Black Oregon rulers unhappy with “gradual progress” the state has made a year after calling for “monumental change”

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Thousands of people passed through Portland and gathered at the fenced-in Justice Center for a sixth night of protests against the murder of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed after an officer thrust his knee into the neck for nearly nine minutes on June 3, 2020. The night ended in an undramatic fashion with a much smaller group of protesters remaining past midnight singing outside the Justice Center.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

A coalition of black community leaders known as Reimagine Oregon say they are dissatisfied with the gradual progress elected officials have made in responding to a list of demands made by the group a year ago.

The group held a press conference on Tuesday to brief Oregon media – as well as several lawmakers who joined the virtual meeting – of the state of play since they put the Oregon rulers on challenged to do better with the state’s black community in a series of demands.

These demands include major policy changes on a number of topics including housing reform, policing and community safety, education, public health, transportation, economic development and the state legislative process. .

In total, the group listed more than 40 specific actions they hoped would be taken by the Oregon legislature, the Metro regional government, the metro area’s three counties, and the city of Portland.

Reimagine Oregon was created last summer in response to growing social discourse on fairness and racial justice following the murder of George Floyd and the disparities in opportunity and service in America still exposed by the COVID pandemic. 19.

The group is made up of community organizers and leaders such as Nkenge Harmon Johnson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Portland; Katrina Holland, executive director of housing advocacy group JOIN PDX; Lamar Wise, political director of the civil servants union AFSCME Local 75 and member of the board of directors of the Oregon ACLU; Kali Thorne Ladd, Executive Director of KairosPDX; Marcus Mundy; executive director of the Portland-based Communities of Color Coalition; Elona J. Wilson, executive director of Next Up, a nonprofit incubator of leaders of color; and Judge Rajee, executive director of Reimagine Oregon.

That’s just to name a few who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference and provided “notes” on how Oregon’s elected officials answered key questions during the course. from last year.

And these ratings were not particularly favorable.

Holland got the ball rolling, giving the state an “incomplete and forthcoming rating” for what she described as “incremental progress and promises for the future” on major housing applications. These include things such as rent cancellation for people affected by the pandemic, removing barriers to housing assistance, and stricter testing to ensure fair housing standards are met.

“In our second year on this project… we have a lot of work to do to come up with that hopeful ‘A’,” said Holland. “It’s time for a catalytic change. “

Holland acknowledged that there had been good progress in helping Oregonians who struggled during the pandemic pay their rent with the passage of Bill 2100.

But according to Holland, there is still room for a big improvement in the process the state uses to get rent assistance dollars out.

Wise took a moment to provide notes to local courts on their response to political demands in the area of ​​police accountability, which were a little more flattering.

According to Wise, Reimagine Oregon has worked with Metro, the regionally elected government of the Portland area, and the county governments of Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas to research ways to reform the way the region approaches public safety.

Washington and Multnomah County both received a “B” rating for the work they have done and the investments made in this area.

Clackamas County, on the other hand, received an “F” following what the group calls a complete decline in communication between Reimagine leaders and the county after the county president took office. Tootie Smith.

“We would like to pursue some type of partnership (with Clackamas County), but there hasn’t been a lot of communication,” Wise said.

The City of Portland has received a “C” grade as Reimagine awaits the results of the city’s fall budget tracking process. Wise said that despite a high turnover in city government that has not allowed much progress, some city hall staff remain committed to working with the organization to push for greater accountability. within the Portland Police Office and a policy overhaul. and practices.

The state of Oregon also received a ‘C’ rating, a rating that somewhat baffled some lawmakers on the virtual call given the state’s major effort in this year’s legislative session. to pass a series of police reform bills targeting many values ​​shared by Reimagine.

Wise pointed to the organization’s failure to pass the 2002 House Bill in its entirety as the reason for the “C” rating. Some provisions of the bill have been incorporated into other proposals, but the bulk of this bill which has not been implemented this year would have reformed the state’s mandatory sentencing laws – something the lawmakers have had it in view for years.

Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, who was on Tuesday’s roll call, and Senator Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, pledged to lead that charge in the short 2022 session with support from the Black Caucus , aboriginal people and people of color in the legislature.

A few other notable notes included Mundy handing out a “D” to efforts within the legislature to require all bills to include racial impact statements, as well as the same for state agencies in the process. rule making. Mundy praised lawmakers for bringing these bills forward in this legislative session, but noted they got stuck in committee when the legislature adjourned in June.

Wilson classified Metro and Multnomah County’s efforts to implement a requirement that community advisory councils be consulted in rule-making processes as “interim A” based on how those requirements are or not centered on the voices of their respective black communities.

Rajee said Reimagine Oregon remains focused on holding state and local governments accountable to the voices of black Oregonians who have called for widespread reform and more opportunity in the state.

According to Rajee, the group will continue to work with its partners in organizations across the state to pressure elected leaders to take action to meet their demands for change.

“We have seen movement, but we have yet to see movement from our elected leaders,” Rajee said. “The movement is in the streets. It’s in our lives. But in the halls of power, we are still largely resisted, and we’re here to make sure the spotlight doesn’t dim on that fact. “


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