Last week we went down to Salem to cover the Transportation Future Day of Action lobby day. It was an event organized by Just Crossing Alliance as part of their “Right Size, Right Now” campaign that seeks to re-orient the trajectory of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program project.
As we reported in our recap filed from the State Capitol Thursday, people from across Oregon came to Salem to connect with other advocates and talk with their elected representatives. As the day unfolded, I tracked down several people and asked them to share why they showed up at the event, what their vision is for the project, and if they felt the lobbying had an impact. I also got to talk with Oregon House representatives Khanh Pham (D-Portland) and Mark Gamba (D-Milwaukie).
Below are excerpts from those conversations and a full transcript of the episode:
Khanh Pham, Oregon House rep:
“My vision is that legislators understand the choice that’s at stake here. Sometimes we’re seeing this presented with this choice in isolation, it’s either do this or we kill the bridge, and I hope they see that there are many more choices… This is a billion dollar, once in a generation investment we’re making and we need to have robust public engagement to make sure that this investment is really aligning with the priorities of the people of Oregon.”
Aaron Brown, aide to Rep. Pham:
“In my years of advocacy, I don’t think until I had worked in the state legislature that I fully understood how much Salem, in this building right here we’re walking by, has enormous clout and power over the direction of ODOT… It feels very empowering to bring people into the government building where all these decisions are made and to just have a presence and to be actively getting to talk to the people that every other year for a couple weeks decide how the state transportation funding is going to go down.”
Adah Crandall, Sunrise PDX
“I think it’s really important that we’re engaging legislators from all sides of the political spectrum because this is an investment that is being made by the full state and affects the whole state. There are a lot of different reasons that we need a right-sized Interstate Bridge, and not all of them are the really lefty climate reasons. There are a lot of points that do appeal to these Republican lawmakers who care about fiscal responsibility.”
Zachary Lauritzen, interim executive director Oregon Walks:
“I think that people are recognizing if you start spending literally hundreds of millions, likely billions, of dollars of general fund money on one project so that people from Washington can skip down to shop tax-free in Oregon — that that does not meet the needs of their constituents. So I feel like once [legislators] hear that and they understand that’s what the trade-offs are, that we are going to build this coalition.”
Josh Laurente, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon:
“When I reflect on the history of this bridge, specifically the indigenous people who were uprooted to build this bridge, Black neighborhoods paved over to connect it to the highway, and frontline communities who are surviving toxic air pollution from the freeway, and when I think about that history and the need to replace this bridge now I am reminded of our collective responsibility to be good stewards of this land and of public dollars. Oftentimes, I was the youngest person in the room talking with these legislators, and I had to make sure that they knew that younger people are wise to the climate crisis and are making choices like choosing public and active transit, and so we really want to make sure that this bridge respects and honors that by making sure that that is front and center in the design of this bridge and not just a side piece that can be discarded later.”
Mark Gamba, Oregon House rep:
“It’s interesting to me that so many folks working in this building don’t have a clear understanding of how we fund transportation in this state and how limited and lopsided it is and that it really is going to be a big hurdle to begin to reduce our climate impacts from a transportation standpoint.”
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