for the PPB not doing their job? And is cutting the police budget by a marginal amount in 2020 and 2021 really somehow the culprit for the police not doing anything of value to enforce public safety in Portland?

Here is a brief overview of the PPB budget situation for the years around 2020. You may notice that the 2021-2022 budget is still higher than it was in 2018-2019. And that the PPB was getting consistent 5 to 7% budget increases year over year before 2020. Every article on the face of the earth (including this one about an Olympic runner who was stalked, received death threats, and whos perp was only brought to justice because of law enforcement outside Portland) blames some combination of “George Floyd protests” and “defunding” for what plainly is a political issue. There is no politician in the city who has any modicum of control over what the police do. There is still no traffic enforcement happening. The PPB still wants to buy spy planes. There solution to street racing is still “ask nicely for them to stop”.

What’s your pragmatic solution to that political reality? Give the cops more money? The PPB is rotten to its core, and has spent the last 3 years doing absolutely nothing. Public safety and perception thereof is at a nadir, yet the only time I see cops doing anything is to clear out a rich property owners dilapidated building on the taxpayer dime (but only after the city is embarassed by good reporting in the WW). Hey, maybe we should be directing some of those resources towards ticketing motorists who blatantly violate traffic laws! (I’ll throw in – it’s good that the 4th/Washington mess is maybe being cleaned up, but the city should be seizing the property from the owners for the innumerable health and safety violations and putting the real estate to better use).

You know what got us in this place? A culture of bad policing, graft, and corruption. Not Jonathan Maus jumping on the “idealogical bandwagon of extremism”.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Comment of the week!

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Comment of the year even!

Also comment of the week 🙂

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

If you’re truly interested in reforming the police and you aren’t willing to admit it may cost more for the police force we want, you’re absolutely not serious about reforming the police. If you can’t draw a line at the protests of 2020 and the pressure for police to no longer enforce basic traffic laws due to concerns about profiling, you’re not actually concerned about the police and their ability to do their job. You bring up street racing and want it to stop, but do you really? I am sure they could start pulling over cars with illegal tint, exhaust, lights, license plate covers, ground clearance, emissions equipment, etc. but would you accuse them of profiling? They had to eliminate the Gang Violence Task Force because it was racist, now we find out how good they were at their jobs because gun violence is way up in just the areas they were most active.

Not sure what you do for work, but I bet there aren’t signs all over the city saying you’re a bastard just because of the job you have. Happen to watch the video from the drug addict car thief on the Springwater the other day, happen to see any bastards responding to that?

The revisionism happening in this discourse from the last few years is just incredible. Maus notes that progressives were saying “‘we don’t want police presence here and there'”, no they weren’t, they were saying “defund the police”, “abolish the police”, “ACAB”, “F the Police”. So, spare all of us the revisionism and attempt at playing this off as just politics (if only the cops had another boss at the city, then it’d be better, lol) or the cops are only out protecting rich people’s buildings when they are dealing with increased violence, theft, and overdoses all over the city. But yeah, the city should seize the Menashe’s building, then they can show us how great they are at managing real estate, maybe they could put some affordable apartments in there at $500k per unit, maybe those aren’t tax dollars you’re worried about though, just the one’s the police spend?

You almost hit the nail on the head at the end though, you know what got us into this place, bad culture, period. Bad culture and ideology that elects unqualified people (who couldn’t manage a food cart) to manage hundreds of people and millions of dollars in bureaus they know nothing about.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

Not sure what you do for work, but I bet there aren’t signs all over the city saying you’re a bastard just because of the job you have.

It’s not like you are born with a job assigned. Becoming a cop is a choice. Not speaking out against your fellow cops when they do bad things is a choice. Hell, its a really good job that’s hard to get it. Its not like people just do it as a last resort.

If cops don’t like ACAB, they should focus on repairing their relationship with the community and rooting out the white supremacists in their midst. If they don’t like being called bad and don’t want to take action to improve their image, they should find a different line of work.

You’re doing nothing besides victim blaming. Lots of people have lots of very valid reasons to hate the police.

Happen to watch the video from the drug addict car thief on the Springwater the other day, happen to see any bastards responding to that?

This is such a silly line of thought that is so often repeated in conservative circles. Cops doing some good things (their job) some of the time doesn’t negate all the bad things they do.

Jeffery Epstein was a major donor for a lot or organizations. The Sacklers are well known for their donations. They are still bad people.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

The Sacklers are well known for their donations. 

As an aside, the Sackler Gallery at the Asian Art Museum in Washington DC was exceptionally good.

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

I am going to go out on a limb here and bet that there is nothing the PPB could do that would provide you sufficient comfort that they were not all bad people by virtue of their chosen profession. Ironically, many have gone and found other work, that’s why this issue persists of having too few cops relative to population and crime. I would also bet that you would consider plenty of “cops doing their job” as bad things, just because you’re apparently uncomfortable with policing in general. If I am pulled over for speeding I am not expecting the cop to be my buddy.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

there is nothing the PPB could do that would provide you sufficient comfort that they were not all bad people by virtue of their chosen profession.

What are they waiting for to try and provide this comfort?

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

You bring up street racing and want it to stop, but do you really?

Yeah, I do actually. I would like the police to stop people who are recklessly operating automobiles. If the police started impounding cars that aren’t registered or aren’t street legal you would not hear me complain about it.

Did the PPB disband the Gang Violence Task Force because it was racist? Sort of. They used methods that a city auditor determined to be racist and/or lacking oversight. Saying that they had to disband the task force because of this is infuriating. Wanting more accountability from police is not too much to ask. Not having clearly documented reasons for putting people on the “most active” gang list is also probably illegal.

playing this off as just politics

But this is a political issue. The city nominally has governance over the PPB – making issues involving it (especially from a budget standpoint) obviously political. The PPB didn’t want to be “defunded”, so they exerted their political power, and here they are with functionally the same budget they started with.

Do you feel safer in Portland now than you did in 2016? I doubt it. Yet the cops have a 10% larger budget now than they did then and fewer officers. Where’s that money going? Not to public safety it seems.

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Ah cool, we’re in agreement with who PPB should be pulling over. It’s funny, the people who should be infuriated are the people dealing with rampant gun violence in their neighborhoods now and didn’t have such issues previously. With inflation the PPB budget is -16% of where it was in 2016, that’s possibly having something to do with where the money is going.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

The PPB didn’t want to be “defunded”

A great many Portlanders didn’t want this either.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

THIS is the comment of the week, not the one tagged earlier by Jay Cee & John. The broad brushing ACAB crowd is out in full force today in the comments section. Two things can be true at the same time. There needs to be some PPB reform but using the broad brushed ACAB approach makes every PPB cop the enemy. News flash—not every PPB cop is corrupt & rotten to the core. Many of them are good cops just like their brothers & sisters working for Beaverton, Washington County, Clackamas County or OSP. Oregon is the biggest anti-police state in the nation as evidenced by the lowest per capita officers per 100k population anywhere in the nation. This comment thread and the current reality on the streets of Portland show the results of such thinking.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago

. There needs to be some PPB reform but using the broad brushed ACAB approach makes every PPB cop the enemy. News flash—not every PPB cop is corrupt & rotten to the core

The whole idea behind ACAB is that even cops who aren’t “corrupt” look the other way when it comes to the ones who are. That’s why they are ALL bad. Failing to act when you see something makes you complicit. Like when dozens of PPB officers view content promoting beating citizens, which originated in white supremacists circles, and ZERO of them reported it.

Many of them are good cops just like their brothers & sisters working for Beaverton, Washington County, Clackamas County or OSP.

The cops in Beaverton and WashCo are every bit as bad as the cops in Portland.

Cops started bad and then got radicalized further by right-wing media, which is why when they had their first meeting with DA Schmidt they asked him anti-semitic questions about George Soros.

Look, I’d love to be wrong about this. Can you find one, just one, Portland Police officer who advocates for more accountability for the police? Mostly you just hear them whine about how we don’t love them enough. It’s gross

okguy
okguy
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

Bad culture is right – bad police culture. A racist, militarized police culture which stokes so much distrust in the populace that of course they call for a defunding. A police bureau that just unveiled 144 newly designed cruisers must really be underfunded. A police whose union leader leaks false allegations about a commissioner as a form of retribution is really not at all a toxic liability which impacts the public’s trust in the institution and its leadership. Normal stuff, just a few bad eggs probably?

Believe it or not most progressives and/or Portlanders never uttered the words “abolish the police” and aren’t out there tagging ACAB in the rain on the I-5 as a hobby. Tell me, are these the same people shouting “F*ck Ted Wheeler” whenever a crowd convenes? Man it’s just so weird that all these progressives both hate him AND re-elected him? Do these silly progressives just have buyer’s remorse twice now? Or maybe old Ted is just so demoralized by all these mean lefties ragging on him that he just can’t get a break, man. You know, just like the cops!. It’s almost like an entire city electorate isn’t actually a hive mind that participates in a single insular culture as depicted in right-wing cartoon narratives and sketch comedy shows, and actually has many different factions and interests.

We can talk about accountability, inept leaders, and misuse of funds. But telling people to oust your leaders, give your bad cops a pat on the back, and blame yourself for the entire city’s “culture” isn’t an honest solution.

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  okguy

Your first two sentences prove my point perfectly. That due to issues with the police, you interpret that the populace asked for a defunding of the police, as evidence to the quality culture of the populace? I would argue that a) a scant minority of the population was even remotely in favor of that and b) anyone arguing that the issues would be fixed with less money was either knowingly acting in bad faith or just your everyday Portland resident that the sketch comedy show in question nails with such accuracy it is actually now painful. We have life long Portland residents who think the mayor is actually like mayors in strong mayor cities, they literally don’t even know what a weak mayor form of government is, so I am pretty sure that an indictment of the general progressive culture in Portland isn’t all that off base. But, I will happily step back and let you all continue to work your magic watching from a distance, as the top of Jonathan’s post notes, I am sure Portland is just around the corner from a big collective win.

okguy
okguy
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

Let’s not pretend like the people clamoring to defund the police got the defunding they wanted, or that “abolish the police” was much more than a few people on the fringe of a broader response. I realize it is easy to simplify and lump most of Portland into this progressive monoculture for the ease of placing blame, and the smug self-satisfaction of watching your assumed political enemies lie in the bed they made. I am all for democratic accountability, but it’s a bit more nuanced than your big picture narrative allows. Sure the city is left-leaning, but that doesn’t reflect a political consensus. Teresa Raiford is not mayor. JoAnn Hardesty wasn’t re-elected. The city voted to overhaul its management structure, and to institute ranked choice voting just last year. I’d love to hear your take on how Portland can change culturally to not engulf themselves in tear gas and smash in the skulls of journalists. You know since the cops definitely didn’t do that. It was that pesky “progressive culture”. Rotten to the core I tell ya!

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  okguy

Not sure, “hey, at least the radicals didn’t get elected” is the path to proving a more rational governing strategy. Over how many election cycles did the make up of city council shift ever more to the left with the experience level of the council becoming ever less important relative to their social justice ideologies? The idea a couple commissioners with slightly less left leaning ideologies is going to swing the pendulum back immediately is crazy. The city has voted to run a previously never-done-before experiment to counter what could have otherwise been solved rationally with a strong mayor and city manager structure that many other cities throughout the west use successfully. I know that isn’t the Portland way, but that’s a bug, not a feature. I am certainly not in favor of any journalist experiencing violence at the hands of the police or these morons (https://pressfreedomtracker.us/all-incidents/katu-journalist-assaulted-crew-harassed-in-portland-protest/), but the judicious use of deterrents in the face of rampant property destruction is where we differ. The vast majority of people were of the opinion that allowing the property destruction to continue would be bad for downtown, and well here we are three years later and as much as you deride the “We told you so” reaction as smug, there is little satisfaction in seeing it unfold.

Jenni S
Jenni S
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

Comment of the week from PS. Hey we just massively expanded the City Council. There’s now room for a voice like yours. Would you consider running?

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenni S

Hi, thanks for reaching out about the employment opportunity in Portland, OR. Does this opportunity have a remote work option? After reading the job description it looks like it could be done from anywhere, and given the previous employees experience level, by anyone.

Just jokes, but no, I can’t run, because I already ran from Portland last year. I now find myself at the intersection of Oregon’s greatest export other than sneakers and silicon chips, the cascade of Pinot Noir off Parrett Mountain and civilization itself. Every day is a reminder that even a hundred plus years ago, there were some enterprising individuals who got to Portland, realized it was not for them and kept going.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
1 year ago

With all due respect Jonathan taking back the streets for the community will only happen when the community stops trying to virtue signal their political correctness by electing politicians based on progressive slogans rather than bona fide common sense and leadership capabilities. Case in point I just returned from a trip to the east coast in Washington DC, Philadelphia, NYC where cities who share the same values as Portland have become sick and tired of political correctness and inaction. And guess what? You can actually walk and bike in all of those cities now without fearing for your life every block. Are there still homeless and tents? Yes but not even close to the levels Portland has become due to political paralysis and everyone trying to be “compassionate.” In the past 3 months I’ve been all over LA, Washington DC and other cities I’ve mentioned and Portland is an absolute disgrace compared to those major cities right now.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
1 year ago

Maybe what I’m trying to say is that if east coasters are known for one thing it’s their blunt opinions and lack of tolerance for inaction. When they’re sick and tired of something they’ll let you know and demand action. How do I know? I’ve been married to an east coaster for 30 years who grew up in PA & NJ.

Me? I’m born and raised in Portland and one thing my wife can’t stand is all of the Portland political correctness and inaction. It baffles her. While people in east coast cities may share the same political values as Portland they hold their leaders accountable and demand action. Us? We authorize another compassionate non profit to join the 100 other non profits wasting our tax dollars to “fix” the problem on our streets. This just doesn’t happen in east coast cities because they’re intolerant of incompetence where Portland wants to be known as the city of “tolerance” and inaction.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago

Have those cities you mentioned had their cops on an unofficial strike for the past 3 years? Want less crime? Get the cops to start doing their job. It’s not politicians forcing the cops to quiet quit. It’s the cops doing this all on their own, and no one seems to know how to get them to get back to work. This is 100% on our ineffective police force

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Yeah, I’m afraid some external force will be needed. I don’t know what that could be, but they need to be cleaned up. Can you imagine anyone with authority to do so like Wheeler actually standing up to the police? No way. Mayors are under the thumbs of their local police. Maybe the governor, but I’m not sure what they can do.

I mean, what they want is for everyone to have a “we love our law enforcement officers” boot lickoff, apologize for having any concerns at all about police brutality, and disavow our principles. I’m certainly not going to. It’s not wrong to question them, what’s wrong is that we don’t have enough power to actually do anything about them.

Jenni S
Jenni S
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Ahhhh the Bike Portland police hate “echo chamber” is really getting going now. Sorry but that’s what it is.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenni S

Jenni, when this is who the PPB are, I’d say some hate is warranted.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 year ago
Reply to  John

I disagree that it would or even could take an external force. What would actually move the culture of the PPB in the direction you want it to go is for you and like minded individuals to actually become police officers and change the culture from within. Once you were sworn officers you’d be able to make the decisions while you interact with the public to end brutality and be examples to the other officers.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I don’t want to get into a big angry back and forth about this, so I’ll try to explain in more detail. One of the core ideas of anyone who takes a serious look at reigning in police violence, is that it is the fact of the existence of police that is inherently violent. That’s their job. You cannot change that from the inside. It would be like saying “You say you don’t like the king, but until you’ve tried actually being the king for a while, you just don’t understand”.

Similar to the way we don’t just let the military handle policing because the whole job of the military is to do violence, or send a SWAT team to every domestic dispute. Policing is a blunt instrument. That is the reason people argue it shouldn’t be used to solve all of our societal problems. If policing could actually solve mental illness, homelessness, poverty, and drug abuse without causing undue side effects, nobody would really have a problem with it putting all sorts of money into it.

So the idea, if you understand it in good faith, is that policing should really only be used in the times when it is truly required. It’s a last resort. There should be a lot less of policing and a lot more solving the root cause of problems or using safer alternatives. And in no scenario can policing in some form completely go away other than some aspirational far off future utopia.

Usually the pro-police arguments are along the lines of “oh so you just want to let everyone do anything they want and let crime run rampant”. That is a bad faith caricature. In reality, everyone who has ever said ACAB or defund the police wants something else to replace cops, not just everything stay the same and remove cops. And it’s not simply “replace them with Good Cops”, because as I said, the individuals who do the job are not the problem. It’s the job.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Are violent crime rates and especially the murder rate going up or down in Portland?
Is your result working because Police have backed off and are not showing up in Portland as everyone on this site acknowledges no matter what point of view on police they have.
According to the logic you use, Crime would be going down with less police interaction and this city has less police interaction than it did 5 years ago by a good amount.
Portland has a higher murder rate than Manhattan and San Francisco do, shouldn’t the murder rate be going down according to your advice?

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

There should be a lot less of policing and a lot more solving the root cause of problems

I agree with this 100%. But you can’t get rid of the police until the root causes are addressed and new criminal-lite generations have replaced us. So… there should be a lot less policing a generation or two after we’ve solved the root causes of problems.

And there are still plenty of cops in places that have addressed root causes so that’s something to think about.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

No, the mayor told them to not enforce traffic laws, and the DA is well known for not prosecuting very many criminals.
https://www.portland.gov/wheeler/news/2021/6/22/mayor-and-police-chief-announce-ppb-will-change-traffic-enforcement-consent

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

nd the DA is well known for not prosecuting very many criminals.

As anyone who watches Fox News will tell you!

The actual data on the other hand appears to show that prosecution rates are in some cases higher than under Underhill

https://www.mcda.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Portland-Property-Crime-2019-2022-Q3.pdf

As long as the City of Portland and Multnomah County invite drug-addicted transients to live on our streets, crime will continue to crime and there isn’t anything an understaffed DA can do about that.

PS
PS
1 year ago

Whew, good thing you gave them 5 months to get things fixed that took 5+ years to devolve. If only JoAnn was still around to keep us from knowing if the building we are inside of might fall during an earthquake, ya know, doing the important work.

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
1 year ago

Superblocks idea like in Barcelona. Here is what it could look like in the Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1u_rzTydjZGN_qsl1-ow3LL06j9KLRaAu/view?usp=share_link

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam

The irony of what you propose for Beaumont-Wilshire is that it looks like a superblock in East Portland – superblocks was a “best practice” in the 1960s and 70s in suburbia USA, including for Multnomah County.

blumdrew
1 year ago

Good to see a fellow Madisonian being highlighted. Lakayana and Word Is Bond do really good work in the city, and if you can find a walk to go on with them it’s definitely worth it.

I agree that our streets need to be used more as genuine public spaces for people, rather than mostly exclusively for cars and car storage. Here’s a small list of great corners that would benefit massively from becoming public squares (with no car traffic at all).

  • SE 26th and Clinton (route the #10 bus onto 21st)
  • SE 28th and Ankeny
  • SE 14th and Stark
  • SE 13th and Spokane
  • NW 13th and Flanders (or Hoyt, or Irving – NW 13th should really be car free in in its entirety)
  • SW 12th and Harvey Milk
  • NE Alberta and anything (between 15th and 30th at least)
  • NE Dekum and NE Durham
  • N Lombard and N Philadelphia (and/or N Burlington)

In general, I think most of the pedestrian plazas PBOT has made so far are good – but need a bit more to make them great. Mainly, I think they could all benefit from closing both roads that are near, to fully pedestrianize the space. There could and should still be room on the ROW for bikes – especially on a main drag like Alberta. PBOT could do so much on this front for not a lot of money too – they just need to be able to finance very inexpensive treatments to start (planters, concrete barriers, etc.) and work up from there. Maybe selling permits to nearby businesses, or to food carts could help start it.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

…to fully pedestrianize the space.

There could and should still be room on the ROW for bikes…

A fully pedestrianized bike facility?

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Sorry, not the clearest choice of words there.

By “fully pedestrianize” I mean removing through travel for cars with permanent installations, rather than literally only allow pedestrians in the space. In some circumstances, allowing small delivery vehicles as well as bike traffic probably makes sense too (depending on the location). Bike traffic makes sense at the Clinton and Ankeny spots, but maybe it wouldn’t as much on NW 13th or N Lombard.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

21st & Clinton would be a lot easier than 26th & Clinton given the street classifications.

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
1 year ago

As someone that has fought a lifelong battle with depression, I am no stranger to the effects of isolation. The ‘perfect storm’ that was the pandemic and responses to protests and police, has done a rather good job at seeding distrust and corroding the feelings of general community so many of us had taken for granted, all while leaving us much more alone than we ever had been simultaneously. The world can be a very intense and scary place when we are isolated, we see the harm that isolation has inflicted on us in the way we navigate sometimes awkwardly through social interactions, the increase of reflexive reactivity both online and occasionally in public, and how so many seem to behave as though only getting to their destination is what matters, all others be damned.

I think we as a community have barely started healing from this, as it has not been an active and community driven focus across the board, and I very much agree that it should happen in public, forcing us to slow down and remember that we can be kind and supportive of each other.

“Streets aren’t just for driving, they aren’t just for biking, they aren’t just for transportation. They are places to connect, where community organizing can happen, where neighbors can meet, and where locals intersect with folks just passing through. These interactions are more important now than ever. They form bonds. And these bonds act as our community’s defense against all the bad things many of us are anxious about.”

JP
JP
1 year ago

Absolutely. The pandemic has had a profound negative effect on the social fabric, certainly in Portland and also around the country and world. Crime rates are up everywhere, education outcomes are suffering, and mental health is worsening. The social effects could last a while — it sucks and I hope we heal from it soon coming out stronger on the other side.

Pierre the Cycliste
Pierre the Cycliste
1 year ago
Reply to  JP

Can we just please stop with the “it’s like this everywhere” stuff. It’s not.

From 2019 – 2021, the City of Portland experienced a:

144% increase in counts of homicide incidents241% increase in counts of nonfatal injury shootingsRelative to five selected peer comparison cities, Portland experienced the largest increase in homicide rate from 2019 – 2021:

Portland: 207%Minneapolis: 104%Atlanta:54%San Francisco: 53%Denver: 47%Nashville:23%SOURCE:
https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2022/2022-pdx-problem-analysis-public-version.pdf

JP
JP
1 year ago

Pierre, I agree, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear in my first comment. Things are worse here. At the same time, the pandemic has had a profound negative effect on the social fabric everywhere. Both are true.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago

Portland needs to focus on retaking public space. The places we used to gather like parks have been sacrificed to people who have traveled to Portland specifically to sponge off of our community.

It’s really hard to build community when you are afraid to walk to the park, or afraid to let your children play in the park lest they get jabbed with a discarded sharp.

I’ve basically given up on the city and I know a lot of other people have too. We just have so many layers of incomptence and mismanagent, from City of Portland, to MultCo and Metro that it feels suffocating to care. Nothing is going to get better under the current regime, and unfortunately the people in charge like Ted and Jessica Vega Pederson and Deb K care more about power than letting someone competent run these organizations.

You see sparks of what the city could be. The Ladds 500 was a blast. The block parties are fun. But to actually revitalize the city takes innovative and intelligence that our current leadership doesn’t have.

I know I’m beating the drum, but a really great example is the beg barrels that were rolled out during COVID. PBOT had the leverage and public support to install actual traffic calming on our “greenways”, and they whiffed and set up some dumb signs that turned into dumb concrete beg signs. They just have no interest in serving the community or making the roads safe, and no amount of block parties is going to change that.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

You’re in a tough spot — you hate the cops, but want someone to chase “spongers” out of the parks and protect kids from drug users and their garbage. Who do you want to be enforcing the law?

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

I do hate the cops, but I’m not a cop abolitionist, I just think they need to be relegated to tasks they are geared for. I’m fine having them provide security for doing sweeps because thats a job that makes sense for them to do as long as they don’t proactively interact with anyone. Just like I’m fine with them responding to an active shooter.

What I don’t want them doing is the vast majority of what they spend their time doing, which is driving around, chilling in the park, responding to non-injury auto collisions. I especially don’t want them to do stuff like respond to people in mental health crisis.

It’s a shame that the PPA/PPB neutered the PS3 position, because we could have tons of PPB PS3s walking the streets and working in the community for far less than we pay a PPB officer. That would have been ideal.

It’s okay to have mult-faceted opinions of the world Watts, no need to try and put everyone in an ideological bucket.

Scott Kocher
1 year ago

It is hard to do placemaking when the design “vocabulary” of our streets screams highway. For example, there was a new traffic calming furniture in my neighborhood: giant yellow concrete cylindars topped with black-and-yellow advisory speed signs and flanked with yellow-painted lines. It was ugly. Neighbors complained and PBOT took it out. In another example, a traffic calming design on a very small street in SW created a series of chicanes out of similar highway-style materials. The PBOT engineer acknowledged concern that drivers might try to race through them as a “slalom.” The beautiful, attractive streets of the world speak a different language.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  Scott Kocher

Beautifully said, Scott. PBOT really needs a lot of help designing things. They have engineering expertise, but they fall flat when they design or plan. Unfortunately, they do not realize this.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Portland seems to expend absurd resources on enforcing land use zoning but not nearly enough on basic policing, so I’d start by eliminating land use zoning altogether everywhere, and height limits along arterial and collector corridors, and try to get developers to put in as much housing as possible and make it as easy as possible.

Eliminate any and all parking requirements, of course. Implement a citywide parking permit program, charging more per on-street parking area based on land value and parking demand rather than the adjacent assessed value per acre. Use the proceeds to pay for for frequent transit, free city-owned public shuttle bus services, on-street pocket parks, in-street tree wells and more canopy, and on-street homeless facilities like public toilets and showers.

Citywide stroad diets. Reduce the number of travel lanes wherever possible and add bus lanes, even on stroads without bus service. Remove allowed parking wherever there is already no demand such as along stretches of 122nd.

PBOT needs to expand its long-dormant program on creating dead-end streets and reducing through-traffic, which they did a bit in Sullivan’s Gulch in the 80s and some other neighborhoods, plus later diverters – it’s much harder to do a drive-by shooting if your getaway street is blocked every few blocks.

My 2 cents.

mc
mc
1 year ago

Streets aren’t just for driving, they aren’t just for biking, they aren’t just for transportation.”

A few weeks ago, you, Jonathon, lamented the loss of the word “Bicycling” in the name changes of The Street Trust & Neighborhood Greenways.

I’m supportive of those changes for precisely the reason you stated above.

Any street that kids can play in, people can gather in or has other community features such as goats, bocce ball courts, etc is going to be safer than a striped bike lane to ride a bike on.

But it means those who ride bikes will have to slow down, maybe even stop and/or interact with other people. That’s good, but it’s not how most Americans are used to moving around a city.

We’ve to get out of the this my lane and that’s your lane mindset. The streets are the largest public spaces and all of the public should be able to use them safely and equitably.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  mc

I believe Maus was commenting on the fact that BTA and Greenways no longer represented bicycling specifically in the context of the decline of *bicycling*. As he mentioned, there seemed to be a backlash against bikes, and that backlash may have triggered political and non-profit leaders to drop the “bicycle” language.

It’s not that he’s mad that someone is advocating for other transportation alternatives! Just that we lost momentum for cycling, and started declining, around then.

axoplasm
1 year ago

It’s weird, disturbing and very very telling that two public services are basically unaccountable to their employers (us): police and roads departments. It might be better or worse in our city & state than elsewhere, but this is pretty much all of America right now.

Those two unaccountable forces collude in the streets

I am skeptical that on-the-ground skunkworks will solve what is fundamentally a political, collective problem. I guess in this way PBOT at least shows a little responsiveness, so good for them.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago

And every day it becomes more clear that so far, no one who works in City Hall is willing and/or able to lead us out of the darkness.

I disagree with this statement. Mayor Wheeler is trying to set up full-service camping areas that will take campers off the streets. And Rene Gonzalez has ordered that emergency responders NOT give out tents and tarps, again to encourage people NOT to camp on the streets but instead seek more appropriate shelter. But these efforts are opposed by the other three council members and by so-called “homeless advocates” who are trying to preserve the status quo.

We need more courageous leaders like Wheeler and Gonzalez.

Pierre the Cycliste
Pierre the Cycliste
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Well more like Gonzalez and Mapps….and less like Wheeler & Ryan and ESPECIALLY less like Rubio.

Granpa
Granpa
1 year ago

The Measure 110 allowing personal use of hard drugs must be repealed. Meth literally makes people insane and unemployable. Opioid addiction makes people unemployable. As a result, the hard drug using community, many of those, living on the streets, resort to crime. I have compassion for the homeless but I am intolerant of criminals. Events around the country show a shoot first, think later pattern of behavior is strong in America. I expect that to be demonstrated in Portland soon and often as people who conform to societal norms become fed up with crime and the lack of police action against criminals and take direct action.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
1 year ago

I live in BD. I use SE 72nd often. The triangle needed repurposed but I’m not sure picnic table were the answer. Maybe they should move those down to the Mercado where business is booming. The triangle can’t say the same thing. A mini skatepark at that location would better serve us.