Official Joint Statement from Youth Environmental Justice Alliance and the Multnomah Youth Commission in Response to the Oregonian Editorial Board’s Recent Attacks on YouthPass Funding
We have read the Oregonian Editorial Board’s most recent article urging the City not to fund YouthPass. We are disappointed and outraged that the editors chose not to interview any youth on this issue, and continue to fail to be inclusive of marginalized voices on important community issues. Moreover, in the past month, YEJA has reached out to the Oregonian about our YouthPass to the Future campaign, and invited them to attend the Report Release event. Instead of speaking directly to YEJA, the Oregonian referenced YEJA’s campaign in their news article, which contained several misleading statements and inaccurate information.
Our first concern with the Oregonian article is that they wrote about David Douglas and Parkrose Districts boundaries including parts of Portland. We would like to point out that David Douglas and Parkrose are actually entirely within the City of Portland. These two school districts are often forgotten and ignored because they exist on the eastside of the City. But they are school districts that are completely within City limits.
Another point YEJA needs to clarify is that the YouthPass to the Future campaign is not only asking the City to fund and help expand YouthPass. YEJA is also advocating for the school districts, City, and Multnomah County to work together on a funding model.
The Oregonian implies that supporting, providing for, and fostering youth is solely the responsibility of school boards. The Multnomah Youth Commission’s “Our Bill of Rights: Children and Youth” is the official Bill of Rights for all youth in the City of Portland and Multnomah County. The Bill of Rights is an agreement of the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and youth. The BOR says that youth must have access to extra-curricular activities, parks, medical care, employment, and more. YouthPass is the obvious bridge between isolation and opportunity. If Portland were to defund the current YouthPass program at Portland Public Schools or to not fund YouthPass in East County schools, it would be detrimental to youth’s access to opportunity and would be in violation of the Bill of Rights. The City of Portland’s job, as agreed upon, is to recognize, uphold, and defend our rights. This is why Portland must continue funding the YouthPass program and why it is a responsibility of various governing bodies. We believe that there should be interaction and coordination from different decision making bodies to work towards a vision where all students regardless where they live have the same access to opportunities.
The Oregonian Editorial Board continues to put out negative messages about YouthPass year after year. We see that as an attack on young people in Portland who depend on public transit. The Oregonian doesn’t understand that being a student encompasses more than simply being a person attending school. Young people need YouthPass for access to many resources. The Multnomah Youth Commission has conducted 11 focus groups over the past two years all over the City of Portland and Multnomah County. From these focus groups the MYC found that if youth had access to YouthPass, they would use it to get groceries, explore the Tri-County area, visit nature, get medical care (birth control, health treatment), and get to jobs. Youth are more than just students attending school– we are members of this community. The Oregonian’s position on YouthPass is wrong. Instead of helping to fix the inequities, the Oregonian implies to take away the whole program– which doesn’t solve anything and creates more problems.
YouthPass is a lifeline to many of us. This is a very personal issue because we rely on it to go to school, work, contribute to the community, and thrive as healthy members of society. The Oregonian Editorial Board aims to take away a program that young people continue to fight for. As low-income, LGBT youth, youth of color, and immigrants, we are calling the Oregonian out for spreading negative messages about YouthPass and irresponsible journalism. Our vision is that all youth have the right to the city, and right to school, work, and opportunities. As YEJA and Multnomah Youth Commission, we represent students from Portland and the Multnomah County working together to fight for youth transit and youth voice. The inequity argument around YouthPass doesn’t divide us, it strengthens and unites us to fight for YouthPass for all.