Thank you to everyone who came out for the BRU! meeting on Tuesday night. We had a great turnout and there was a lot of important information shared. We want to encourage everyone to attend the monthly BRU! meetings whenever possible, as this is the best way to stay informed and activated.
BRU! members and OPAL staff continue to work on the Campaign for a Fair Transfer with passion and intensity. Individuals and BRU! committees have really stepped up and taken on leadership roles as we solidify our case for extending transfer times. While some folks continue to gather the stories of transit riders, others are gathering information and statistics; details such as access to grocery stores along transit lines and how TriMet’s new e-tickets are actually shortening some riders’ transfer times. With the numbers AND the narrative, we have a compelling case for how the CFT is the right way to begin shaping a more just transit system.
On that note, our OiTs have been participating in a project with Coaltion for a Livable Future. CLF is a local organization that seeks to promote social equity and environmental sustainability by uniting diverse organizations with these same goals in mind. A 2007 project of CLF was the Regional Equity Atlas, illustrating the inequities in the Metro region through maps and narrative. The Equity Atlas 2.0 will be an online format and will feature a photovoice component. OPAL has been asked to partner with CLF in finding community voices to be a part of a transit equity discussion in the new edition of the Equity Atlas. To learn more about what a photovoice project can look like check out the website of Hello Neighbor, another partner in this endeavor.
Street fairs and community events abound! Go have fun and build social capital at the same time!
You did it! You won improvements to 3 East Portland bus stops!
We have GREAT news to share about our East Portland Bus Stop Project. Bus Riders Unite! prioritized East Portland bus stops as one of three priority areas back in 2010 and throughout the process, we’ve had great engagement from people use transit. We had an incredibly successful prioritization process in which you said which 3 bus stops (out of the many, many that need improvement in East Portland), were the ones that needed critical improvements NOW.
We presented our findings to Portland City Council, East Portland Action Plan, and TriMet. We’re happy to announce today that improvements will be coming to each of the three stops that you spoke for:
1. SE Powell & 122nd Eastbound (loc 4573): This intersection has been awaiting changes with a new convenience store (finishing touches this week). New frontage improvements include a wide sidewalk and transit pad that would accommodate a much needed bus shelter and stop. Work orders have been processed and will be completed in the coming weeks. There was no better place for a bus stop during construction.
2. SW Powell & 127th Pl Westbound (loc 4576): Sidewalks are deficient and missing along wide sections of outer Powell Blvd. and there is a recognition that capital intensive efforts are necessary. TriMet has submitted an application for a 2016 funding package to improve Powell corridor. Meanwhile, they have installed a seating bench on-site.
3. SE Foster & 82nd Westbound (loc 1818): Existing sidewalk amenities nearside are deficient and limited for shelter placement. City of Portland is currently working through a multi-year corridor level planning study. To address immediate deficiencies, TriMet Ops and In-Streets staff have identified a project that would relocate the bus stop farside (with stop consolidation) with a new bus shelter. A permit application is pending and once approved, shelter will be installed in the coming months.
These bus stop improvements are happening because of YOU. We can win when we are engaged and work together!
We are at a crucial point in the Campaign for a Fair Transfer, making it all the more exciting to see so many of you getting involved. Including our OiTs, OPAL had about 16 people out talking with transit riders last weekend for our monthly 1st Saturday Organizing day. That gave us enough organizers to divide into four groups, each engaging dozens of people and messaging the CFT.
TriMet has returned their financial analysis of extending transfer times and we have begun a facilitated dialogue with TriMet brass about the details and methods behind their numbers. With TriMet beginning to shape a decision on extending transfer times, it is more important than ever that we inform as many transit riders as possible. Between 1st Saturday Organizing days, you can talk with your friends or familiar faces on your bus to tell them OPAL is fighting for them and that Bus Riders Unite! will welcome their ideas and voices.
Bus Riders Unite! would love to see a big turnout at the upcoming membership meeting on Tuesday, June 16th. There are still important organizational decisions to be made, but they need to be made by BRU! membership. If you have not attended a meeting in a while, now is the time. You will also make important decisions regarding the CFT, get updates from the BRU representative on the Transit Equity Advisory Committee, and learn brand new information about the Clean-Air Act and how local decisions are affecting our health. BRU! meetings are THE place to stay informed and stay activated. We challenge you to get on the phone and invite two other people to come with you. Please RSVP so we can plan accordingly.
BRU! membership meeting, Tuesday, July 16th
6PM – 8PM at OPAL, 2407 SE 49th (TriMet lines 4, 14, 71)
Dinner and bus tickets will be provided
Spanish translation and childcare available with RSVP
*RSVP to vania(at)opalpdx.org or 503-342-8910
Our 4th year of the Summer Organizers in Training program began last week and it is amazing how much the new OiTs have already done. In addition to their trainings of several hours a day, they have attended a TriMet Board meeting, spoke at the “Voices” benefit, attended a social justice rally, and are preparing for their initial 1st Saturday Organizing day as OiTs. We are already impressed with the commitment of these five young activists (four OiTs and the Program Coordinator). They seem to be a perfect fit, as OPAL begins to step up our efforts to activate more youth behind environmental justice.
So without further adieu, meet our 2013 OiT team…
Vania was born in Peru, but has spent half of her life living in the beautiful state of Oregon. A University of Oregon alum, and a Year of Service Fellow for the Oregon Bus Project, Vania has dedicated the last five years of her life fighting for student rights, and equity and accessibility throughout the state of Oregon. Last summer as a Politicorps fellow, she spent 10 weeks working on voter registration and knocked over 500 doors for the Tuition Equity campaign. Afterwards, she went on to be the 2012 election field organizer for the AFL-CIO where she organized union members to rally for pro union candidates. During the legislative session, Vania worked as the inland organizer for Our Ocean, a conservation coalition that protects the health and legacy of the Oregon Coast. Now, as the OPAL OiT Coordinator, she wants to be inspired by the stories of her OiTs and is excited to help create an awesome program for new leaders. In her spare time, Vania loves going on long distance runs and looking at sunsets.
Raised in the Vancouver/Portland area, Halla started volunteering at 12 years old at the free clinic in Vancouver. During high school she studied abroad in Argentina, which led her to pursue a degree in Spanish at Portland State University. While at PSU she continued studying abroad and volunteering in the community. For the past couple of years, Halla has worked with adults with developmental disabilities. As an OiT she hopes to gain skills and experiences to be a great leader and for pursuing a masters degree in Social Work.
Emily is a recent graduate from Willamette University where she studied Environmental Science as well as social justice. Relatively new to Portland, Emily moved here from Newport where she worked in a bakery. She is passionate about environmental and social justice issues and excited to be a part of OPAL’s movement for accessible and equitable transportation. Emily hopes to learn a lot from the Organizer in Training program, and to use her new skills to continue a life of fighting for social and environmental justice, as well as healthy communities.
Perla moved to the United States from Mexico City when she was 11 years old. She recently graduated from the Catlin Gabel School in the west hills of Portland. Her privileged school and its surroundings is a totally different place than where she lives (East Portland). Through commuting one-and-a-half hours every day on the bus from East Portland to Washington County, she noticed that Portland has a long way to go regarding environmental justice. Perla became familiar with OPAL through her involvement with the Mulnomah Youth Commission (MYC), where she learned to become an advocate for social justice. Perla will be attending the University of Oregon in the fall. She decided to apply for the OiT program to continue fighting for environmental and social justice and to learn more about Portland by interacting with the community. She’s excited to work with her amazing OiT teammates this summer!
Omar Shay Omar
A native of Kismayo, Somalia, Omar immigrated to the United States at age 3 and has lived in Portland since 2002. He is currently a student, taking courses at both Portland Community College and Portland State University. Omar has been inspired by many mentors in his life and is motivated by the many social justice issues facing his community.
What an exciting week at OPAL! The last days of June were filled with activity as we launched our 2013 Organizer In Training program, held our Voices of a People’s History event, and participated in a Jobs With Justice rally promoting healthy cities. With all of the outreach behind these happenings, there is a good chance we saw you or contacted you at some point in June. It is an awesome feeling to see how much we have grown in numbers and influence! Speaking of which, and in addition to these events, TriMet released to OPAL it’s evaluation of the financial impact of extending transfer times. We will have more on this and the progress of the Campaign for a Fair Transfer in the coming weeks.
Dante James reading at “Voices”
The Voices event was a huge success and we can’t thank you all enough for all of your support. As the event was a benefit for our Organizer In Training program, our four new OITs introduced themselves on the same evening. Look for a separate post released alongside this one for more information about the newest faces at OPAL.
Coinciding nicely with the beginning of OIT training, OPAL was part of the Portland Rising J29 rally. Portland Rising is a project of Jobs With Justice, focusing on uniting labor and community organizations to fight austerity measures in our government. The campaign seeks to highlight how people are suffering while big banks and corporations are profiting from tax breaks and shady negotiations. With support from our friends at JWJ and SEIU 503, among others, OPAL and BRU! had a really great activity area. Our OITs had plenty of opportunity to message the CFT and the inequities around fare enforcement, plus collect contacts to expand BRU! membership. The rally ended with a march to Bank of America where BRU! member Lynne was part of a delegation that entered the bank to demand that the public’s money be returned. What better way is there to celebrate Independence Day than to stand up for our rights as citizens through a bit of rabble rousing?
Christopher ringing Neil’s bell at the J29 rally
Have a safe holiday, everybody. We encourage you to take a minute to reflect on what Independence Day means to you and to find ways to participate in shaping your community. For an immediate opportunity, join us for 1st Saturday Organizing and meet the new OITs in person!
1st Saturday Organizing – July 6th, 11:00
OPAL office: 2407 SE 49th Ave, Portland (TriMet Lines 4, 14, 71)
This month’s Bus Riders Unite! meeting marked the final adoption of our guiding document. The Bus Riders Unite Organizational Structure and Collaborative Vision includes by-laws, membership criteria and forms committees. Built into all of this is the ability for members to present ideas, provide input, and be the decision-making body that will guide BRU! efforts now and into the future. A huge thanks to the members of the Leadership Committee all of the hard work put into this process.
Presentation to Portland City Council
This week was also a big one for the East Portland Action Plan, as stakeholders of the project from the Transit Rider Subcommittee presented their annual report to Portland City Council. The final selections from the East Portland Bus Stop project that BRU! members voted on were included in the presented report. It was great to hear Commissioner Fritz express her interest in the project as she urged the Transit Rider Subcommittee to also present the report findings to TriMet.
Join us on June 27th
We are all really excited for OPAL’s upcoming event, Voices of a People’s History. Whether you have read Howard Zinn’s book or not, you are in for a treat as we bring parts of it to life through readings from local activists. There will also be amazing silent auction items to fit every budget. Tickets are still available so spread the word. Click here for tickets and info. Let’s pack the house!
Also, another reminder about the Jobs With Justice/Portland Rising rally that OPAL is a part of. Come play with us on June 29th at Holladay Park (Lloyd Center) for a carnival-style rally complete with a dunk tank and music! Invite community members and bring your children. A march to Bank of America will follow the rally, for those of us who like to rabble rouse! More info here.
Even with all the excitement around the OPAL office, something has been missing. More accurately, someone has been missed. OPAL’s Youth Organizer, Nicole, is on hiatus as she pursues an incredible opportunity for training and experience with Politicorps. She will remain in Portland but will need to dedicate all of her time to this important program. Nicole left a note: “Remember OPAL, Nicole misses you!” We miss you, too!
Voices of a People’s History: Benefit for OPAL’s Organizer in Training Program
Thursday June 27th, 6:30 – Curious Comedy Theater (Bus lines 6, 72)
J29: Labor and Community Gathering
Saturday June 29th, 10:30 – Holladay Park (Bus lines 8, 70 and MAX)
We had another great day of 1stSaturday Organizing last weekend, with blue skies and more than 15 volunteer organizers! We even had three youth representatives out with us for their first day of organizing. It was great to see them engaging the public about Youth Pass and Campaign for a Fair Transfer, issues that are crucial to their ability to access the services they will need as they become more independent. These future leaders all said they enjoyed their first experience as community organizers. Way to step up!
1st Saturday Organizing
With our volunteers and staff, we had a big enough group to cover two separate areas; Lloyd Center and Interstate/Rosa Parks Max stops. With TriMet committed to reviewing the dollars and cents (and sense!) behind CFT, we need to be connecting with as many transit users as possible. Will enough of you join us next month to form THREE groups?
In the meantime, there is no shortage of ways to get involved with BRU! or OPAL. There is an EPAP Transit Riders subcommittee meeting next week, when next steps for the East Portland Bus Stop Project will be discussed. OPAL’s benefit to support our OIT program is just two weeks away and there are still tickets available. See the previous blog post for details.
EPAP Transit Riders subcommittee: Wed, June 12, 6:30-8:00; Arbor Glen Apartments – 2609 SE 145th (TriMet Lines 4, 9)
On June 29th, OPAL will be part of a multi-organizational rally focused on Healthy Cities. Portland Rising and Jobs With Justice are organizing a carnival-style rally that will be family-friendly and informative. Come learn more about how the campaigns of Portland Association of Teachers or local food workers are directly tied to ours, while playing giant Monopoly or watching street theater. Click here for event details. In addition to attending the event, we could use some fun and creative people to help plan our games.
Work session: Friday June 14, 5:30 at OPAL. For more info, contact Mike(at)opalpdx.org
On Thursday, June 27th, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon will host Voices from a People’s History of the United States, a benefit for the summer Organizer in Training Program at an inaugural fundraising event at Curious Comedy Theatre, located in the heart of Vanport Square in Northeast Portland. The evening will feature community leaders, elected officials, and other notable Portlanders reading excerpts from Howard Zinn’s book “Voices of a People’s History of the United States”, highlighting the people who paved the way for social justice.
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon builds power for civil rights and environmental justice in our communities. We organize low-
income communities and people of color to achieve a safe and healthy environment where we live, work and play. We strive to create opportunities for meaningful participation in the decision-making that sets policy in our region.
For the past three years, summer has been the season to look forward to at OPAL. Not only because it’s a great time for organizers to connect with community members in the warm sunshine, but because every morning, a group of inspired young people walk through the doors ready to take on the challenges of the day as a part of OPAL’s summer Organizer in Training (OiT) program. The OiT program
develops leadership and organizing skills in young people (mostly high-school and college age youth) through a 9 week long summer curriculum; this successful program has developed 12 leaders of its’ 3 year history, many of which have continued to work in social justice and grassroots organizing.
Please join us and the following confirmed readers from our social justice community:
Robert Liberty, former Metro Councilor | Jeri Sundvall-Williams, City of Portland | Steve Novick, Portland City Council | Sharon Gary-Smith, MRG Foundation | Jo Ann Hardesty, Civil Rights leader | Dante James, Office of Equity and Human Rights | Mara Gross, Coalition for a Livable Future | Alissa Keny-Guyer, Oregon House District 46 | Cameron Whitten, Social Justice Activist | Lisa Bates, Portland State University | Lynne Barrett, Bus Riders Unite Leader | Terrence Coleman, Bus Riders Unite Leader | Rex Burkholder, former Metro councilor | Jean Yamamoto, SEIU | Cameron Johnson, Bus Riders Unite Leader | Teresa Keishi Soto, Bus Riders Unite Leader
On Thursday, TriMet and the agency’s Board of Directors acknowledged the hard work that OPAL and Bus Riders Unite! has put into our analysis of extended transfers and the effects this might have on transit riders who depend on single ticket fares. They repeatedly referenced and commended BRU members on the amount of civic engagement we have shown in trying to improve our transit system. We haven’t exactly been making it easy for them to ignore us though: in addition to showing up at board meetings to testify, as we did on Thursday morning with 15 testimonies given by BRU and OPAL, we have been sitting down with individual TriMet board members to discuss CFT, we have been writing op-ed pieces and press releases for local newspapers and we have been strengthening our transit justice coalition with other community organizations. You might even have seen OPAL’s Executive Director Jon Ostar on a recent KOIN 6 report. TriMet stated again that they will provide detailed analysis to the board at the end of June as to the financial impact of extending transfer times.
BRU and OPAL give testimony at the TriMet board meeting today
The testimony given at this week’s TriMet board meeting really portrayed just how transit justice affects us all and is directly tied to the health of a city. Comments today ranged from that of personal stories by transit dependent community members, to those who sometimes have the option to drive but are trying to make the environmentally-conscious decision not to. We heard how the best part of their public transit experience to some people is the bus drivers themselves and how a fair system will also respect its employees. We heard from bus operators who want to provide the best service possible but are stuck operating over-crowded buses and making late arrivals due to service cuts. The CFT is about finding new ways to approach old problems. Instead of making riders shoulder the burden of increased fairs and decreased service, let’s find solutions that encourage the use of our transit system. When you restore service and value, you restore faith in the system and grow ridership. When you help people meet their basic needs, you help create healthy cities.
OPAL and BRU members look forward to working with TriMet to analyze the issue in June and recommending a full implementation of three hour transfers and unlimited after 7pm.
First Saturday Organizing: 11am – 3pm at the OPAL office, 2407 SE 49th
This week’s guest blog post is from long time Bus Riders Unite member and self-identified ‘transit geek’ Cameron Johnson.
Hello fellow transit riders and activists.
You may have noticed how the mainstream media has picked up the pace in investigating TriMet’s decision to allocate almost $1 million in non-union wage increases as part of the FY 2013 budget, at a time when they were raising our fares to historic levels and further cutting back our service. After KOIN Channel 6’s hard-hitting piece last night, TriMet has their PR machine out in full force, implying that we over here at OPAL were told about the intended wage increases and failed to bring it to our members and the public at-large.
Here’s the truth: in analyzing the proposed FY 2013 budget, we noticed they were doubling their Contingency Fund from $10M to $20M, seemingly without justification. This was critical because in doubling the Contingency – a source of backup money intended for emergency situations – leaves us with $10M less in operating money, and along with a manufactured budget shortfall, allowed for the impression that TriMet needed to raise fares and cut service to break even (more on this later).
In May of 2012, TriMet provided us with a memo to explain why the Contingency Fund could not be reduced as we were asking them to do, and we’re sharing that piece with you here:
From page 2 of “Memo to OPAL Regarding Contingency”, received May 2012. via e-mail
We want to be clear – we didn’t consider questioning each line item that was presented as a possible unexpected expense to be a priority then, nor is it a top priority now; not when fares continue to rise, service continues to be cut, Free Rail is eliminated, billion dollar light-rails continue to be built, money continues to be thrown at a streetcar to nowhere, and riders – especially those of us most dependent on transit – continue to suffer. The non-union wage increases represented less than 5% of the proposed Contingency, and less than 0.2% of the overall operating budget, and there was no indication they were even going to happen. There are bigger fish to fry.
Does this mean we agree with the raises? Absolutely not. TriMet has made some terrible decisions over the past several years that have jeopardized the integrity of our system, and we don’t support throwing money at poor performance. But we were focused on one thing: fighting for a more equitable budget, meaning lower fares, more service frequency and coverage, and generating revenue from those who are getting subsidies – park and ride users, WES and streetcar riders, even drivers. Furthermore, we weren’t even aware that those raises would actually happen; after all, the whole point of the Contingency is that it is to be used for unanticipated overages. What TriMet did was an incorrect and potentially illicit use of the contingency, and had we understood TriMet’s intentions, we would have included this in our argument that the “rich” were getting richer while the “poor” were getting poorer. All we were concerned with, and all we remain concerned with, is preventing further fare hikes and restoring service and value for the riders.
Let’s not get distracted here. There was NO budget shortfall last year. TriMet maintained its federal funding, has a substantial surplus in payroll tax revenue, and won its arbitration with the union. Not only does TriMet have that $12M in pocket, but they also got a short-term surplus to boot. Yet, here we are at the bus stop, paying much more for much less. We want to see this money come back to the riders, in the form of increased transfer times, stronger and safer infrastructure, and increased service frequency.
Rest assured that we at OPAL and Bus Riders Unite will always be honest with you. I started out as a Bus Riders Unite member helping to analyze and develop our Budget Alternative to minimize the impact of fare hikes and service cuts. We saved our ability to make round-trip transfers (imagine that!); we won a million dollar mitigation fund (from the Contingency) to help offset the impact to low-income riders; and we mobilized hundreds of new voices to the decision-making table. As a current BRU Leadership Committee member, my job is to not only fight for transit justice, but to also demand more transparency and clarity from TriMet, which I have always been happy to do. Knowledge and awareness are the highest forms of power for us. We won’t stop until we get there, and we welcome you to join us on this ride. Because this is how we roll.
Wishing you the best in your transit travels,