Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This time of year lends itself to reflection, as we look back on the year ending and ahead to the opportunities of the coming year. Fittingly, this month provided me the chance to enjoy the fruits of past labor and lay the groundwork for a cleaner, healthier future.
Just last week, I championed a resolution that will start the process of phasing out gas powered leaf blowers throughout Multnomah County. These devices emit tremendous amounts of pollution for their tiny motors: studies have demonstrated that for the best selling models, one hour of operation emits the same amount of smog-forming pollution as driving a Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles, or the distance from Portland to San Diego. And there is “extensive evidence” that pollutants from gas powered leaf blowers can cause serious health impacts such as heart disease, cancer, and impacts on prenatal development, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, the noise emitted by these devices travels further, more easily penetrates walls & barriers, and is louder than safe sound levels up to 800 feet from the point of operation. That’s why many in our community hate these devices.
In the coming year, the County will look to speed up our timeline to phase out our use of gas powered leaf blowers, and set a timeline for their phase out county-wide. We will do this work in conjunction with the City of Portland, after I partnered with the late City Commissioner Nick Fish to kickstart this discussion prior to his untimely passing. Commissioner Carmen Rubio has taken up this objective moving forward, and I’m excited to have her leadership and partnership on this issue.
Taking this step is one small but important step we can take to reduce our carbon footprint, improve our air quality, and help our environment.
And it’s not the only step I’m taking. I met with fellow Commissioner Susheela Jayapal this month to discuss strengthening our wood smoke ordinance to better protect public health. After meeting with a workgroup this past year, we laid out a timeline for action early in 2022.
Earlier this month I also had the pleasure of seeing the results of prior advocacy when I rode on one of TriMet’s electric buses and helped fuel up a TriMet bus for the first time with renewable diesel fuel. Moving forward, all TriMet diesel buses will be fueled with renewable diesel, a cleaner, more climate-friendly source of energy. And just as importantly, all new buses TriMet purchases will have zero emissions, with TriMet phasing out the use of all diesel powered buses by 2040.
As a member of TriMet’s advisory committee, I fought to set aside funding for TriMet’s conversion to zero emissions buses, and I am thrilled at the progress TriMet has made in reducing its carbon footprint.
The transportation sector is responsible for 36 percent of carbon emissions in Oregon, and traditional diesel emits harmful toxins, which disproportionately impact low income neighborhoods and communities of color. Reducing these harmful emissions with renewable diesel today and all zero-emissions buses in the future will be an enormous step forward.
Yet there is much more work to do, and I’ll fight with you every step of the way to do it. So here’s to the year ahead.
In the Community
This month brought a host of exciting events and activities. Last week, I spoke to advocates in Alaska about crafting the universal, free, Preschool for All program in Multnomah County at the virtual Thread Summit. I’ve been fortunate to speak to groups from across the country about Preschool for All, and I’m also happy to share our lessons learned and help other communities better support their families and children.
Earlier this week I sponsored a town hall on the child care industry, with U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Family Forward executive director Andrea Paluso, where we discussed recent developments in child care at the federal, state, and local levels and heard from child care providers, teachers, and parents about the challenges they face. You can watch a recording of the town hall here.
On Thursday I testified before the Portland City Council about the importance of the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project, which aims to build a seismically resilient crossing in the core of the city. Seismologists say our region has a 37% chance of experiencing a major quake in the next 50 years. We need a crossing that will be immediately usable for first responders who will be valiantly trying to save lives; for the families that might otherwise be separated from the river; for the food, water and other supplies that will need to be distributed throughout our city; and for our rebuilding and economic recovery efforts. This bridge is vital.
Get your COVID booster shot
With the news that the Omicron variant has arrived in Oregon, now is the best time to get your COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Preliminary studies have indicated that getting your booster shot is the best way to protect yourself against Omicron, and everyone ages 16 and up is eligible to receive a booster (after six months if you completed your Pfizer or Moderna series, and after two months if you received Johnson & Johnson).
Click here to find your nearest vaccine clinic and schedule your booster today!
Best of 2021
For the past couple years I’ve given space in my December newsletter for my staff to share their favorite podcast from the past year. This year we’re expanding our list to include books and articles. It’s also a time for my staff to audition as arts and culture critics! So without further ado, here are some of our recommendations from the past year.
- Book: The Storm Before the Storm, by Mike Duncan
- This account of the generation that preceded the most famous Roman names -- like Julius Caesar, Brutus, and Mark Antony -- dives into the social, political, and economic drivers of the decline of the Roman Republic and rise of the Empire. It’s a fascinating exploration of an undertold period of classical antiquity, written to be accessible and sprinkled with levity and drama that rivals the best on HBO.
- Podcast: Revolutions, by Mike Duncan
- Mike Duncan began his career with the seminole History of Rome podcast, and his current series focuses on historic revolutions. While each season is self-contained, this podcast is best enjoyed by starting at the beginning with the English Revolution, as his subsequent series generally remain in chronological order and later episodes often highlight throughlines and references to previous episodes. The sum total of the series is a magnificent review of those revolutions over the past four hundred years that laid the foundations of our modern society.
- Podcast: Pull Up with CJ McCollum
- Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum’s podcast, Pull Up, is a fun way to stay up-to-date on the latest Blazers news, listen to fascinating interviews with McCollum’s fellow Blazers and other Basketball players, and learn more about the sport. The podcast also regularly features CJ’s latest wine recommendations!
- Podcast: This American Life, My Bad: An hour devoted to embarrassing stories.
- We have all done things that make us blush, cringe, and want to become invisible. The best part about this podcast is, for an hour, you can forget about your own most embarrassing moments and find humor in the stories of others.
- Podcast: You’re Dead to Me, Stonehenge.
- Stonehenge is a truly remarkable landmark, finalized in 2000 BC. Was it a sacred burial ground, a site to celebrate the solstice, or built by aliens? Join a historian and a comedian to learn the answers to this and much more about this unique part of the world.
- Podcast: RadioLab, Oliver Sipple
- A story of an attempt to assassinate President Ford and a man, Oliver Sipple, who prevents the murder. In doing so, Oliver, with some assistance from San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, unintentionally thrusts himself and his personal life into the national spotlight. This is a fascinating podcast about the ethics of revelatory journalism, a man’s heroic act, and it’s impact on the harmful stereotyping of the gay community in the 1970s.
- Book: The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow
- This book upends much of the conventional wisdom around early human history. It challenges narratives around the origins of the Enlightenment; the inevitability of the agricultural revolution, bureaucracy, hierarchy, and the modern state; and highlights the many different ways that humans lived and formed communities.
- Podcast: I had a chance to travel anywhere. Why did I pick Spokane?
- This podcast is about Spokane, and yet somehow it overcomes that. It’s a meandering, beautiful narrative about all the things that race through our minds and cloud out what’s most important and the brilliance that comes from sinking in and realizing - or rather, remembering - what is.
- Article: What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind, by Jennifer Senior
- A moving portrait of one family’s tragic loss on 9/11, and the various ways those family members have attempted to cope over the 20 years since. Get your kleenex ready.