Women's March on Washington in Portland

Women’s March on Washington in Portland – This Week Better: Jan 22, 2017

City Issues & Ideas, Take Action

Yesterday was so inspiring. Millions(!) of women and men turned out around the world to stand up and say “hey, we’re still here!”, and that we’re united in the fight for equality and decency for all people. All people. 100,000 Portlanders came out! In the pouring rain, naturally.

This is just what I needed after Friday. Friday was a day of mourning for many reasons. I’ve had trouble putting my thoughts into words and sentences. This is my first blog post of 2017. I started this blog to talk about the positive and what I can do to make things better in my community and on a local level.

The last few weeks had felt disgusting and disheartening on the political front. From Cabinet picks, Affordable Care Act dismantling attempts, to the House setting the stage to mess with public lands, Trevor Noah said it best “almost every single person he’s picked for his cabinet wants to destroy the thing they’ve been put in charge of.

Yesterday was much needed inspiration. This is what democracy looks like. This is what can happen when millions of people make a statement. This is what the future looks like. Seeing my 3 year old niece with her sign “Make America Kind Again”, which she later decided said “Be Kind, Love a Balloon” instead, gives me hope for the future.

We Need Love poster

We need love, indeed.

Now What? We must continue taking action. Yes, it’s great and inspiring to see millions of people marching. 100,000 people in Portland. If we 100,000 continue to take action, think of what we can accomplish! There are more kind and forward-thinking people in the US than not. But we have to keep moving and taking action.

What I’m reading this week:
Voting Should Be Mandatory – “Trump triumphed in a low-turnout election.” “In a compulsory election, it does not pay to energize your base to the exclusion of all other voters. Since elections cannot be determined by turnout, they are decided by swing voters and won in the center. Australia has its share of xenophobic politicians, but they tend to dwell in minor parties that do not even pretend they can form a government.” “There is also evidence that compulsory voting lifts civic engagement over all.”

DO: Here’s where Oregon stands on the National Popular Vote bill. It has died in the Oregon senate previously. Contact your local rep. In North/North East Portland, that’s Lew Frederick and ask them to support it.

4 Big Themes for Cities in 2017 – I love City Observatory’s posts on urban living, planning, policy etc. They’ve outlined some things they’ve learned in the last few years. 1. The growing economic importance of city centers. 2. The shortage of cities. 3. The need to rethink transportation policy. 4. The challenge of segregation, integration, and neighborhood change.

DO: Read through at least one of the links they’ve included in this post. I’ve learned a lot by reading their research and writing, some of which challenges my assumptions. We all have a lot to learn and it’s fascinating.

If the Affordable Care Act Dies, Cities Will Feel It – “Every major city stands to see millions of dollars, and life-giving programs, go away. So do small towns and rural places.”

DO: Our Senators in Oregon already have our backs. Since nothing has actually been suggested by Republicans yet, I’m not sure what we can do, other than staying up-to-date on what’s happening and what smart and informed people like Bernie Sanders are recommending.

Portland Police Launch Tear Gas [Pepper Spray] at Anti-Trump Protesters in Pioneer Courthouse Square – Portland police seemed quite proud of themselves for their use of restraint at the Portland Women’s March. The night before they chose not to use as much restraint. I think we need to be really careful in our assumptions of “right” and “wrong” ways to protest and how different groups are treated by the police.

DO: Ask questions of our leaders. Read and watch video of what has happened. I don’t have the answers here, but I do know that this difference in treatment doesn’t feel right. How do we find the balance between right to assemble/expression and protection of public space from a few destructive people who hide in these assemblies (like what happened in downtown in November)?

This Week’s Actions: This week, I attended the Women’s March on Washington in Portland, emailed my local Oregon Senator for North Portland about the National Popular Vote bill, and read and researched upcoming changes and current issues facing me as a Portland-citizen and on a national level.

“You are VALUABLE, POWERFUL, and DESERVING.”
–HRC

NE 28th Kerns parking

Hopes & Fears: This Week Better – Nov 27, 2016

Take Action, Transportation

I’ve had some fascinating conversations in the last week about land use (rent, housing, parking), transportation, politics, public lands, and race! Like many, I’m feeling a mix of hope and fear for our communities and country. I’ve been trying to listen and ask more questions. With the holiday season here, the next month is going to fly by. I need to make a conscious effort to keep this Better Portland project going.

What I’m reading this week:

Parking: The price is wrong – this article has an interesting look at Portland handicap placard use and how changing the policy around it freed up parking and abuse of the placards “Spaces occupied by placard users dropped 70%.” “The larger lesson here should be abundantly clear: charging users for something approaching the value of the public space that they are using produces a transportation system that works better for everyone.” –via City Observatory

DO: Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is currently studying parking in five neighborhoods: St Johns, NE 28th, Hollywood, Division, Mississippi. Portland City Council will be discussing NW parking on Dec 22, 2016.


Choosing a Daily Political action –
 I signed up for several of these daily political action emails/websites this week to see what they recommend. MyCivicWorkout (5-30 minute “workouts” for civic activism), Flippable (winning the country back one seat at a time), and DeedsDigest (Deeds not words). One of the things I found in common when I signed up for these, they’re geared more for folks in red states, but still useful reminders.

DO: Sign up for a daily political action email and see if it’s useful or changes any of your weekly behavior.


City of Portland boosts network with 5.6 miles of newly buffered bike lanes
 – PBOT used $80,000 that was left over from larger capital projects that came in under budget to upgrade 5.6 miles of bike lanes around Portland for safety upgrades. “Along with new buffers on existing bike lanes, the city has also put the money toward bike-related crossing treatments at major intersections, signage, and new bike lanes where they didn’t exist before.” –via Bike Portland

DO: Have you noticed any of these upgrades? There’s a full list on the link above. Share or reach out to let the city know you like this and want to see more!


Why Protected Bike Lanes Save Lives
 –
 “The more physically separate cycling facilities provided, the more cycling levels grow, and in particular, the more women, children, and seniors are willing to cycle.” –via CityLab

DO: Take a look at the Central City 2035 plan and how to stay informed.


We elected a climate denier, so now what? Roll up your sleeves for the outdoors
– 
“It’s going to be a long, hard four years for environmentalists and outdoor advocates. We seriously just put a climate denier in the White House, and now we have to face the consequences.” –via The Morning Fresh

DO: Check out the idea list halfway through article. Give to organizations, start using your social channels for advocacy, make calls etc. GiveGuide has a great roundup of our local environmental nonprofits to support.

10 Ways To Resist Donald Trump: Activists Share Concrete Actions You Can Take Right Now – There have been so many lists, I know, but still a great reminder of small real things we can do. –via Bitch Media

DO: Pick one thing from the list and do it this next week. This last week I tried to focus on diversifying my media.

Rents are plunging in the most expensive markets – Fascinating article about housing market and the new apartment supply. Average rents are actually decreasing year over year, and landlords are piling on the concessions… “Nearly all of the new supply is high end, and it is pressuring the market from the top down.” “None of the razor-thin capitalization rates landlords used a year ago to bamboozle creditors into lending them money make sense anymore. Vacant units make their plight worse. Creditors are getting nervous. But the renting folk, after having their lifeblood squeezed out of them over the past years, will have the option of moving again a year later, with lots of apartments to choose from – or commence tough negotiations with the landlord – to get a better deal in this new phase of Housing Bubble 2.” –via Business Insider

DO: Here in Portland, average rent for a 2 bedroom has actually decreased 4.7% year over year to $1,620. Have you seen any signs of a “Housing Bubble 2”? Think about how another could impact you and your community.


This Week’s Actions:
 This week, I shared what I’m working on with a few more people, stayed off Facebook (19 days now!), signed up for several “political action” emails and websites, and contacted a few political leaders in Washington.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela via swissmiss

What are you reading and doing this week?

Registered Voters that Cast Ballot Portland

Let’s Make This Week Better – Nov 13, 2016

Land Use, Parks & Open Spaces, Take Action, Transportation

Welcome. It’s been a rough week. Better Portland is a new project. I want to document what I’m learning as I try to help make our city a better place. The goal for myself is less news and social media consumption “faux action/outrage”, more listening, more action. Here goes…

What I’m reading this week:

A Tax Credit for Renters – “Our tax code is highly skewed towards homeownership. Between the deductions for mortgage interest expenses and property taxes, the exclusion of capital gains on sales of homes, and the non-taxation of the imputed rent of owner-occupied homes, the federal government spends the equivalent of about $250 billion per year supporting home ownership.” Three ideas from the Terner Center:

  1. “rental affordability” plan: households with incomes of less than 80 percent of the median a tax credit equal to the difference between 30 percent of their household income and the lesser of the actual rent they paid or the small area fair market rent for their neighborhood. The average participant would get assistance of about $474 per month.
  2. “rent reduction” plan – give households a sliding credit of between 12 and 25 percent of their rental payments. This plan would provide less relief—average benefits would be about $227 per household.
  3. combo approach – providing more generous voucher-like benefits for the 3 million lowest income households, and a variant of the rent reduction plan for all other eligible households. –via City Observatory

DO: Share the article, share with our mayor-elect Ted Wheeler (ted@tedwheeler.com) or Tweet him. Not sure yet how we can help support Terner Center for this proposal.


St. Johns fatality fuels fire of neighborhood’s safe streets activism
– Tired of freight trucks and reckless driving holding their streets hostage, on Monday the St. Johns Neighborhood Association will host a forum to delve deeper into the issues of traffic and transportation safety. —via Bike Portland

DO: Attend the St John’s neighborhood forum on Monday, November 14 at 7:30pm.

Who Votes for Mayor – In the last May election, in Portland, 59.4% of eligible voters voted. This is really high turnout compared to most cities (average is below 15%)!? Interestingly, in Portland, 88.4% of registered voters over the age of 65 voted, as compared to 56.7% of registered voters aged 18 to 34.

DO: Talk with friends and family about voting. Don’t shame. Listen. How can we help more people vote?

Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech – “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” “My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” –full transcript on Vox

DO: What work can we do to make sure the next four years are not a total loss?

Voters renew Metro parks and natural areas levy (Measure 26-178) – greater Portland metro region approved a renewal of Metro’s parks and natural areas levy. The renewal is projected to raise about $81 million over the course of five years (through 2023). About half of the money will go toward restoring and maintaining natural areas to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. About 20 to 30 percent will go toward regional parks operations. The rest will go toward improving parks and natural areas for people, grants for community nature projects, and nature education and volunteer programs. The levy costs 9.6 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value. —via Metro

DO: Voted. If you’re a renter, this was free for you. If you’re a homeowner, this was on average $38 per year, or $3 a month or 75 cents a week (based on median assessed value of $395k).

Portland Voters Pass Affordable Housing Measure (Measure 26-179) – Portland voters have passed a $258 million housing bond that will raise property taxes to fund 1,300 units of affordable housing. The bond will go toward alleviating the city’s current shortage of 23,845 affordable units, as determined by the Portland Housing Bureau. The bond will raise property taxes 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A home with Portland’s median home value of $394,800 will pay about $190 more in annual property taxes. Only 950 of the 1,300 units funded by Measure 26-179 will be newly constructed. The other 350 will be acquired by the city from existing private sector stock and preserved as affordable housing. —via OPB

DO: Voted. If you’re a renter, this was free for you. If you’re a homeowner, this was on average $166 per year, or $14 a month or $3.20 a week (based on median assessed value of $395k).

How Transit Fared in the 2016 Election – Voters in cities and counties around the U.S. decided on nearly $200 billion in transit funding, the most in any single election in the country’s history. Many of the measures were in California, but one Pacific Northwest win was King, Pierce and Snohomish counties who funded by a $54 billion package of increased sales, property and motor vehicle excise taxes, Sound Transit 3, the third phase of Sound Transit’s operations expansion, will add 116 miles of light rail including a second line in Seattle and a “spine” of rail from Everett to the north and Tacoma to the south. It will also increase commuter rail frequency, express bus service and create new bus rapid transit lines. —via NextCity.org

DO: Learn about our Measure 26-173 “Fixing Our Streets” that passed in May.

All Politics is National – How state politicians went from solving the problems in their own backyards to mimicking the gridlock in Washington. –via FiveThirtyEight

DO: Share. Research what happened in local politics this election.

Give Guide – The annual Give!Guide kicked off last week, with a simple look at 141 of Portland’s most impactful nonprofits. Give what you can. As usual, there are some great incentives which makes the whole thing more fun. —via Willamette Week’s Give Guide

DO: Give $10. You’ll get a cool reward through Chinook Book too!

This Week’s Actions: I voted, donated to a local cause through Give!Guide, went to my Traffic and Transportation class at PSU, deactivated my Facebook account, and started this blog.

“Be a practical dreamer, backed by action.”
– Bruce Lee via swissmiss

What are you reading and doing this week?