Portland, the city that banned plastic bags, needs a more active Green Party presence.
Concerning the issues in Portland, activists from the Green Party in February of last year led a group of marchers from Don’t Shoot Portland, Antifa, and Portland’s Resistance to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s house, demanding the city divest from Wells Fargo, a major backer of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. After hearing a short statement and engaging with protesters, Mayor Wheeler, in his bathrobe, asked for a copy of the PGP activist’s statement, which Wheeler partially quoted the following week when he announced that Portland would be divesting from Wells Fargo. While the strategy used to gain an audience with the Mayor was risky, it proved successful.
As the City Council of Portland re-declared “Sanctuary City” status in March 2017, Green activists joined members of the faith community, the immigrants rights movement, and others to point out there is no legal precedent defining sanctuary cities or states; this hollow rhetoric echoed just days after ICE agents detained a Portland resident for deportation before shuttling him to a detention center in Tacoma, WA. Protesters again made headlines this past fall when, during another ICE-related protest at their center in Portland, activists who were chained together as they faced arrest had mesh bags placed over their heads along with earmuffs in a frightening act of sensory deprivation that can only be compared to torture. City officials still tout sanctuary status for Portland, despite the haunting images of those arrests making world news.
Besides advocating for the Green New Deal, the Pacific Green Party should be invested in the creation of tiny home communities in Portland as a means of combating homelessness. The recent establishment and subsequent sweep of Village of Hope on the banks of the Columbia is proof that community led efforts are at risk of getting shut down.
Another local issue is that of accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. Portland’s reputation as a bike-friendly city needs to be qualified: downtown and inner Portland rank among the most bike-friendly urban centers in the United States, but the conditions of some roads in East Portland are atrocious. A local anarchist collective attracted national attention for filling potholes in their own neighborhood with greater efficiency than the city. Former mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone has been a vocal advocate for Portland’s Vision Zero program — which seeks to eliminate traffic deaths in the city — to expand into the often-forgotten communities of East Portland, where major roads with no bike lanes, poorly maintained sidewalks, and higher speed limits have created a breeding ground for fatalities.
The Pacific Green Party should also seek accountability for Portland Public Schools’ still ongoing scandal of lead-tainted drinking water in their buildings. Along with these local issues, protection of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers from privatization, industrialization, and pollution is crucial.
As we look to the coming year, the Pacific Green Party should establish a local platform in Portland from which it can expand into a greater presence with political clout. This local platform should be one that sees the greater good being served, regardless of who is in charge.