Taking in consideration the racist history of the City of Portland, specifically examples of displacement of the black community from Northeast Portland, I knew before starting the Public Trash Program expansion that public investments can and often cause displacement.
While the Public Trash Cans were to be a small public investment into the community compared to larger infrastructure, it is nonetheless a public investment, and I was committed to making sure that the project included community ownership, input, and benefits. This is what ultimately led me to having an artist inspired garbage can, that is part of the Jade community, and it is owned by the Jade community.
The Grand Opening of the Jade District garbage cans was a success. Although I was unable to get any of the Portland City Council out to the event, 15 people joined me to do a clean up of the Division and 82nd avenue strip, and another 20 or so joined us for some storytelling, food, and words by community members. From my perspective, it was a great event and people were excited about the garbage cans, something that is quite hard to do. Todd Struble, manager of Jade District, described the project as 'public investments done right'.
I would like to thank all of the members Jade District and Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon for opening up their doors to me, allowing me to listen, learn and support their efforts as well as be part of their struggles. I would like to particularly thank Todd Struble, Maiyee Yuan, Duncan Hwang, and the artist Hampton Rodriguez.
Now we begin the testing process of the cans and their designs, continue to seek feedback from the community, and continue to support the community. I am hopeful that the garbage cans at the Jade District are not only a means to keep the streets clean, but serve as a symbol for the youth in the area to think of the waste management field as a potential profession to be part off, or at least bring more awareness to how waste is connected to climate change and environmental justice.
My message to the Jade District community, the community I am part of, is that I too feel your struggles from affordable housing, to lack of green spaces, to providing support to small businesses, to transportation justice. And I too feel like building resilient communities that will fight back against climate change and displacement. Stay tuned for more work as we continue to expand the Public Trash Program and the Jade District Night Market (September 19 and 26).
It is now official, the expansion of the Public Trash Program will begin at the Jade District, located at 82nd avenue and SE Division Street in the City of Portland, known as ‘the Jade’ by the community. The Jade is one of the most diverse city centers, in 2016 the business district conducted a series of focus groups in 5 different languages to capture the vision the community had for the future of the district. As a result of the engagement, the district was renamed ‘Jade District’.
The Jade District Vision Plan outlines the outlook of the community for the future, it’s needs, barriers and opportunities. The plan specifically calls out attention to the Division strip as an area that can benefit from public place garbage collection, “Due to garbage, certain areas near the pedestrian bridge need attention. Community members would like this area cleaned up and the pedestrian bridge become a gateway to the district” (Page 21).
There criteria to select the first district to receive this new service is what ultimately led me to start off with the Jade. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability wanted to make sure that the first district to receive the program, the pilot district, was going to be successful. We were also interested on making sure to prioritize those neighborhoods that have been underserved by city services, and areas of high traffic.82nd Avenue and Division Street are two of the busiest streets, it is home to a diverse range of resident, and the Jade community had voiced that they wanted a Public Trash Program.
Historically, the way business is conducted by government was not collaborative, many districts in the city do not have a good standing relationship with the government because they failed to listen and take in feedback. I knew that going into this project I was going to be doing things differently, and that my experience as a consultant and community member was going to help me navigate a new way of doing public investments.
Upon selection of the Jade, I reached out to some of the community members and I was invited to attend the Jade District Steering Committee meeting. By the time I attended the meeting, many national events had taken place and the community was clearly shaken up by racism and all the other forms of hate. When I arrived at the meeting I did not have an agenda, I only spoke twice at the two hour meetings, once to introduce myself and another time to answer a personal question. I was there to listen and learn, period.
Gradually, by meeting community members where they needed me to, investing time to get to know them, their hobbies, their work, and their struggles I was eventually able to talk to them about their ideas for the program. By the time I had brought forward the program to the committee, I had invested a significant amount of time to listen to the community and learn more of what they wanted to do.
Like I had mentioned, things were going to be done differently. One element of the project which I believe was an opportunity to do things differently, is making sure that the program and the actual infrastructure was owned by the community. While the direct community was not involved in the specifics of the garbage can, having learned from the community about the range of artists that work with them, it struck me that some of that art could be displayed on the can.
I hired an artist that was selected by the community, provided him the Jade District Vision Plan, and told him that I wanted him to create something that can be displayed around the streets. Hampton Rodriguez, the artist, did a remarkable job at providing a piece of art that represented the diverse range of residents from the Jade.
I engaged residents on the locations for the garbage cans, granted that they do not have the same awareness as haulers do of the barriers inhibiting a safe collection of garbage, I none-the-less asked for their feedback of the location, placement, and deployment of the infrastructure.
Fast forward 11 months of hard work, the new Jade District garbage cans will be unveiled in June 3rd, 2017. Stay tuned for more updates, and future work with other districts.
It has been a little over half a year since joining the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), I continue to get adjusted, and continue to learn every day. The City of Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon, as of 2010 roughly 600,000 people live in the city. Portland is internationally recognized for leading in sustainability and addressing climate change, its climate action plan was recognized as best in the world in 2016.
Last year, the Portland City Council approved a hauler tonnage fee that would generate funds for the expansion of the Public Trash Program. The program collects garbage in high use public places, but it is only present in some areas of the city, some neighborhoods have the resources to fund their own.
Yet, there are a number of business areas where the program can really benefit communities, specifically areas where there is a high concentration of vulnerable communities/people of color. East Portland, more commonly known as the area past 82nd avenue, is where the majority of communities of color live in the City of Portland.
Beginning April 2017, the value of redeemable items will increase from 5 cents to 10 cents. Aluminum cans and glass bottles are considered ‘redeemable items’ in Oregon, individuals collect the items to supplement their income, and often the main source of income. Access to redeemable items in a trashcan is an important consideration, we must allow individuals that want to recycle to be able to do just that, and it is also revenue for low-income populations.
However, the individuals recycling cans are not the only ones having to worry about the ergonomic conditions of their workplace, truck drivers are faced with challenges also. The style of each can design bring benefits and barriers that are often overlooked, such as the physical risk one must take to empty out a 65-gallon container, often resulting in a cost to the city to cover accidents or injuries. This is another consideration for the expansion of the program.
Literature tells us that projects are most successful when community engagement, participation, and supervision are successful. In order for the expansion of the program to be successful, it will have to have the community own it, since after all the streets belong to the people. This is why another consideration for the expansion of the program will be attributes that allow the community to take ownership, and customize it to their interest and needs.
Last, but certainly not least, BPS is not the only provider of garbage public service. Examples of neighborhood associations, the regional transit system, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, or a private business taking the initiative to sponsor their own garbage programs are found around the city. Overlapping with such services is also another factor to consider.
I look forward to updating everyone on what the next steps look like, but certainly, it is not as simple as placing cans on the ground, for those streets belong to the residents. There are many elements to balance, from social, environmental, and economic aspects. Until then, feel free to check out the cans we are testing out they can be found at the food carts in the downtown area.