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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

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Meet Our New Multnomah Youth Commission Liaison Grace Ramstad!

Please join me in welcoming Grace Ramstad to Team Novick!

Grace will be working on a priority issue of mine, later high school start times, in addition to other policy work. She is currently a high school senior at Centennial High School, and anticipates graduating and enrolling in a college or university this fall. Grace began her policy research on later high school start times as it related to her work on chronic absenteeism as a Multnomah Youth Commissioner

With significant community service and student leadership experience, Grace will continue to work with our office on finding a solution to teenage sleep deprivation. Her insight is also valuable to our policy work as the student representative on the Centennial School Board.

Grace’s passion for her community led to her leadership on founding the nonprofit Food for Families, “providing a mobile food pantry/mobile market to the members of the Centennial community.” Coordinating and planning with other Future Business Leaders of America, Grace established a way to reduce hunger in her community by using a donated school bus from the school district and providing the first mobile market of its kind.

Grace also earned the 2015 Multnomah County Volunteer Award and the Gresham Great Young Citizen Award for her outstanding service.  

As a 2016 Rose Festival Court Princess, Grace makes Centennial and Portland proud!

Grace can be reached at 503-823-4682, and is in the office on Mondays (after school of course). 

9-1-1 Twitter Takeover

This week is National Telecommunicators Week, an annual celebration of our first first responders: the dedicated calltakers and dispatchers who answer 9-1-1 calls and send fire, police, and medical help. Our calltakers and dispatchers are on the front lines of Portland’s emergency response network, and their role in keeping the public safe is easy to overlook.

As part of our celebrations, two City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) employees are taking over my Twitter account on Tuesday to give us a peek into a day in the lives behind the voices who answer our 9-1-1 calls. Since some of this language might be difficult to understand, we’ve included an explanation of some of the terms below.

(Content for this Twitter Takeover was written by BOEC calltakers who were on shift April 8-9, 2016. Some content was edited for formatting.)


Jammie Frank, Senior Dispatcher

About: I’ve been with BOEC for 4 years. Prior to BOEC, I was a 911 dispatcher in Texas for 9 years.  I live in North Portland with my audiophile husband, human like cat, and slightly senile senior dog. I am an avid collector of records and cute things. I spend my time away from BOEC drawing, painting and other crafty/artistic endeavors that I attempt to sell on the side under the name The Hard Luck Rabbit. When I’m not doing that, I’m petting my furry babies, watching the Gilmore Girls, listening to podcasts/comedians and occasional going to shows of the metal and punk genres. 

[5:15 AM]  Happy Monday! In for usual 2 hrs of overtime before my shift.

[5:16 AM]  Received forced slip for tmrw. Means I'll be late to our Employee Recognition Banquet. At least its just a 2 day work week thanks to trades!

[6:50 AM]  Call pulling on my heartstrings-- Elderly female upset bc sick/dying pet cat. Sweet caller: “If he dies, I die.” Never have I related more. 

[7:30 AM]  Very fortunate to use my downtime at service desk to finish up a project I’ve been working on for a coworker’s wedding.

[8:20 AM]  getting pretty sleepy but slightly afraid to try the new coffee concoction I made today…

[8:21 AM]  Stumptown’s Cold Brew + a dash (or heavy dash) of Chocolate Cashew Milk. It’s either going to be amazing, or too sweet.

[9:58 AM] Using my 1.25 hr break to nap in our Quiet Room. Up too late last nite making finishing touches on my donations to tmrw's banquet raffle

[11:15 AM] Tried to get overtime tmrw so I can use extra break to get to banquet on time. But numbers are one above minimum, so I wasn’t hired.

[2:39 PM]  Police/Medical Call: male in 50s attacked out of blue by 2 teens at max platform who were recording. Said it would be on youtube. Jerks.

[3:02 PM]  I’ve taken 3 calls in the last hour about dogs locked in hot cars.

[4:00 PM]  When I asked for the name of a restaurant my caller spelled K-A-L-E…… they must not realize we are Portlanders too, we know what kale is.

[5:00 PM]  Going home! I love that the last part of my shift is the busiest part, makes the time go by fast.

[7:00 PM]  received short notice overtime for tomorrow… My husband convinced me to get extra sleep and not volunteer for additional 2 hrs of overtime.

Aaron Willett, Senior Dispatcher

About: I’ve worked here just over two years and lived in Portland for eight. My shift is 5pm-3am. I’m originally from San Diego and enjoy caffeine, Star Trek, and nonfiction books. I dislike random street violence and lawnmowers.

[4:59 PM]  Fuel. Sunny day = more emergencies = 5 shots.

[5:15 PM]  Caller reporting someone in a car doing donuts. Police quickly en route to investigate.

[5:30 PM]  Subject swerves past caller, veers into a median, parks, and walks into a liquor store. Caller suspects DUI.

[6:38 PM]  Woman dyes hair blue in McMenamins bathroom, then moves outside to dig up some flowers. I hope she stuck with the winter theme.

[7:30 PM]  Report of two women speeding through a neighborhood on ATVs. Earthquake preparedness outreach is paying off.

[7:50 PM]  Woman calling from shoulder of freeway after boyfriend made her exit the vehicle. :(

[8:21 PM]  Woman at a diner with a racing heart from a marijuana cookie. What restaurant serves dessert first?

[9:05 PM]  I take my first breath of the day.

[9:40 PM]  Quiet in Gresham. Suddenly, everyone forgets how to drive and is pulled over by conveniently available officers.

[11:00 PM] Lunch. Working here, my Friday night free time consists of Netflix and games. So, the same things as my old Friday nights.

[12:53 AM] There’s a shooting in North, where I’m about to dispatch. I grumble to my coworkers, who offer a small bit of sympathy.

[1:51 AM]  Sergeant hears shots by North Precinct. Calls flow in. A dozen officers jump on. Suspect car glimpsed on Alberta, then lost.

[2:54 AM]  A nice coworker came over to let me out a few minutes early. Escaping before I'm forced over.

As with most professions, 9-1-1 dispatchers and calltakers use some shorthand language that the rest of us may not understand. With this in mind, here’s a brief primer about a few of the references:

  1. References to “force” and “forced over” mean mandatory overtime. “Trying to get hired for overtime” means volunteering for overtime in order to avoid mandatory overtime later. When dispatchers and calltakers accept their positions, they know they will need to work mandatory overtime because the City must have enough staff on hand to answer 9-1-1 calls. This requirement is common in public safety professions, and staff are paid extra for all overtime they work. However, relying too much on forced overtime is a significant problem; it is very hard on people and can exacerbate a staffing shortage. Right now, BOEC is working to address this problem by improving the training process, hiring more trainees, and increasing the overall budget.
  2. References to “trades” mean asking another employee to cover your shift in exchange for you covering theirs. BOEC dispatchers and calltakers frequently trade shifts with one another when someone wants a different day off.
  3. References to “last lunch” mean a provision in the labor contract that allows dispatchers and calltakers to take their lunch at the end of their shift, thus allowing them to end their work day one hour sooner.
  4. References to a certain number above or below “minimum” mean minimum staffing levels. BOEC uses historical data to predict 9-1-1 call volume for every day of the week and hour of the day. Based on that data, the bureau sets a minimum staffing level. Dispatchers and calltakers have a regular schedule that they sign up for every six months, and overtime (both voluntary and mandatory) is used to fill in holes in the schedule due to vacation time, sick time, and staffing shortages.

Do these tweets make you wonder if you might be a great public safety dispatcher? A career as a public safety telecommunicator is challenging and rewarding. If you’re interested, check out this site for information: BOEC just closed the application window for their spring recruitment but plans to hire two academies in the fall of 2016.

National Telecommunicators Week April 10-16, 2016

Every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. This week-long event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week that should be set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.

Join me in recognizing and thanking our 9-1-1 calltakers and dispatchers during 2016 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week this April 10-16! Often, 9-1-1 telecommunicators are unrecognized first responders, a faceless voice on the other end of the phone line that is a critical link between someone in trouble and fire, medical, or police help.

This year, we'd like to recognize our Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications telecommunicators by posting photos of people in our community who appreciate their work answering 9-1-1 calls and dispatching help.

To show your appreciation, download any (or all!) of the above signs. Print, pose and share the love sometime April 11 or 12 to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Also, be sure to tag your photo with the hashtag #PDX911 with a note about who's in the photo.

Thanks for joining me! And to our 9-1-1 calltakers and dispatchers: thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

Learn more:

Commissioner Novick and local leaders highlight recent Vision Zero safety improvements in East Portland and call for increased caution by all road-users

This morning I was joined by Representative Reardon, Representative Vega Pederson and transportation safety advocates to highlight the completion of several crossing improvements in East Portland. The Bureau of Transportation and Portland Police Bureau conducted a crosswalk education and enforcement action to remind the community to exercise care and caution when walking, biking and driving and to remain attentive to pedestrian crossings and busy intersections.

As the Commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Transportation, safety is always my highest priority; every Portlander deserves a safe way to walk or bike throughout our community. By partnering with our legislative leaders and local advocates, we’re able to leverage resources and prioritize new safety improvements that will make crossing the street safer and easier for everyone.

The site of today’s education and enforcement action is one of 16 newly constructed and activated Rapid Flash Beacons (RFBs) in East Portland. Planning, design and construction was made possible with $1.9 million secured by Representative Shemia Fagan and her legislative colleagues—including Representatives Reardon and Vega Pederson—in the 2014 legislative session.

Thanks to our legislative partners, we were able to maximize State and local transportation resources and prioritize the completion of greatly-needed safety and maintenance projects to improve the daily commute of thousands that drive, take transit, walk and bike throughout East Portland.

Education and enforcement actions are a key part of the City of Portland’s citywide effort to reach its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. During the education and enforcement action, police officers and PBOT staff reminded drivers to stop appropriately for pedestrians in the crossing and encourage people walking to cross at the corner and, when available, utilize rapid flash beacons to alert drivers to yield.

While our state laws require drivers to stop for all pedestrians, the lights on RFBs provide additional alerts to drivers of pedestrians or bikers crossing lanes of traffic.

“Today we are celebrating the collaboration and hard work of legislators, city staff, and East Portland Action Plan members who work for the safety of everyone in our community,” said Representative Reardon at the event.

Enhanced crossings with RFBs improve the safety of our streets for drivers, pedestrians and bikers, but they’re expensive and typically require a collaboration with our State or regional partners to secure the necessary funding. Yet, even with constrained resources, we are making progress on critical safety improvements to streets and intersections throughout the City, and we couldn’t have done so without a coalition of community advocates—including the East Portland Action Plan, Oregon Walks and Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets.

“The addition of rapid flash beacons, along with the funding we secured in the 2015 and 2016 Legislative Sessions, are great steps towards improving the safety and infrastructure in East Portland,” says Representative Vega Pederson. “Still, given the 13 tragic fatalities that have occurred so far this year, it is clear that more needs to be done—particularly to protect residents that walk or bike through our community.”

“For all of us who are committed to safe streets, these have been a very rough few months. We cannot and we will not accept this level of tragedy on our streets,” said PBOT Director Leah Treat. “We know that we cannot achieve our Vision Zero goals alone. That is why I am very thankful for the support of our leaders in the state legislature, our Transportation Commissioner, our partners at the Portland Police Bureau and our dedicated community safety advocates.”

The crossing improvements and 16 newly activated RFBs in East Portland are the result of a strong partnership between community advocates and planners who worked to prioritize safe improvement projects in the East Portland in Motion (EPIM) Plan. EPIM is a five year implementation strategy for enhancing active transportation in neighborhoods east of 82nd Ave., which identified over 80 priority construction projects and programs. Of these priorities, State funding made improvements at the following East Portland intersections possible:

  • SE Foster Rd & 120th
  • NE Glisan & 141st
  • SE Stark St & 113th Ave
  • SE 122nd Ave & Stephens
  • SE 122nd & Oregon
  • SE 122nd Ave & Boise St
  • SE Division St & 107th Ave
  • SE Division St & 165th Ave
  • SE Stark St & 142nd Ave                   
  • SE Stark St & 151st Ave
  • NE Glisan St & 117th Ave
  • NE Glisan & 130th place
  • NE Weidler & 106th Ave
  • NE Halsey & 136th Place
  • NE 122nd & Russell
  • NE 102nd Ave Wygant
  • NE Halsey & 106th Ave (in conjunction with park improvements)

Rapid Flash Beacons, including the one we celebrated today at 151st and SE Stark, are emblematic of the important alliance between the public and State and local government. Crosswalk education and enforcement actions are an effective way to communicate traffic laws to people driving, walking and biking. To find out more about PBOT's safety work and Vision Zero initiative—PBOT’s goal of making our transportation system the safest possible and moving towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2025—visit There, you can learn more about rights and responsibilities for safely crossing a street and view the results of previous crossing education and enforcement actions.

Council Holds Work Session on How to Make Heaviest Trucks Pay Fair Share

As we seek adequate funding for street repair and traffic safety, one question we need to address is, “how do we make sure that heavy trucks pay their fair share?” The City Council will hear ideas on how to answer that question in a work session this Thursday, April 7th at 2:00 p.m.

When I proposed that we send a gas tax to the voters (as we now have), I was warned that the heavy trucks that are engaged in interstate travel could avoid the tax by simply skipping the only truck stop in Portland and filling up somewhere else. So I decided that we should have a separate tax or fee that applies the heavy trucks have to pay – a tax that they cannot avoid simply by skipping a truck stop.  The State actually does the same thing: trucks over 26,000 pounds do not pay state fuel taxes, but pay a “weight-mile” tax instead.

We could try to have a local “weight-mile” tax, but the City of Eugene studied that issue extensively some years ago, and concluded it would very difficult to administer. So we are considering other options, which will be described in the work session.

One option would be to apply what is called a “load fee” to diesel fuel when it is removed from the huge fuel tanks on the Willamette River. The fuel from those tanks is distributed throughout the region, so any truck that buys fuel in the region would wind up paying the fee.

Another option would be to have a surcharge on the City’s business income tax that would apply only to businesses, registered to do business in Portland, that have heavy trucks that pay the weight-mile tax.

The Thursday work session will include descriptions of both of these options, plus a presentation from ECONorthwest on how to determine what the trucks’ “fair share” really is.

Make no mistake: We will make sure the heavy trucks pay their fair share. The only question is what methodology we will use.