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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

316 Years Ago Today: The Great Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake

Tuesday (1/26) marks the 316th anniversary of the last great Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that shook the entire Pacific Northwest on January 26, 1700. The shaking extended from California to British Columbia, producing a devastating tsunami that swept along our coast and reached as far as Japan. Scientists believe Oregon is in the window of time during which another Cascadia quake could occur.

Thanks to a widely-read article in The New Yorker, OPB's "Unprepared" series, coverage by local media, and the efforts of scientists and emergency managers to raise awareness, more Portlanders than ever are now aware of our region's earthquake danger. But we still need to take action to get ready. Here's what you can do:

And here are a few highlights of what the City of Portland is doing:

  • Engineering experts know unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings are dangerous during an earthquake. Last year, my office began working with PBEM, BDS, the Portland Development Commission, and members of the community to develop a policy to require these buildings be retrofitted within a certain timeframe. Council will consider adopting this mandatory URM retrofit policy in the summer. Click here to learn more.
  • PBEM, in partnership with a steering committee of community members, is in the process of updating Portland's Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. Once complete, this document will increase our understanding of Portland's danger from earthquakes and other natural hazards, and suggest specific actions we can take to reduce the risk posed by these hazards. Click here to learn more.
  • One of the City's federal legislative priorities for public safety is to support funding for the creation of an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast. Many countries - including Japan, Mexico, and Romania - already have systems in place. Once deployed, such a system could give Portlanders tens of seconds, or even minutes, warning before feeling the Cascadia quake. Click here to learn more.

Many City bureaus have efforts underway to harden their infrastructure to better withstand an earthquake. Examples include the Portland Water Bureau's Willamette River Crossing project and the Office of Management & Finance's work to revamp the Portland Building. Every new structure built by the City of Portland now takes into account our current understanding of the earthquake danger.

Fewer fatal crashes by design

Vision Zero is rooted in the idea that no life should be lost in the name of mobility. Vision Zero is not some lofty goal or ambitious public service campaign. It is a common sense approach to address one of the leading causes of death in America: traffic crashes.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has adopted Vision Zero as a policy priority to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. Already, the City has taken steps to advance Vision Zero by installing rapid flashing beacons, narrowing lane widths, implementing road diets, and focusing enforcement on behavior that we know kills— like driving under the influence.

For Vision Zero to be truly successful, not only do PBOT engineers need to reevaluate our transportation infrastructure, but we also need to individually rethink how we interact as we move throughout the city on our streets , sidewalks, bike lanes and public transit. How each of us travels impacts the health and safety of those around us.

Several cities throughout the U.S. have had over 365 continuous days without a single traffic related fatality. These cities include Fargo, ND; Ann Arbor, MI; Lakewood, WA; and Provo, UT. In fact, over 115 towns and cities across the U.S. with a population of more than 50,000 have had at least one year without a single traffic related fatality. Meanwhile, Carson City, Nevada has not had any traffic related deaths four years in a row. These statistics are not coincidental. These communities achieved zero traffic fatalities because they acted intentionally and urgently to reduce traffic crashes.

Sweden has shown us that the cultural shift to safer streets is possible and that we can have both mobility and safety. With similar efforts, Portland too can have the same results. Recently, KATU’s Kerry Tomlinson visited Sweden to see firsthand how Stockholm, which is about the same size as Portland, was able to achieve such Vision Zero success:

The Spirit of the Anti-Displacement PDX Coalition

Portland is in the midst of an affordable housing and displacement crisis that has most affected communities of color and low income families. The stories are sadly all too familiar and data are clear: the impact of the increase in demand for housing is driving up the cost of housing, and people of color and low income people cannot afford to live in most of Portland’s beloved neighborhoods. Without united and concerted action, this situation will only get worse as housing costs continue to climb.

The Anti-Displacement PDX Coalition’s advocacy efforts have successfully brought issues of gentrification and displacement front and center to the public discourse and decision making process. The group’s efforts resulted in the Planning and Sustainability Commission including over two dozen measures in the draft Comprehensive Plan that address these citywide issues.

In recognition of its effective organizing and advocacy I nominated the Anti-Displacement PDX Coalition for a Spirit of Portland award. Last night the Coalition did not accept the award, taking the position that until the recommendations are incorporated by the final comprehensive plan, such an award is premature. The bold action of the coalition to challenge City Council to remain committed to addressing this crisis is just one example of why I continue to stand by my nomination of the Coalition. The Anti-Displacement Coalition embodies the spirit of Portland by their courage and determination to end displacement now.

I believe in direct action and in community organizing, and I agree with the Coalition that there is still much work to be done. The Planning and Sustainability Commission and the City Council have important roles – but are not the only players. Housing affordability and displacement should be at the top of the conversation for our community. To continue this conversation, community members need to continue to advocate. I support the work of the Anti-Displacement PDX coalition and look forward to their advocacy during the upcoming Comprehensive Plan hearings, the first of which is tomorrow, Thursday the 19th in City Hall Council Chambers, located at 1221 SW 4th Ave, second floor. The next two hearings are scheduled for December 3rd and December 10th.

The schedule for tomorrow’s hearing includes testimony about the Economic Opportunities Analysis, Growth Scenarios Report and other supporting documents from 2 to 3pm. Then from 3 – 6 p.m. testimony heard on the Recommended Draft Comprehensive Plan Goals, Policies and Land Use Map. For more information on the procedures around testifying, see here.

NEWS RELEASE: Commissioner Novick’s Statement on Auditor’s 25th Annual Community Survey

PORTLAND, OR (November 6, 2015) — Yesterday, the City Auditor released the 25th annual Community Survey. This survey shows that Portlanders value city services — as long as we make the critical investments we need to maintain those services. For example, the survey shows a big increase in good ratings for sewers, which have benefited from costly but critical investments in recent years. Similarly, Portland Parks and Portland Fire & Rescue, which receive significant funding from the City’s General Fund, scored the highest approval ratings of all city bureaus.  On the other hand, street maintenance receives very little General Fund and lacks the funding necessary to keep up with basic maintenance. 

As the Auditor has reported, it would cost nearly $118 million per year over the next 10 years to meet street maintenance targets.  $118 million dollars is a big number. But as a community, we have made commitments on this scale before to pay for services we really care about.  For example, the Bureau of Environmental Services released a report in 2011 that summarizes a partial list of sewer expenditures over 20 years totaling $1.3 billion. In 2010, Portlanders voted to support a $72 million bond to pay for aging fire and emergency response vehicles; this bond is on top of the $91 million Portland Fire & Rescue receives every year from the city’s General Fund.  Not surprisingly, Portlanders highly rate the fire and sewer services we’ve prioritized for funding.

The Auditor’s Community Survey shows a big slide in how residents rate street maintenance, from 35% rating the service as very good or good in 2011 down to 28% in 2015. This is proof that we need to make a real investment in all of our public infrastructure — including streets.


Chris Warner, 503-823-1055

Office of Commissioner Steve Novick