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Summary Meeting Notes: September 5, 2012 Infrastructure Equity PEG (updated)

September 5, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

PEG Attendees: 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, Joe VanderVeer, Sara Weiner Collier.

Other Attendees: Michele Crim, Bob Glascock, Joan Frederiksen, Michelle Kunec & Chris Scarzello (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability); 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
The focus on equity continued with presentations about key terms, Oregon’s history with respect to exclusion, and geographic data pertaining to the racial and ethnic distribution of Portland’s population and levels of public services. The group discussed the kinds of maps and data that could help inform the development of infrastructure equity policies. The meeting concluded with a robust discussion of intended and unintended consequences, institutional racism, blame and responsibility, understanding the past while looking to the future, and the need to link policies about infrastructure with policies around economic development and private investment. 

Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Facilitator
Summary: Andree welcomed everyone, asked members to turn their nameplates on end to indicate that they want to speak, and reminded everyone about the PolicyLink webinar on environmental justice the following day. 

Equity Discussion, continued
Presenter:  Muna Idow, Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights
Summary: Muna introduced the origin and mission of the Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights, and identified its current focus areas as being race, ethnicity and disability. She invited participants to review and comment on two handouts, one on definitions of key terms and one on Oregon’s history of exclusion. Key points discussed include the following:

  • Equity is as much about the goal as the process.
  • Diversity is different from equity.
  • While equality is generally considered to be a given (e.g., all human beings are equal), not everyone has equal access to opportunity.  Thus, inequities exist.
  • The historical progression toward greater equity has not been linear.  While major steps forward occurred during the Civil Rights era, progress stalled in the 1980s.
  • Progress towards greater equity requires intentionality. 
  • The IE PEG can advance equity by being intentional in city policies.
  • All Portlanders benefit when we reduce disparities for communities of color (race and ethnicity) and people with disabilities.
  • Disparities also exist for low-income populations.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Portland Demographics

Presenter: Radcliffe Dacanay, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Summary: Radcliffe presented background demographic data on the city’s population, the geographic distribution of the city’s 583,776 residents by race and ethnicity, and information about levels of service for several types of city infrastructure. Key discussion points included the following:

  • The term “non-white” (on a map title) is racist. “People of color” or “communities of color” are better terms. The map title will be changed.
  • With the exception of the Native American population, undercounting of communities of color is said to be within statistically acceptable margins of error.
  • The maps depict an inverse relationship between poverty and tree canopy (as poverty increases, tree canopy coverage decreases). There may be many different drivers contributing to this relationship, such as the willingness of property owners to invest in and maintain trees, the size of parcels, lot coverage, and the tree policies in place when an area was first developed.
  • Annexation history and topography are relevant to whether or not an area has sidewalks. However, some areas of Southwest Portland were annexed up to fifty years ago, and sidewalks have not been constructed, even on major arterial and collector streets.
  • It may be useful to overlay information about current levels of service on three key base maps: percent of population that is comprised of people of color, percent of population with incomes below the poverty level, and percent of population who are renters.  BPS staff will consult with infrastructure bureau staff on what needs to be mapped, with a focus on service levels and gaps in service.
  • While useful to understand how patterns may have emerged, it may be most useful to focus on the future and issues such as where do pipes need to be replaced and where do we need to plant trees.
  • As we consider these issues, we need to also consider where people will live in the future and where infrastructure is needed to support expanding population.
  • It is important to understand the positive and negative aspects of investment (e.g., gentrification risk).
  • We cannot look at infrastructure in a vacuum or in a silo.  We also need to consider private investment and policies that deal with economic development.  While the city cannot control private investment, public policy and public investments can help guide (encourage/discourage) it. 
  • We need to connect infrastructure with other economic and social policies. When investments are made, economic and social policies should focus on maintaining the population and ensuring that they benefit from the investment.
  • There is an interest in looking and corridor plans and policies and if/how they might provide a holistic link among infrastructure, economic and social policies. There may be an opportunity for some cross-PEG work on these issues.
  • One factor to consider is the speed with which an area changes. If an area changes quickly (e.g.,Mississippi), gentrification may be the result.
  • One of the factors related to the risk of displacement is the percentage of households who are renters, as they are more easily displaced. The vulnerability of a neighborhood appears to be related to tenure.

Meeting Handouts and Presentations:

Intersection of Equity and Infrastructure
Facilitator:  Andrée Tremoulet
A wide-ranging discussion about intended/unintended consequences and institutional racism occurred. Highlights include the following:

  • Intentions matter. Awareness is key.
  • Gentrification may be both an intended and an unintended consequence of a public investment, depending on the underlying public policy and how it relates to class and income.
  • Institutional racism occurs when a dominant group acts based on its own interests, either without regard to the interests of other groups or with intentional disregard for the interests of other groups.
  • The discussion should focus not on assigning blame, but on assigning responsibility for problems and their solutions.
  • The regional plan prioritizes investments in areas that already have healthy community infrastructure, such as corridors and center.  Is this the right path?
  • The bike plan focuses investments in areas with lots of cyclists.  Is this the right path?
  • How we pay for infrastructure matters. If bonds are used to finance infrastructure, the costs to property owners may drive up rents.
  • If local people are not involved, unintended consequences can result. Community involvement is key. In the Cully neighborhood, the community is organizing, leading to increased attention on monitoring for the possibility of gentrification and other consequences of public investment.
  • The key question is whether benefits and burdens are shared among all communities. We need to look at what consequences have resulted and what to do in the future.

Public Comment
No public comment was received

Next Steps

  • BPS staff to consult with Infrastructure bureaus about maps for future discussions.

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