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Summary Meeting Notes: August 1, 2012 Infrastructure Equity PEG

August 1, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

PEG Attendees: Afifa AhmedShafi, Amalia Alarcon de Morris, Susan Aldrich, Roger Anthony, Roger Averbeck, Matthew Brown, Alex Deley, Justin Fallon Dollard, Liz Gatti, Karyn Hanson, Celia Heron, Muna Idow, Jeff Leighton, Kathryn Levine, Jackeline Luna Acosta, Karen Meyer, Midge Purcell, Olivia Quiroz, Steph Routh, Michelle Rudd, Joe VanderVeer, Sara Weiner Collier.

Other Attendees: Michele Crim, Ricardo Banuelos, Bob Glascock, Joan Frederiksen, Michelle Kunec & Chris Scarzello (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability); Rachel Whiteside (Bureau of Development Services); Janet Senior (Water Bureau); Courtney Duke, Patricia Neighbor & Sara Schooley (Portland Office of Transportation).

Facilitator: Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

Key Points and Outcomes

  • After listening to presentations about equity and infrastructure, IE PEG members developed a preliminary list of items to consider in framing the concept of infrastructure equity. This list will be refined at future meetings.

Presenter: Michele Crim, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: Highlights include the following:

  • A new Equity Group, facilitated by Judith Mowry of the Office of Equity and Human Rights, will meet monthly. All PEG members are invited to attend. The role of the Equity Group is to further use of an equity lens for the Comprehensive Plan Update. The Equity Group will help to frame PEG meeting content, assisting the Citizen Involvement PEG with the planning process, and analyzing the output of PEG work in a holistic way.
  • Future meeting notes should not only document questions asked by PEG members, but also include a summary of the responses.  All interested parties are invited to the launch of a new Racial Equity Strategy Guide on Tuesday, August 7. The Guide was developed by the Portland Equity Working Group and published by the Urban League of Portland.
  • Meeting feedback cards, recommended by the Community Involvement PEG, will be provided to IE PEG members at all meetings. Responses will be used to improve future meetings.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Equity and Public Services
Presenters: Midge Purcell, Urban League of Portland, and Joe VanderVeer, Portland Commission on Disabilities.
Summary: Midge Purcell presented an overview of equity issues as they pertain to communities of color. Key points included the following:

  • Although the legal infrastructure supporting racial discrimination was largely dismantled during the Civil Rights era, disturbing disparities in wages, academic achievement, child poverty and other areas persist in Portland today, four decades later.
  • These disparities affect the future prosperity and global competitiveness of the city as a whole because racial and ethnic diversity is increasing.
  • Intentional and unintentional consequences have the same impact, and both need to be addressed through applying an equity lens and framework to guide decision making.
  • Two things are needed in policy development and service delivery: decisions guided by data and a clear intention to address disparities.
  • Some communities have a history of bad experiences with city services and thus have low expectations. This can affect service delivery. Example: Seattle moved away from a complaintdriven system for street light replacement to a regular maintenance schedule because residents of some neighborhoods were consistently less likely to call when a light was out of service than others.

Joe VanderVeer presented an overview of equity issues as they pertain to people with disabilities. Key points include the following:

  • The population of individuals with disabilities is diverse, both in terms of underlying demographic characteristics and types of disabilities. It will grow as the population ages. His presentation focused on people with mobility and vision impairments, as these most impact the use of the physical environment and city services and infrastructure.
  • The concept of unintended consequences is very important. A small change in a design detail can make a big difference. Consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities should occur early in the program/project development process. 
  • People with disabilities are more likely than others to rely on transit and pedestrian infrastructure to get around. Barriers in these essential services and facilities cause some people with disabilities to avoid venturing outside.
  • Disability concerns in public services/infrastructure include: the lack of physically accessible playground equipment and bathrooms in parks, crosswalks that are difficult to navigate, conflicts with bike infrastructure, and bio swale designs.
  • The primary disability problem in Portland is the availability of accessible housing. A priority is to improve pedestrian infrastructure adjacent to subsidized housing. 

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:
The handout below includes specific suggestions on areas to address.

City Infrastructure
Presenter: Michelle Kunec, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Summary: Michelle Kunec described the City of Portland’s role in public infrastructure.
Discussion points follow:

  • Public infrastructure is guided by a number of city plans (such as the Comprehensive Plan and the Transportation Systems Plan). Policies adopted at a higher level (the Comprehensive Plan) may impact how existing plans are implemented, and details from existing and developing plans may impact how policies in higher level plans are framed.
  • The Comprehensive Plan (“the plan”) may define guiding principles for bureaus to develop infrastructure levels of service. The plan will not create those levels of service.
  • The Comprehensive Plan does not directly set priorities for capital projects. The plan will create a list of projects (a menu) that may be needed to support the City’s future growth needs for 20 years. Also, the plan may have policies to guide project selection, including community involvement and selection criteria.
  • The Comprehensive Plan focuses on Cityowned infrastructure and services. The plan can impact infrastructure and services owned and operated by another public agency, in two ways. First, the plan can address the City portion of interdependent services (e.g., public improvements around transit stops). Second, the plan can make nonbinding policy recommendations on nonCity services.
  • The Transportation Services Plan is on the same timeline as the Comprehensive Plan.
  • The Comprehensive Plan can recommend that City bureaus make infrastructure investments in certain areas, such as to address service gaps or better address critical disparities.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:


Intersection of Equity and Infrastructure
Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: Andrée Tremoulet asked the group, “What do we mean by infrastructure equity?” With responses recorded, the group was polled to determine if there were any items that PEG members could not accept; none were identified. Members asked that the group further discuss “equity vs. equality” and “underserved populations” (see Parking Lot, below).
Infrastructure equity includes the following characteristics:

  •  Considers the availability, quality and comprehensiveness of services and facilities on a geographic basis; geographic equity
  •  Benefits all population groups 
  •  Consistent goals/levels of service: available everywhere
  •  Equal is not the same as equitable
  •  Responds to population needs by geography and groups
  •  Addresses historic disparities; recognizes history and outcome disparities when considering consistency and equality
  •  Do no harm bottomline principle for communities that have been negatively impacted in the past
  •  Addresses future growth and changing demographics
  •  Comprehensive: considers up front what is best both for the whole community and for varied populations
  •  Seeks to find common ground among conflicting goals; is there a solution that benefits all that isn’t a compromise for some groups?
  •  Involves people who are affected in the planning and prioritization
  •  Shares costs and burdens
  •  Supports better quality of life and increased access to opportunity
  •  Provides meaningful and realistic options and choices
  •  Includes proactive actions to address needs of populations with low expectations, due to history of negative interactions with city services
  • This list represents the output of the IE PEG’s initial brainstorming session and may be further refined by the group.
  • A second question, “What is an unintended consequence?” may be addressed at a future meeting.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:


Public Comment
 No public comment was received

Parking Lot (to be addressed at a future meeting)

  • What is an unintended consequence?
  • What do we mean by equity? How is it different from equality?
  • What do we mean by underserved populations? Who is underserved?

Next Steps

  • IE PEG members: please think further about the Parking Lot questions, above.

For more information, please contact either Bob Glascock, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, at (503) 823-7845 or or Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator, at (503) 267-9255 or