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Dear Mr. Charlie Hales upon your mayoral win

An open letter to Charlie Hales:

written by Sarah Gilbert, who has not run these opinions by the other mamas who run the site yet but hopes they agree.

I don't know if we trust you. Let's be upfront here: we were not particularly thrilled with the choices we had for mayor. That's probably already clear to you by the 8% of us who chose to write-in our vote. After much agonizing and largely because of your rather wishy-washy stance on transportation, as well as the quite clear disingenuity of your income tax history, I voted for Jefferson Smith. I didn't like his personal history much, but I thought his policies would better reflect the non-powerful. I loved that he was from outer east Portland, a historically vastly under-represented part of the city.


I -- and I think I am safe in saying, "we," -- didn't love the way Sam Adams did things. He was clearly invested with too much of a sense of personal and political mandate. He made his own way. He did not seek consensus. He gave off the scent of backroom dealings. Don't do that. Don't let your personal life get in the way of your mayoral business. Please please don't let us find out you've lied to us. (Or, if you have, come clean now, let's get it out of the way before you take office.)

This is very much a city divided. Sure, we look good from the outside and lot of people worldwide hold us up as an example. Everyone I know outside Portland is jealous of where I live. We have a very vibrant arts scene -- the writers! the musicians! -- we celebrate counter-culturism, we love to Do It Ourselves, we have backyard chickens and front yard kale gardens. We are the U.S. leader in family biking! (I made that up, but it's probably true.) We affirm natural medicine and rights for people no matter their disabilities or incomes or races or whatever, we have more doulas and birth centers here than just about anywhere else, we have so many farmer's markets it's almost silly (but silly-good!).

But there is a divide. There is the east/west divide, which we sometimes joke about but is a very real divide, with (by and large) very different beliefs and values on each side of the river. There is a divide between people who choose biking and walking and bus-taking for their chief modes of transportation, and those who believe that their gas dollars and driver's license fees are "subsidizing" bikes and pedestrians. There are those who make a lot of money and those who make quite a lot less. There are those with good healthcare options and those with nothing at all. There are those who are very religious and conservative and those who are firmly atheist. There are those who hire people to blow their leaves off their property, and those who believe the leaves are good compost and the sound is noise pollution. There are those who are hippies, and those who are derisive toward hippies. There are people who are annoyed by the curbside compost changes and those who almost cry when they see overflowing garbage cans full of plastic packaging and compostables.

I read an article about how changes do not happen from the top down -- from the president and congress making policies and laws that change the course of our nation -- but from the small system grown wider. Change, in other words, starts here. In our streets, in our coffee shops, in our living rooms, in our front-yard gardens, in our kitchens. In our mayoral office and City Hall. Change is coming from Portland and not even you really have the power to set the course for our future as a city. Change is coming and I know that because what seems normal here, what seems wonderful and is embraced by people I meet in the streets and farmer's markets and coffee shops and living rooms -- that is seen by others as bizarre and amazing and impossible.

You do have the power to either be that change and improve the climate of community and sharing and difference-embracing, or to continue to operate as status-quo, dealing behind closed doors and saying things which serve to emphasize the differences and divides, not find the commonalities between us. Specifically I think you need to address the very real fact that our society cannot, over the long term, afford to continue policies which prioritize the speed and ease of vehicle traffic over the ease and comfortableness of bicycle and pedestrian options. There will come a time in the future when we will have to drive much, much less than we do now. There should already have come a time in which we realize that speed is not the highest value. Traffic deaths are the leading cause of accidental death for young people and this is because of speed. Is that really so important? Getting places quickly? Even in our neighborhood streets, even parents in minivans, even people who own bicycles, are so habituated to speeds 10 or 15 miles over the speed limit that it is socially acceptable to do so.


Why am I telling you this? Because I think small things you do, like emphasizing words ("livability," maybe, instead of "safety") and communicating facts (like that every mile driven in a car costs our city in pollution and health costs, whereas every mile walked or ridden on a bike saves us money; like that livable streets have a very quantifiable economic benefit) are a big deal. Because I believe that relatively inexpensive infrastructure changes could make families feel more secure biking and walking in the city, and save us long-term in health costs and, heck, make it easier for me to keep my living room clean (I live on a busy street! And oh my goodness the dust!). Because I believe that simple things, like enforcing crosswalks and speed limits, could do huge things to make us all feel like we were more "in this together."

And you could do more, you know, to lessen the invented conflict between the "creative class" and "job creators." Today I am working hard to create jobs that are creative, and I am blown over every day by the entrepreneurial spirit of our city's creative class. People are coming here, with their Apple laptops and their zine spirit and their sewing machines and they are creating the hotbed of a center of creative culture that values arts-centered careers. Let us be the nexus of this! Encourage the xoxo fest! More love for all! If someone, in an editorial or op-ed, says that creative people are bad for economics, fight back! There is lots of evidence that it's not true. Say so.

And the last thing. Young families are going to be everything to the growth of Portland over the next several decades. Young people come here single and get together and have children and stay here to raise grade schoolers and high schoolers and future mayors. Everything you do should focus on supporting those families, creating community support for mothers and fathers of babies and toddlers, creating a no-parent-blame mindset in our public schools (if I had a nickel for every time a teacher said or intimated that my parenting was the reason something was not going well for my child! I could pay for the chocolate I eat while I blame myself in an endless spiral of useless anxiety!), providing systems and services that believe in children, instead of blame them. I know this is kind of woozy, but trust me, this matters. From hiring generous and understanding family court judges to training Portland police to think about where people come from -- to understand first and judge later -- to supporting programs that get people talking about how hard it is for them, all this stuff. And family leave too!


I want you to do a lot. But most of all I want you to create a culture of working together for our future. I want you to explain to the people who drive that it benefits them to have more people on bikes. I want you to explain to the people who have big businesses that it benefits them to have mothers and fathers who are not feeling like failures, who are not stressed and distressed because they have had to make choices between what is best for their family and what is best for their employer. I want you to make all decisions based on what will cost less and give us the most resources in 50, 100 years -- not what will cost less and give us more resources in February or June 2013.

Look to the long term. Do crazy and jealousy-inducing things. Make more livable streets, support more farmer's markets, slow us all down, wear a shirt out of a free box. Don't do it because it's trendy or because you might get a bit part on Portlandia. Do it because we are the change and you are the change and we together can make Portland 2052 a haven, an economic leader, the center of arts and culture, a place our children and grandchildren can live with pride and lead with gusto.


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When you are ready to run for mayor, let me know. I'd donate to your campaign in a red hot minute.

Don't really agree that we're all that creative (coming from NYC and all), I honestly find us more "wanna be, poser and provincial". I don't dig raising chickens or visiting Farmer's Markets (and it's pretty mainstream in most cities now). I don't even find us all that remarkable.

Though I do like living here.

I also think the city keeps expanding more because people move here---and in reality demographically, we're a single, young person's town.

BUT I agree with your completely about alternate forms of transportation. Much of that is less about the mayors (we had one who modeled alternative transportation) and more about culture. We see all the time nine billion anti-bus reasons (my own husband being one of the biggest offenders). I almost didn't get my current job because I don't drive (even though they see I'm good at it, without a car, NOW).

People just don't take public transportation, walk or bike here like they do in NYC or many European cities. There is something Hales can do about it. In London, you pay a fee if you want to drive into city limits. I imagine there are exceptions or package deals for things like delivery trucks or a true bonafide need to drive as part of your job.

But I doubt it'll be very popular. And I do, BTW, mean downtown, not inner SE

I would like the mayor to not always prioritize the wants of affluent white creative bike riders over the very real needs of struggling people of color who have always gotten a raw deal here and are increasingly swept under the rug so as not to tarnish Portland's hipster cred.

I love this letter to Charlie! I hope he gets the pleasure of reading it and hearing your wishes! Thanks for sharing.

THANK YOU, Kiki. Exactly. THAT. Sickening that in this Portlandia-proud city I doubt one-two punch of the hipster cred plus the Westside WASP establishment will ever cease to be the priority.

Now, Sarah, while you make your case persuasively to Hayes, a mayor really isn't all *that*. Sorry. (And Smith would have gravely disappointed you by being completely blocked and unable to act--if he even tried to--he & his Bus aren't all that great, either). You'll need to cast your net wider (the ol' cc:ing the same letter trick?) to actually influence the cabal of decision-makers.

I have lived in Portland all of my life, most of it in NE, always west of 82nd Avenue. My Portland is not the Portlandia that the original poster appears to reside within; in fact, the large majority of Portland is not. Portlandia is a relatively small, and unfortunately very visible, slice of this metropolitan area, and the rest of us have markedly different lifestyles and priorities than those residing in Portlandia.

The people in my NE Portland neighborhood live in small, post-WWII homes on 5000 square foot lots; my area will likely never gentrify (these small homes in a not-hip area are simply not that desirable for "gentrifiers.") Our streets have lots of pot holes. Some blocks have sidewalks, and some don't. Those who are riding transit, walking, or riding bikes generally do so not out of concern for the environment, but because they have no other choice. Many of our bus lines run infrequently, and the majority of stops do not have shelters or benches (those that do often have someone living in/on them.) Those who do drive frequently often do so out of necessity; back when my daughter was small it would have taken 4 buses to get her to daycare then me to work in the morning, and neither place was all that far from home. I had to drive, and I was lucky enough to be able to.

Walkability where I live? Huh. A convenience store with a video poker room attached and a marijuana cafe are within walking distance to my home. The upside is that the owners of those business have really, really spruced up what used to be nasty, beatdown buildings.

Most of us who are not blue collar or working class are only one generation removed (I know I am.) We're not the creative class, for sure. We don't work from home, can't bike to meetings and don't work flexible hours (a lot of my neighbors would feel lucky if they only had to work one job.)

And don't get me started on the schools in my neighborhood. My daughter attends a wonderfully diverse PPS high school, with a hard working, caring, dedicated staff and faculty. A high school that gets a bad rap and has a terrible reputation. A high school that many people who are like me--white collar, college educated--won't even consider sending their kids to because of that reputation. A high school that has relatively low parental involvement, what with language barriers, and parents with second jobs, or parents whose priority is to simply make sure their kids can eat and can't find time away from that to attend PTA meetings or volunteer (go figure!) If I could afford to move about 30 blocks west, she could attend a much more homogenous PPS school, with a great reputation, more course offerings, lots of parental involvement. Oh yeah, and fundraising galore (our PTA has about $120 in its coffers, BTW.)

I could go on for pages and pages, but I'll stop here. I love Portland. I want to see Portland's priorities addressed. I understand and appreciate the concerns of Portlandia's inhabitants, but they aren't mine. My Portland must have its basic needs addressed before we can move on to the higher-level needs of Portlandia.

I guess I wasn't done yet after all. I wanted to tell you about some of the business that are within spitting distance of my daughter's high school!

Aside from the fast food restaurants and convenience stores, there are a couple of medical marijuana clinics and probably a half-dozen establishments that have "lingerie models" available 24/7. Sometimes these lingerie models hang out in front of the buildings (when business is slow?) One of these places is directly across the street from the football stadium, and from a Tri-Met stop that services literally 100's of high school kids daily. There's also a store up the block that displays fetish wear in its windows.

This? Contributes to neither safety nor livability. I know that nearly everyone says "not in my backyard" to these sorts of businesses, but please...NOT ADJACENT TO MY CHILD'S SCHOOL!

Not sure why bikes are always such a hot button issue, and people always have to be strongly for or against... can we not all just realize that bikes and cars and buses are all part of the mix and make way for them all? Sure don't see this as a primarily young/single town, they are visible but they are not the entire city by any means, nor does it take too much to see all kinds of other people.

As for walkability, I do think it's of real value to have things nearby and not need to commute all over creation for one's home, employment, and often child care (which never seem to be near either of those 2 other places). This just goes towards general quality of life to not have all of one's limited time spent perpetually in transit. If a mayor can pull that off, it would be nice! :)

browse & Morgan -- thanks <3

& Kiki and I live in Portland -- I don't see that your goals are different from mine (and Kiki, I object to the concept that what's good for low-to-mid-income whites in the inner east side is not also good for minorities in the inner east side and North Portland; we want the same things! You should also know that, while I might indeed be a hipster, I am not a upper-income hipster. my husband and I together make less than the median income, and a big reason I bike is because I really can't afford to keep a car).

I too believe that equity in schools is a huge problem for Portland, and a lot of what I'm arguing for here is walkability (just as much of an issue in outer east side as anywhere else) and prioritization of pedestrians and bikes over cars. This is not a class issue or a neighborhood issue, although it is likely true that certain neighborhoods need more investment than others. My oldest goes to Bridger, and when I take him in the winter we sometimes take the bus. It drops us off at 82nd and Market; in order to walk the two blocks to school, we must navigate one of those famously pothole-y streets without sidewalks, where trucks skid through and, in order to not end up with your shoes sodden and your pants soaked up to your calves, you have to walk in the very middle of the street.

I too have watched as inner southeast schools raised tens of thousands of dollars for awesome! great! programs like school gardens and arts, while the PTA at outer southeast schools struggled to put together a budget in the low three figures. I don't know if I have a solution for that but what I'm arguing for here is TRUE support for parents across racial groups and class groups. That support MUST stop blaming them. The farther out from downtown my children have been, the more likely I am to hear teachers and administrators and even secretaries make comments about how a child is "bad" or a parent is unhelpful or unavailable. I have been told by people who worked in special ed that, the further away from downtown a school is, the less likely the parents there are to be listened to when they complain. PPS will not listen to the parents of schools east of 60th unless they scream. Maybe it's time to start screaming.

One day my 10-year-old got home on the bus when I was at a cross country meet with his brothers. His friend's mom was supposed to pick him up a few minutes later, but because I wasn't there to meet the bus they took him to kids' club. When I called to figure out the mess, the woman very curtly told me in answer to my question -- "when do I need to pick him up by?" -- "We call the police at 6." Thanks for the support.

Everett's friends have been hassled by the police just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, treated with racism and disrespect. They've been hassled for living in the wrong neighborhood. I think this is a huge training issue with the police force at large and that is a big component of my call to truly support families. Giving the kids the benefit of the doubt -- ALL the kids -- is such a big part of that.

And I live in Portland: I am so with you on the school/business issue. I'm in the Cleveland neighborhood -- it's where *I* went to school -- and there are six or seven strip clubs within a five-minute walk of the school. One is located right across the street from the football field/track. And there are medical marijuana dispensaries too. I hate how liberal the city is when it comes to businesses like strip clubs and sex clubs, allowing liquor licenses and video poker almost without exception to businesses no matter how close they are to schools. I don't see any redeeming value to any of these businesses and I would happily join forces with you in arguing against them!

I do not believe that the mayor will create the change we need, but I think a place to start is to agree that we are asking for the same things and to work together, instead of worrying about who is the hippest or has cred. I don't want cred. I want kids and parents, ALL kids and parents!, to be treated as if they are the most important assets to the city -- as opposed to businesses and developers, who already have a voice, whose voice is drowning the rest of ours out.

I Live in Portland...: I hear you. Your high school some years is ours, too (depends on boundaries, hah). So glad you posted.

Sarah: I love my bike but I'm scared of riding it bec of the cars; I get a kick out of the kale-in-the-front, chickens-in-the-back neighbors; I do the CSA thing (yay for scholarship!); kids go to groovy schools; I vote left, get worked up about plastics, composted before the city program, have a graduate degree, moved here in the '90s, etc.

I'm absolutely certain you weren't trying to be exclusive or insensitive, and I know you are a champion among champions for women, esp., integrating bikes into daily family life. Just, please remember: pushing a bike-centric agenda -- even for families! even for sustainability! even for 'hoods w/out sidewalks! even, gasp, on the Westside ;) (joke, joke) -- may alienate those of us progressives/liberal/green folks who, painfully sometimes, prioritize other things first.

Sorry to rain on your thoughtful letter; just a reality check.

thank you Mom who is tired. I think we agree about which direction the city should be heading and we are just divergent in the BIKES VS. part of it. I will continue to argue that what is good for bicyclists (slower traffic, more room between auto lanes and sidewalks, less incentive for driving, more funding for public transit) is good for ALL residents of Portland. and if the infrastructure was better and the traffic actually went the speed limit, maybe you wouldn't be scared.

I also agree with you that Hales is unlikely to do any of this. I figured it couldn't hurt to ask though! as I said, real change does not start from a mayoral office, but from you and me and Kiki and our awesome kids, and maybe if we can agree that our differences are so trivial as to not deserve room arguing about them here, that we really just want to not be judged, that we hurt like crazy when anyone suggests we are not wonderful parents, that we want our children to be loved and respected by their teachers and protected from hazards ranging from dangerous traffic to pollution sickness to even the smallest chance of a destiny in the desultory, undesirable lives of "lingerie models" and strippers -- well, if we can agree on all of that, we can start making our own change.

I'd happily campaign for sidewalks east of 82nd -- and on the westside, too -- and a shared pool of grant-writers for less-endowed PTAs.

FYI everyone the strip clubs and medical marijuana businesses are basically a combination of choosing to live in an urban area AND our very progressive free speech laws. Since I like being able to speak my mind and living in a city, I accept it as part of it.

And happily, for a city, we have the best air quality in the nation. Again, all choices we make by living here (just like my house that's closer to Powell than I'd like and only has one bathroom, but is otherwise quite adorable).

Oh---which is not to say I believe in always accepting the status quo, far from it. Just you do have to accept what's realistic and what isn't

I want much for this city too. On the surface we are such an unique & progressive city however there is such a division of the "Portlandia" world & the true grit & grim of this city. Recently comedienne Kathy Griffin was here and was commenting on that sharp contrast you see throughout the city she said "Come on Portland, you can't be both a foodie town & a meth capital of walking dead souls. Choose!" I am NYer I moved here in 1997 - I am shocked at the state of our schools yet at the same time as a parent I don't expect those lucky enough to have a mortgage foot the bill with measures for schools, libraries, you name it, with increased property taxes. I am shocked by our lack of zoning that many of you commented on re: adult businesses - every progressive city in the US from San Francisco to NYC have zoning laws on these businesses so Adult Porn & Viewing Rooms like the Fat Cobra are not directly across the street from an elementary school. However if you dare discuss this - it gets shot down under our very liberal state constitution & "freedom of speech". Do I want to read on some of these marquees "hot live 2 girl on girl" shows? Do I want to see young girls and women walk up & down 82nd Avenue selling their bodies? The city's leaders have to take the initiative & address these factors proactively like other cities have and don't just react with a 19 yr old prostitute shoots & kills her pimp at 2pm on a weekday 2 blocks away from Bridger Elementary. I am disgusted by the gentrification of North Portland & I purposely didn't buy into that neighborhood back in the day, when peers were all getting "great deals" in hopes the "neighborhood would get better". All those original residents are getting pushed out to outer SE - an area that doesn't even have roads for Trimet to drive on, nor sidewalks, let alone bike lanes. I wish Charlie well - but I have not seen much accomplished by the city commission gov. system we have here in place in Portland. The Mayor is not empowered and with the other commissioners and their agendas this is governing by committee. Most of us that are blessed to have children we are lucky in so many respects - I am grateful everyday. However I am not certain that "Young families are going to be everything to the growth of Portland over the next few decades" - attracting businesses, good paying jobs, growth & livability factors improving... all critical steps for all residents of Portland- young, old, poor, affluent, single, etc...

The Portlandia-Portland dichotomy just really says that Portland is a city, like any other. There's the side that gets reinforced by tourism and what people choose to spend their money on, and there's the gritty real side. They are always different, but always both exist.

There are tons of dichotomies in Portland. Not even the very best mayor will be able to reduce them all. The East-West one always eludes me. I live in SW. I've hear people actually refer to it as "all the way out there," and my going East as "coming into town." Seriously people, crossing the river is actually not that big of a deal (especially when it's not rush hour: it's a snap). It sounds simple, but in my mind the best thing for all Portlanders would be to get outside of their neighorhood a little bit. To see how the other half lives, whatever your "half" happens to be. See how the other side of the river lives, see where the Max line goes, get exposure to the whole city. It's important to remind ourselves just how diverse we actually are.

@Elizabeth - I'm also from NYC and moved here in the same year! That said, you're "shocked by the state of the schools here"? I'm a little mystified by this and I attended an elite NYC high school.

Contrary to the mythology, NYC schools are NOT better overall than PDX schools (nor are schools in Vancouver). Yes, there are excellent (primarily in wealthy areas) schools there, but there are also (not always in wealthy areas) schools here.

Even the best of the 32 districts (Districts #2 & #3 Manhattan) aggregate at the same as PPS, a 6 out of 10. Most of the other city districts generally rate around a "4" or worse.

Are you possibly in the Parkrose or David Douglas districts? Because that is entirely different than PPS. Those districts were (ironically) created by suburban parents seeking to escape PPS and create better schools (along the lines of Lake O or West Linn), unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way and they are madly underfunded. I'm pretty sure most most of those parents would LOVE to be part of PPS, again.

In the case of other low income schools in outer east county or nopo--ironcially, those schools receive MORE funding as Title 1 schools. However, there's no question that PPS still slips funding into schools in higher income neighborhoods and I'm the VERY alst person to defend them---but NY has a lot of that, too.

How does PPS slip funding into schools in higher income neighborhoods?


My son will not be treated equal to yours and I think it's presumptuous to assume that all Portlanders want the same thing.

In oh soooooooo many ways. Transparency isn't exactly their strong suit. I'm friends with someone who used to work for them, has tons of inside info.....

They are truly corrupt organization that seeks to very much drive their own agenda and favor only certain schools. Also, many higher level adminstrators never even interview for the positions to which their appointed (like the pointless "ombudsmen" position). If they relocate, sometimes a position is created for their spouse, as well!

This is NOT a slam on the teachers (I think most of them work very hard and overal do a great job), but on a wasteful administration. I opposed the bond measure not because I have an issue with paying taxes or funding public education (big supporter of both and I do not believe in privitazation), but because of PPS's corrupt, wasteful practices (like one high ranking administrator redecorating her office after budget cuts).

I live in Portland but I DO NOT identify with the small portlandia world that you describe. I also have no desire to give up my comfortable SUV to ride a bike on busy, unsafe streets alongside 10,000lb vehicles. Your letter was well written, but people ARE different, and that's okay that east side and west are different, or that some like to ride public transportation for kicks while it would only be a last resort for others.

@Cranky Crank - while I overall agree and think the most of the divides are essentially superficial, bordering on high schoolish, your take on public transportation is inaccurate.

There are plenty of us (myself included) who use public transportation for neither reason: I don't use it for kicks, nor as a "last resort". I'm originally from NYC and still don't drive---so except for when I do things with my husband, I'm completely bus dependent.

I'm sure I hardly fit your view of what a "typical" bus rider is, as well. I'm not a downtown commuter, I'm (technically, though it never feels that way) upper middle class, I'm (as you can probably tell) definitely NOT a hipster, I shop frequently at establisment stores and I'm middle aged. The bike I own is a pink coaster and it sees use just a few times a year.

My point is, most people have a negative, impatient view of using public transportation, that they shouldn't. It isn't just for poor people or "fun"---it's a viable solution, as we see fossil fuels diminishing and truly need to rethink our lifestyle choices.

As for location and accessibility, we made a point of only considering houses on major bus lines (I'm within walking distance of three) when we bought. It's another thing (along with schools) to consider as part of your research. It's (as noted above) why we deal with one bathroom and one bedroom that leads into another.

Public transportation is much more viable than the mindset here sometimes gives it. I speak not from activism, but from simple reality

What Bastia said, so very well.

I have chickens in my back yard and a veggie garden out front. I do live on the Westside because I didn't want to deal with school lotteries and such to get my kids the quality schooling they deserve. I can walk to a New Season's and few shops but biking on narrow, hilly roads? NO Thank You! We do have a great Hillsdale Farmer's market that we frequent and we always take tourist friends to the art market, the carts and Powell's when they come through town.

I do love this town. Have you done science pub? That is the bomb!

Oh, my hubby takes the bus downtown daily and I live three minutes by car to my workplace and walk it some days. But yeah, I own a Subaru to deal with winter ice on our hilly roads and get us to the cool hiking spots we love to go to as a family. Did Hamilton Mtn two weekends ago, the view from the false top of the Gorge spreading out all in front of you is not to be missed.

@Stephenson mom, we already waded into the whole school thing quite awhile ago---there are plenty of excellent eastside neighborhood schools, some better than west side schools. And plenty of west side kids attend daVinci (a lottery only school).

It's great that you like where you are, I personally don't by into all this division, anyway----but don't put it off on schools. Had you bought a house in Laurelhurst, Buckman or the Moreland area (and many others) you children would receive just as good an education in their neighborhood schools.

It looks like my comment hasn't been approved, even though others have since I submitted mine. That is just too bad. I appreciated your post, but challenged a fundamental issue and because of that my voice can't be heard. I don't understand why people write blogs if they are not willing to hear comments that might challenge them. I did not use profanity, threats or write disturbing content. I just pointed out well documented facts that challenged the post. So much for all kinds of mamas getting to voice their opinions on a mommy focused blog.

Your Vote Matters: I'm sorry if you didn't get a comment through, but I can promise you we did not fail to approve it. We don't have a pre-approval process on comments. This is the first notification I've had of a comment from you. And several of these comments have challenged me. Please, send your comment again.

Ooops! Happy to hear that. Sorry. My bad! I will submit again!

I just submitted again and it's not showing up- Maybe it's too long? Is there a maximum length restriction?

I appreciate you caring enough to take the time to write this to mayor-elect Hales. I was interested to read it because I have followed you on UrbanMamas and your own blog. I have to admit, after reading the first paragraph I am flabbergasted. You start out the post stating "After much agonizing and largely because of your rather wishy-washy stance on transportation, as well as the quite clear disingenuity of your income tax history, I voted for Jefferson Smith."

I've had the opportunity to hear Charlie Hales speak a few different times and I had an in-depth conversation with him about transportation. I also asked him about the "tax issue". Charlie Hales is one of the reasons Portland is as bike and public transit friendly as it is. When he was City Commissioner and in charge of the Transportation Bureau, he championed light rail expansion, streetcar development and safe bicycle routes to reduce traffic congestion and improve the environment. He saw the importance of having accessible bike parking all over the city and was responsible for getting the bike/pedestrian lanes on the Hawthorne Bridge widened. He wants basic services to take priority, which includes filling potholes in streets. He explained to me that potholes can damage your car, but hitting a pothole on a bike can put you in the hospital.

As for the "tax issue", there is none. He married his wife who, at the time was raising two children who were in high school. She did not want to pull them out of school at this critical time in their teens, so he did what was best for her and her children and moved to Stephenson, Washington. They agreed to move to Portland as soon as both kids graduated (I believe it was about 3 years). By doing what was best for his wife, her children and their blended family he chose to commute to WA 90 minutes everyday to work in Portland. He paid his income taxes in Portland (his company was based in Portland), and property taxes on their home in WA. His taxes have been reviewed with a fine tooth comb and he never evaded any taxes.

To me, this was one of the most telling things about Charlie Hales. He sees his wife as an equal and for him, it's family first. He chose to do what was best for his family and his children, not what was most convenient for him.

You address the issue of speeding in your post and how "Traffic deaths are the leading cause of accidental death for young people and this is because of speed." I do not understand how you could vote for somebody who has had SEVEN driver's license suspensions. Especially since 10 of those were speeding tickets (one was going 40 in a 25, the speed in residential neighborhoods) and others included driving through red lights and failure to pull over for an emergency vehicle. How could you want someone to run this city with such a reckless and blatant disregard not only for the law, but for other people's safety?

His atrocious driving record is one thing, but when I found out he punched a petite woman when he was 20 years old so hard he split her face open, (requiring 6 stitches) I knew this person was just not fit to be mayor. It is NEVER ok to punch anybody (especially a woman), when you are 15, 20, or 80. Within the last year, he was ejected from a pickup basketball game for punching another player in the groin (are you kidding me?) and ejected for the remainder of the season from an indoor soccer league for roughing up an opposing player during a game. All of this has been well documented.

This just makes me sad. As a woman and a mother, I just don't understand how you could, in good conscience vote for him because "his policies would better reflect the non-powerful." What about his long pattern of bad choices, violence and character? I was relieved to see the Police and Fire unions pull their support of him, but I was happiest the MotherPAC pulled their support. I am happy the election is over, that Portland was tuned in enough to see that character does matter when it comes to being elected to the highest office in Portland, and that we have a mayor-elect who has a history of advocacy for alternative transportation, puts family first and truly wants to make Portland a city that works for everybody. I do appreciate your advocacy and wanting to make Portland better, but I believe the first step in making change is through your vote.

@ Your Vote Matters

I couldn't agree with you more!!!

Agree with Your Vote Matters. Hale did not get my vote, I'm appalled he won.

Actually, Your Vote Matters supported Hales, it's because of Jefferson Smith's history of violence and traffic violations that she didn't support Smith--and she would've been appalled if Smith had won.

Yes Zumpie, that is exactly what I was saying. :) But it wasn't about me, it was about specific examples in this post that completely contradicted voting for Jefferson Smith.

Well, either way.. I found them both unacceptable. I did a write in this time.

While I read cafemama's letter, I remembered all of the blow-outs we have had over the years on uM about equity and privilege. Sarah's letter is unintentionally off-putting because it does talk about concerns of the folks that live in "Portlandia", who are heard and catered to way than the folks who live in the Portland near Madison HS that was described upthread and other disenfranchised areas. You think walkable neighborhoods should be encouraged, many of us don't have sidewalks. . . .Some of these same sidewalk-less streets now have bike lanes. The irony is not lost of us out here in the hinterlands where most of Portland's children are raised.

And certainly more catered to than folks whose kids like like Kiki's or mine. Our children will get disparate education and harsher discipline in Portland Public Schools based on their skin color, it is documented by the ACLU no less. We will receive lower wages and presumably less job flexibility based on our skin color in beautiful, "Progressive Portland" this is also documented. http://www.westernstatescenter.org/tools-and-resources/Tools/facing-race-2011-legislative-report-card-on-racial-equity

So yes, cafemama, while we want "the same things" for our children, as well educated, non-black/latino folks with the potential to dictate how/when you work, the Portland you live in vastly different that a lot of the rest of us. And it is my hope, that uMs can and will take a step back and really hear what kiki and "portland not Portlandia" are saying. Soak it in.

I would say, hands down, the worst decision I ever made was putting my child in Portland Public Schools. I literally bankrupted myself to get her out and into private school. And many parents of color have to make the same choice. We live in two separate and unequal Portlands, that piece is for sure true.

ProtestMama, if you don't have sidewalks and it bothers you, than it seems you would be in agreement with folks who want more walkable neighborhoods as the first step in making your neighborhood walkable is to build sidewalks, right?

ProtestMama - what exactly were your PPS issues? For the record, I'm the last person to defend them, but I disagree about most "private" schools in Portland being better. Unless you were able to send your daughter to Catlin Gable or OES, the rest are very mediocre at best parachoial schools.

My daughter's now attended a formerly Title 1 neighborhood school and a focus option school (where I know your experience was different from ours---and it appears had a lot to do with the then principal), racial tolerance has never seemed to be an issue. I also would think you'd come across that same lack of diversity at any private or parachoial school in PDX, because honestly, we're a very white city.

If it's a matter of your neighborhood schools were that bad---that's why it's important to fully research your neighborhood schools before you buy or rent. And it's still cheaper (and a better investment) to spend $20K to $30K (over 30 years) more on a house in a somewhat better school area (or settle for a smaller house, etc) than to spend $7K - $20K+ on tuition.

Sorry, should clarify, that's $7K-$20K PER YEAR on tuition

The parochial schools that my daughter attend were majority kids of color and at least 30% free and reduced lunch. Going to a better school in PPS, generally meant a "whiter, more affluent" school where my daughter did not feel welcome. And racial achievement gap gets wider for kids of school in "better schools". Tracking is real and actually happens. She said "Mommy, I can't go to white schools anymore" Broke my heart, but since I didn't experience the horrible treatment that she did in my SF public schools, I had to protect my child. And I refuse to have a white mom with white children in PPS, tell me what I coulda/woulda/shoulda done differently. If this wasn't such a serious subject, it was be laughable. I see where a lot of smart kids of color with smart parents who stayed in that system ended up. It was worth every penny and then some to keep my child safe and engaged. There is a reason that other parents at the two parochial schools she attended gave up cars, took second jobs, moved back in with grandparents to afford tuition. The teachers at Ockley Green were awesome, but PPS admin was never supportive of that school in terms of resources. If you don't believe me, a kajillion studies have been done on the achievement gap, disparate discipline, disparate funding in Portland Public Schools. I know it is hard to accept that your family benefits from a system that harms other families, but that doesn't make it less true. That's how institutionalized racism, classim amd ableism work.

kids of school= of color. I will also say that when dealing witht he hierachy of needs, people living in non-Portlandia Portland blues may not be like yours. Which is cool, but we just don't get heard. Which isn't so cool.

And I am so incredibly grateful for the care and education my daughter received at her high school. Eternally grateful, tearing up when I think about it grateful. . . . It was a such a gift to have a welcoming, warm environment with academic rigor and an actual belief in these kids. Even if I had to pay for it. There is not a PPS high school I would have even attempted. And I have friends that teach in that system. I was in near hysterics at graduation listening to stories of these kids, many of whom were written off by PPS, suceeding and going away to the college of THEIR CHOICE. Did I ever tell you the one about the principal who told me I needed to get a handle on my 1st grader before she ended up in jail? Because she told them they could not touch her body without her permission? I get so sad when I think of all those black and brown and/or poor children who were pathologized by that system, whose parents couldn't get them out.

Zumpie - there is plenty wrong with PPS. I know you defend it a lot, but any school district that is happy about its 62% graduation rate has something fundamentally wrong with it. My kids used to attend one of the "white affluent" PPS schools, and it was still a disappointment. The building was in need of repair, and cuts left and right left the kids without music, etc. Kids deserve better.

Places with "better" neighborhood schools are more expensive. Most lower income single parents don't get their pick of where they live. They accept the best of what's offered to them. And we also know that there is documented rental discrimination and discrimination in lending as well. In addition to the income disparities discussed upthread. So it's pretty not-great to suggest to a family impacted by these isms that they should just "work a little harder". I assure you that they are working harder than you can imagine.

@Another anon - actually, I'm frequently pretty critical of PPS----I just point out that the mythology of Vancouver, WA schools are sooooooo much better is a big, fat lie that's fully disproven by test scores and other indicators. I also point out that nearly every public school in the country currently has budget cut issues and that for a large, urban school district, they actually do a better than average job.

That said, I am also the first to point out they have many administrators and teachers who suck in every possible way (to the point that I've considered legal action on more than one occasion), do a completely pathetic job of managing their funding and are led by an idiot.

I personally think they're also VERY pro-conformity, which has created ongoing issues for my very square peg child (though it's better now). So I definitely don't "defend" them, I just think people need to be realistic about the expectations of a large, urban school district.

@Protest Mama, I never said you should "work harder", nor would I ever make such an assumption. And again, my daughter's elementary school was a title 1 school---that I had my own issues with, but I felt the actual education she received was perfectly adequate.

My point was that my family could've lived in a larger house, further from traffic if we had been willing to deal with a weaker school or no sidewalks--but these were factors we considered when we bought. We also could've been in an even better school had we either continued to rent or bought a really small house. All chocies to some degree almost everyone has (especially if you manage to find the funding for private school).

And obviously generally (though not always) a house in a better elementary school area is more expensive (as is generally the rent on an apartment), but usually still less than tuition at a parachoial school (which I had already pointed out). I guess I'm confused how someone can't a slightly better neighborhood, but can afford tuition costs.

However, I am sorry to hear about the really unfortunate experience your daughter had and happy that things were better for her in parachoial school. I can guarantee you my child would NOT do well in a parachoial school environment, but glad to hear it worked for you.

Oh, my kid's elementary school was 48% free and reduced lunch, and only 50% white (which for a city as white as Portland is somewhat low), so it was both economically and racially quite diverse.

And trust me, between her third grade teacher and her new principal the last year, NO ONE was targeted for harsher punishment than my daughter.

"work harder"= to make PPS work for us.

If you refuse to understand, there's really nothing to see here, folks. I think I was pretty clear that I wouldn't have sent my kid to ANY PPS High School. There was no good option for us. I understand that being higher income and white you don't have to understand the real conundrums that income disparity and housing discrimination place on families like mine. I just really wish you would try, though.

Luckily there are options for you and many of my friends who are higher income white families in the PPS system, so I guess it's a choice you don't ever have to make.

Protest Mama you are right on. 100%.

Why do you assume I'm higher income? And as mentioned, plenty of kids at my daughter's school weren't. BTW, I just discussed with my BFF, who's actually more educated and definitely a higher income professional than myself. She's also African American and grew up dirt poor (though not as poor as I did)

Granted, when we discuss public schools, we discuss the ones we attended together in NYC and the ones her daughters (one of whom is second in her class and plans to go to Cornell) her daughters now attend in a primarily white area of CT.

SHE doesn't see things from your viewpoint, either. And like I said, I am truly sorry you had this experience and actually DO understand how narrow and pigeonholing (on many other levels) the viewpoint of PPS personnel can be.

Primarily white area of CT = suburbs. That is not the same as here, so of course she wouldn't see things similarly.

I get what you are saying about making choices with cost of living vs. tuition. But I think Protest mama is right - there is more to it than just getting to a better PPS school. It's about getting to a school where her child can feel welcome.

@Anotheranon It doesn't occur to some that almost all of the "best" schools in Portland are close ro 90% white and that the well documented historical racism here deeply affects how people of color are viewed and treated.

Again, I don't think my comments were read fully. I never said "best", I said "better". And that my daughter's neighborhood elementary was neither affluent (48% free or reduced lunch) nor all white (white kids made up 50% of the demographic, which for a city as non-diverse as ours is quite diverse). While I had my issues with the school, generally neither money nor race were issues there.

While I had a myriad of issues about bullying and, ironically, unfair targeting and discipline for my daughter, I never considered blaming PPS as an entire entity for this or spending money on a parachoial school.

I had done enough research of parachoial schools to know that I disagreed with their curriculum, that typically their initial higher scores in math and science were fairly short lived and leveled out past the third or fourth grade. I knew that part of parachoial success stemmed from a more authoritarian atmosphere (which I disliked) and also from not having to accept students with disabilities.

I also knew from anecdotal evidence, that many kids in Catholic schools returned to their mediocre neighborhood schools a full year behind.

When I had issues with my daughter's teachers (and as a square peg in a fairly conformist environment, she was routinely singled out for unfair discipline) or principals, I simply fought to have her moved. This is precisely HOW I know not ALL PPS is evil----some were incredibly helpful and generous.

No one's disputing that sadly, racism exists---in fact it goes both ways. I still remember having racial slurs screamed at me in the hallways in NYC, by girls I didn't even know. Yet I saw no reason to let the ignorance of a few have me judge an entire group.

As for primarily white suburbs in CT--remember these are African American girls attending these schools and they feel perfectly comfortable and welcome.

And again, there are plenty of mid-range neighborhood schools in Portland that ARE fairly ethnically diverse. The houses in these would be perhaps $20K - $30K more. this would translate to a mortgage payment of perhaps $100 or so more per month. Which is certainly not nothing, but much cheaper than $500+ per month for private school tuition.

In the case of rents---my brother lives in a VERY cheap apartment, many of the tenants are section 8. It's also in the Vermont HIlls neighborhood.

Oh also - advocating "private" schools over public ones is an astoundingly conservative idea and reflects a very Republican agenda and trend. It feeds directly into the thier privitazation narrative.

Bizarrely, I frequently have a similar argument with white racist wingnuts on the Oregonian who advocate the whole school shoice/voucher movement for surprisingly similar reasons. The issue is if you move to complete privitization you now deny the poorest children an opportunity for a free education, truly forcing them into a permanent underclass.

Along with the 4,000 other problems that privitazation creates.

Zumpie, we don't assume you're higher income, we know you are, You've posted about being "upper middle class" with a weakness for decorating your home many, many times. It's great that your BFF has had an amazing experience with her kids in public school, but just because she's African American does not mean her experience reflects ProtestMama's. As white women we can NEVER understand what ProtestMama and her daughter have experienced with PPS, and comparing instituationalized racism with your being taunted in high school is ignorant and wrongheaded. I am sure you're a nice person and a good mother. You fought like a tiger to get your daughter the (Davinci) education that was right for her, but it's wrong to elude to ProtestMama that if she had moved to the right PPS neighborhood and budgeted a $100 bucks a month more for her mortgage (instead of dooming her to a subpar parochial school) her daughter's experience would be better. She's trying to make you understand that it would not be better for her daughter, that the system for her black daughter is broken and not the same system as your white daughter's. How can you possibly know that racism was not an issue at your daughter's previous school? You and me and all the other white urbanmamas see the world through a veil of white privilege. How could we possibly understand?

SMW and Protestmama -- I completely agree. I see this "veil" throughout Portland politics -- we would love to see ourselves as such a progressive city and yet, so many progressive communities are not justice-seeking, anti-racist, anti-oppression in their perspective, approach and work.

yes, what SMW said, exactly.

Thanks, SMW, kiki, Another Anon and It . I think it's interesting that zumpie has ignored the actual concrete evidence that PPS is bad for black and latino children. And ignored that it was actually harmful to my child. And also thinks my child's well-being was not worth was I paid for school. And lastly, the "I asked my black friend and she disagrees with you" argument? Really? And she doesn't live in Portland. I certainly felt differently before we moved to Portland.


The friend card is just a lousy attempt to deflect.

OK last comment on this. Aside from one, very slanted study, please cite your "proof" that PPS is "harmful" to black or latino students. The idea that an entire large district is evil because you had a negative experience (and as I noted, so have I) is absurd.

As for the friend thing, yeah, try again. The fact is, my best friend of 30+ years IS African American, we both DID grow up poor in NYC and she doesn't see it your way. Why? Because my entire point is all minorities are individuals, as well. So some will have negative experiences, some will not.

That said, the last time I experienced this was in my Sociology 101 class. When my white male professor insisted I (a woman) would never experience being discriminated against over something I couldn't change. Right after I wasn't evne considered for a job because I wasn't a man.

As I noted, I never questioned parachoial school being worth it (though I did cite concrete and anecdotal evidence that it's questionable). But I would ask again, so it was "worth it" to spend the extra money directly on that, but it wasn't "worth it" to buy a home in a slightly better neighborhood and thus have sidewalks, a better school and a better quality of life?

Oh lastly for a large, urban school district, PPS is really not nearly the horribleness everyone's persuaded themselves that it is. Check out some of the schools in parts of NYC, Albequerque, Phoenix, Bridgeport, CT, Detroit or (believe or not) Honolulu. THESE are cities where you absolutely, positively HAVE to send your kid to private school.

Portland isn't.

Thank you for displaying a capacity for hearing and listening to people, and accepting that someone's experience may be different fron yours. Also thank you for the studies, etc. that you provided, to illustrate that PPS is indeed the same for all students. It's been a pleasure.

So, Zumpie you HAVE to go to private schools in those other districts you mentioned because they happen to be majority people of color but you can still go to public school in Portland since they are majority white. Got it.

Hmm, that's not what I said. Just that typically, those are districts with weak public schools. Nice try twisting my words, though. My point was that PPS is a better than average large public school system. NOTHING to do with color.

@Protestmama, I could point out that you've made some very sweeping, blanket statements (and refused to actually cite any facts and still base this very loosely, with cherry picking on one biased study) and also fail to see anything, in any way, past an extremely limited lens. So why is it okay for you, but I'm held to a higher standard?

Jeje ...No one is twisting your words YOU chose to list districts that are majority children of color whether they be Latino (Albuquerque) Native Hawaiin (Honolulu) or Black (Detroit) and said, "THESE are cities where you absolutely, positively HAVE to send your(white) kid to private school". Uh huh, when it comes to schools with brown, black and native children then it is suddenly okay to abandon public education. You are a hypocrite. Period.

Ummm, again just because you insist I think this way, doesn't mean I do. BTW, I attended public school in a very diverse district (NYC) and had a completely great experience. The hypocrisy (and judging) would be with you.

P.S. who is Jeje?

P.P.S. This discussion is really, really yaaaaawwwnnnn worthy at this point.

Jeje Is the Spanish spelling of hehe and you are a sorry bigot who of course finds anything not commensurate with your limited world view yawn worthy. People steeped in priviledge often have "great experiences" because they are willfully obtuse and completely oblivious to the reality of other people's experiences. Good luck with that.

Again, yawn worthy and I'd say the limited view is your own. You've made rather a lot of assumptions about myself and others, here. While I might be middle class now, I grew up very, very poor (as I've noted above), in much more diverse city, living in much more diverse neighborhoods.

I worked my way up from waiting tables and taking other, very low level jobs. Perhaps you would like to look in the mirror and stop making blanket statements, yourself, first.

Oh, P.S. it is more than a little inappropriate to call someone a "bigot" here. Especially when it's based on a myriad of your own prejuidices.

PPS has been acknowledging and working on changing its poor record of serving students of color. about 5 years ago the administrators began equity training. the training has continued and grown, so that now all schools are supposed to be training at least once a month, and looking at the inequity in their discipline and academic data. the numbers are run and monitored constantly now. there is still a loooong way to go to make public education equitable in portland. community work would facilitate the public agency work.

having a forum like this could be an amazing gift for this community. readers (who i presume are also mostly other mothers living in portland) have mentioned many times that they do not feel represented here. the responses and conversations spiral downward into communication meltdowns.

this site is used for advocacy that i often believe in. i believe in walkable streets, local food, public transportation, and a generally useful and a family-accessible city. yet, there is a huge area of advocacy and family-access that gets glossed over, and that is equity. the whole conversation leaves many feeling powerless, and it brings deep pain to the surface. in the PPS trainings we've seen that having conversations that deep are assisted by parameters that help keep us talking instead of making us shut down and stomp out of the room.

they have used a "courageous conversations" model that includes agreements and conditions. we've dug deep into institutional racism using that model, and i don't think it is easy for anyone (except the people who insist there is no problem - that looks to be the "easy" path and also the path of no change).

a site like this that advocates for change perpetuated by mothers for the sake of the community and specifically for children could really benefit from opening up the conversation and continuing to engage the conversation in a constructive way that could be healing for so many.

• African-American exclusions exist at a rate of nearly 40 per every 100 students Almost 3 5 times the rate of white students
• Hispanic/Latino exclusions exist at a rate of nearly 23 per every 100 stu- dents Almost twice the rate of white students
• Native American exclusions exist at a rate of nearly 26 per every 100 students Nearly 2 2 times the rate of white students
In Multnomah County schools, there are 23 exclusions for every 100 students of color, a rate twice that of white students.
Students of color make up 45 6% of the enrollment in schools studied, yet 60 6% of discipline exclusions are connected to students of color.

Posters like Zumpie rudely maintain this status quo and make sure that this is also hostile place for voices unlike hers and perpetuates the exclusion...just like at PPS. It's really too bad.

Not sure how I maintain the status quo or am rude (I wasn't the one calling names or pointing fingers here). But thank you for the numbers. Just out of curiosity (I don't dispute them), from what year are these and what is your source?

I'm actually pleased to learn that PPS is much more diverse than I thought it was!

If PPS is more diverse than you thought it was, is it possible the experience of non-white children is also different than you thought it was?

Two totally separate things, nice strawman (again, which is pretty much every single argument your side has put up), though. The two are hardly mutually inclusive or exclusive.

Oh, also, again, what's the date and source of the study?

BTW, I'm simply surprised by the diversity because those aren't reflective of the actual population of Portland (76.1% white, according to the 2010 census).

Zumpie, and you argued that your experience in a diverse school in NYC and your friend's daughters' experience in a white CT suburb are the same as Portland.

Not the same. Not the same at all.

Would it be impossible for you to admit that possibly, you might have a different experience than the minority kids in PDX schools today? And that as a white person, no, you can't understand what they go through today in PDX, because you don't walk in their shoes?

There won't be a study to back up any of this, because it's all based on individual experience and opinions. The poster above didn't have a good experience for her daughter in PPS, so she found a school where she did. Good for her for advocating for her daughter, and for making it happen.

Similar situation here. Our PPS school, which is one you frequently cite as being a good school in a wealthy neighborhood, fell short in a lot of areas in my opinion. Lots of people were happy there. We weren't. We changed schools. Not for the same reasons of the other poster, but that doesn't matter.

What matters is that there are issues of inequity rampant in PPS that need to be addressed.

Ummm, I absolutely, positively never said that different people don't/won't have different experiences (because, duh). I also (in direct response to YOU, above), said that I never claimed all PPS administrators were good (quite the opposite, since I've had both negative and positive experiences with PPS). I also said, SEVERAL TIME, that I thought it was great that Protest Mama ultimately found a situation which was better for her family.

My only point was A) to say that ALL PPS is evil because she had a bad experience at one school (she's previously posted on this blog that she loved their time at Ockley Green and "wept when they left") is a rather sweeping, narrow minded statement.

And B) I was confused as to how one can afford parachoial school tuition, but couldn't afford a house in a slightly better neighborhood, with better schools and a better quality of life (like sidewalks). Because typically tuition is around $7K or more per year (for between 4 - 12 years) and the price difference on a house is $20K - $30K (financed over 30 years.

Also, my point was that I grew up in a much tougher, more diverse city---and that things would theoretically much more racially tense in a more conservative, whiter suburb for a person of color than they would be here. Based on your rather naive statements about both of these, I'll guess that you're not familiar with either situation, yourself. So then, will you admit that MY experience would be different and no less justified?

As for the study, that IS interesting. And it would be interesting to see if other studies support it, or if it's just one study. I only say this because studies have been known to sometimes be biased (on both sides and on almost any subject).


"Among the state's biggest 25 school districts, each with at least 500 students in the class of 2011, the worst on-time graduation rates were in Reynolds (48 percent), Redmond (49 percent), Springfield (62 percent), Centennial (62 percent) and Portland (63 percent).

The highest rates were in Lake Oswego (91 percent), West Linn-Wilsonville (89 percent), Tigard-Tualatin (82 percent), Albany (79 percent) and Hillsboro (78 percent). That is particularly notable for Hillsboro and Albany, where nearly half of high school students are low-income."

While I think we can certainly do better, it's important to remember that PPS has over 47,000 students, while many of the others are significantly smaller (Albany is less than 1/5 the size). Comparing a district of 47,000 students to one with 500 students is akin to comparing life in PDX to life in Lake County.

However, Hillsboro should be commended, over 20,000 students, many low income, yet positive results.

Here's an interesting comparison. The report also included the Bureau of Indian Education, which is responsible for 41,051 kids on reservations in 23 states. Their graduation rate was 61 percent.

Hmm, interesting. In that case I suspect the issue is more of a "one size fits all" doesan't work. 23 states is a LOT of territory and (obviously) each state (or at least each region) IS different.

Or more simply: while a similar approach would probably work well for a kid in Oregon and a kid in Washington (very similar culturally), it would be entirely different for a kid in Oklahoma or a kid in Nebraska. Not to mention different tribes have different philosphies, let alone different individuals.

I can't imagine why they wouldn't break that down into more manageable chunks...we're looking at an average of about 2,000 kids per state. They'd do much better to make this more regional. The current policy seems almost like something from the 1950's.

I was merely noticing that kids who go to high school on reservations have about the same chance of graduating on time as kids who go to Portland Public Schools.

But that's kinda the only thing they have in common. One's a rural area, one's urban---these kids are spread out over 23 states, PPS students are in one small city, etc. I would tend to guess class sizes are much smaller on reservations

Oh and both have a relatively high (48% of PPS students qualify for free or reduced lunch)poverty rate. Though, again, this isn't the case for every tribe.

What really would be a more accurate comparison is to look at other urban school districts in comparably sized cities, with comparable socio economics. Not to mention "on time graduation" is just one of many assessment factors.

Though here is a different and fun one for you:

The district spent quite a few millions converting some schools to the K-8 model (and weirdly, Lake O is now following suit). Supposedly there was research that indicated this made for stronger neighborhoods, etc. Personally, I think the middle/jr high model is a better one, but...

The district did their own study after a few years. Nearly all stats were identical, with a modest amount of improvement in attendance (like 1% better). Ironically, in other ways, the students suffered, because they now had fewer electives and had a more difficult time transitioning to high school (cause, duh).

So lots of $$$ spent and.....NOTHING!!!

They don't need to have anything else in common. Kids in Portland Public Schools have about the same odds of completing high school on time as kids on reservations. In both cases, very very very bad odds.

I'm with the anon's on this. Presumably, PPS has more resources than Indian reservations, and yet our kids aren't doing any better.

As for K-8... my kids have been at two k-8 schools, one in pps and one in another district. I think it comes down to size and funding. The pps k-8 was large and the funding was inadequate to support a full program for the 6-8th graders. The library was inadequate for the middle grades, lab space/equipment and technology were inadequate, and there weren't a lot of electives (not even band!). Those 8th graders were not going to be prepared for high school. And that is a huge contributing factor to our decision to change schools. My kids were doing fine in elementary grades, but come middle grades and high school... well, I just didn't like how it looked and with so many funding cuts, have major doubts about it getting better over the next few years.

Our current k-8 is much smaller yet better funded and the kids are getting a full curriculum. At the same time, there is a fantastic community feel with kids from all ages interacting and influencing one another in positive ways.

I think the bottom line here is that our city leaders need to have education as a priority for many many reasons. Not the least of which is the domino effect wherein if you want to attract people to the city, you need to have quality education. Without that, you lose qualified workers, as well as the executives who have the means to create jobs.

Actually we ARE well funded(contrary to popular mythology), PPS just doesn't allocate its resources well and carries a lot of unnecessary costs (like maintenance on empty buildings). However, for a large city, we do have a comparatively good school system. There's just a lot mythology along those lines, as well.

As for attracting qualified workers, etc---that isn't an issue for Portland. People move here in much, much greater numbers than other cities of similar sizes see. The reason our unemployment always veers a bit higher is because so many people move here every year!

IN the case of Native Americans versus PPS, not really....while it;s the same total number, they;re spread over 23 states. Most of their actual students would be in small schools, with lower student teacher ratios. Show me numbers of another large, urban district and their on time grad rates.

Additional FYI's and examples: while the district asks for more $$$, PPS enrollment is declining--and not because people aren't moving here or placing their kids in private schools. It's declining because people are having fewer children than ever and we remain a city with a young, single, child-free population.

A similarly sized district, with a similar ethnic make-up, though wealthier (35% of students are free/reduced lunch to our 48%) district, Anchorage, AK also has similar graduation rates.

Overall, when looking at bigger districts than ours, with better rates, they're significantly richer (Like Fairfax County, VA).

Anchorage? Their on time graduation rate was 72 percent in 2012. Ours was 63 percent.

This very worthy analysis of the situation shocked me when it appeared three months ago. Everybody should read the whole thing. It asks the question:

"How can Portland, where fewer than half of all students are low-income, have a worse rate than bigger, higher poverty districts such as Houston (74 percent), Tucson (83 percent) and San Diego (78 percent)?"


This lovely graphic, attached to another part of the series, shows how PPS graduation rates are worse than similar districts for students in EVERY category analyzed - white and minority, low income and not low income.


Interesting and telling ORLive graphics. Here's my question to you, Zumpie - even if similar sized districts had a similar grad rate, is 63% something we should be content with? Personally, I don't think so, and thats why we left to a better district.

Your argument is akin to saying "well everyone else does it this way."

To me, having similar stats elsewhere neither justifies that rate, nor makes me more content with it.

Kids deserve better. And I wish our leaders would do something about it.

Never said I was okay with it, quite the opposite---but I do recognize realistically what urban districts are up against, so I understand it.

There are some things about the focus on this though that are bit disingenuous:

!) It's an issue Oregon-wide. Quite a few districts have even worse issues with this. Oregon ranks 4th in late graduation nationwide.

2) It's only ONE metric to gauge school achievement (and frankly less worrisome than some others). Both Tucson and Houston are also lower performing districts (both 5's to PPS's 6), As a parent that's far more important to me than my kid taking a couple of summer school classes, quite frankly. Also, what's the dropout rate? To me, that's more important, as well

3) The Oregonian absolutely LOVES to obsess about this. I tend to ignore these articles for that reason.

But at least these are comparable schools (versus your previous apples to oranges comp)---BTW, where did you find the Anchorage stat? I found it at just a point above PPS???

Oh, even more disingenuous? Betsy uses some VERRRRRRRY fuzzy math. In reality the rate is more like 74%. Given how similar that is to the other districts she mentions (without attribution, BTW), I'll lay odds their "real" numbers are actually closer to ours than the article implies.

If you read the comments, past the "PPS sucks" and "I hate unions and PERS!!!", are some coments that question her heavy slant and weaselly numbers.

Don't rely on the Oregonian for facts or stats---and I really shouldn't need to tell you that.

You can find Anchorage's on time graduation rate by looking at their website. Here it is in annual report form. http://www.asdk12.org/forms/uploads/ExpectTheBest.pdf

I'm afraid I'm not going to rely on you for a critique of the Oregonian report or it's math. The "real" numbers that school districts report were standardized by federal mandate, in 2011, to ensure everybody is comparing apples to apples and not sweeping their dropouts under the rug. Oregon and PPS, along with everyone else in the nation, had to start accounting for students the same way, and lots of districts ended up working the same way. That new ability to compare is the reason that the feds could release the state-by-state report in November, and it's also the reason that The Oregonian could do that deep analysis this summer. Weasel-y numbers are what some states and districts could use in the past to hide their real performance.

When you see that students of color in PPS have about a fifty fifty chance of graduating on time, you can see exactly why Protest Mama would be tearing up to know she got her child to a high school that cares about her success.

Actually, I read all three articles in the series.

What I found most interesting wasn't Betsy's extremely slanted, yellow journalism (a former Mesa, AZ teacher revealed that they are, in fact, able to still weasel their numbers, so try again), but the comments pointing out that PPS does not entirely bear responsiblibyt for children failing to graduate. The children themselves (personal responsibility) and their parents do, as well.

IN fact the two drop out kids Betsy featured in her articles were white and attempted to completely blame PPS for what were their own poor choices and their parents complete inaction.

But way to again make something that isn't about race about race, yet again. By cherry picking your "facts".

P.S. getting a GED isn't an automatic death sentence, either--there are plenty of GED to college programs in this and every other state in the country.

Oh and don't just rely on my critique, read the comments disproving Hammond's facts. I honestly can't believe you would use such an obvious hatchet piece as evidence.

Not to mention, the piece basically appears to say, "if you keep your kid in their district high school, they'll be fine. Don't place them in an alternative school". Not sure what that has to do with race or public versus private.

If anything, since the alternative schools are private (but publicly funded) and much smaller---it would indicate that had Protest Mama's daughter attended (and remained at) her regular high school, she would've been just fine.

Since you've made it apparent you agree with Hammond's analysis, that is.

It also still ignores my original question of "if you can afford private school tuition, why couldn't you afford a slightly better school area?"

So you're saying the stark graduation rate differences between PPS and districts with similar poverty and minority rates can be explained by the fact that PPS parents and students are somehow more irresponsible than those in similar districts? There's no evidence that people here are more irresponsible than people in those districts, so I can't agree.

And you're saying that this was a hatchet job because the reporter compared the standardized, publicly reported graduation rates of districts with similar socioeconomic makeups and found Portland lacking? I wouldn't respect a reporter who ignored the abysmal graduation rate or the fact that similar districts have better records, so I can't agree.

For those who haven't read the series, it doesn't say that every student who stayed at a regular high school was fine. But it did show how the move to an alternative school kept the original high school from tracking and helping the dropout-prone kids. That's why several methods used successfully by districts with better records aren't working here.

Actually, what I'm saying is that other districts still weasel with their numbers. And no longer count alternative school attendees as part of their district, skewing the numbers. And that not all responsibility lies with the school.

My nephew by marriage went through FOUR schools in 2 1/2 years: First La Salle Prep, then Cleveland, then two different alternative high schools. He was booted from all of them.

He;s also middle class, an only child from a two parent home and has plenty of extended family. He also tests extremely well on IQ tests. In all of this I can only blame him and (for not looking to rein him in) his parents, none of his repeated failures are PPS's fault.

I'm not surprised you liked that very one sided, slanted article---you seem to like to twist things and cherry pick facts as well.

BTW, the standadization still enables (as noted above) districts to weasel and wiggle. Much the way many charter schools used to fake and "prep" kids for tests by cheating. THAT's how she was able to write her piece.

Again, I suggest you wade through the comments to obtain a different side of things, instead of taking a hack reporter with an ax to grind at her word.

zumpie, i think several posts addressed your original question, but you were pretty dismissive of the vastly different experience children of color have in portland because it didn't mesh with your experience and your readings of comments and your talking with one person of color in another state.

Actually, I believe the responses were more of the defensive, "this was what I wanted to do" (which is completely fine) than much of anything else. And my point was that I grew up poor, in a far more diverse city (with weaker schools stats), with many people of color and failed to see this.

Likewise, that labeling an entire district as evil and racist (when there's plenty of evidence to the contrary), because of one bad experience, in one admittedly crappy high school is absurd on every level.

The comment that proves i? First, I'll paraphrase.

Gary Shtaymoss: The math in the story and the math on the charts don't add up. When I do the math on the charts, it looks like the graduation rate is 74 percent.

Reply from Betsy Hammond: TThe chart - as you can see by the way it's labeled - only addresses kids who started out at a regular PPS high school The point of the chart is that kids who start at PPS high schools should have been able to get diplomas in higher numbers.

Gary Shtaymoss: Thank you for clearing the math up for me.

End of paraphrase:

Gary Shtaymoss: Betsy's math does not add up:

"In Portland's class of 2011 alone, 1,300 students -- 35 percent of the class -- failed to earn a diploma in four years." However, the numbers in her two charts (which conflict with each other too) tell a different story...The lead visual shows only 811 students (out of 3077; 26%) from the class of 2011 did not earn a diploma on time. The second chart shows 784 students (out of 3020; 26%) failed to earn a diploma in four years. Where do the "1,300 students -- 35 percent of the class" numbers come from? Are there more students hidden somewhere and Betsy is not telling us, or is she just pulling numbers out of thin air?

Both charts show a 74% on-time graduation rate for the class of 2011, not the "62%" rate that Betsy states.

I also have questions about Megan Brophy's sad tale of watching TV for most of her junior year:

Why did her withdrawal record from Cleveland say that she had moved to the Madison attendance zone? Who was lying at the time? Did Megan tell her counselor, teachers, and administrators that she had moved, or did Vice Principal Butterfield lie by putting it on Megan's paperwork?

Betsy writes "From Cleveland, 'there were no phone calls, no nothing,' Brophy said." Did Megan call her counselor at Cleveland to tell her that Madison wouldn't let her enroll and she needed to find a school? I'm sure that counselor would have helped her if he/she had known what had happened to Megan, but they didn't expect anything to go wrong with Megan's transfer since the reason for the transfer was a move to the Madison attendance zone. Who was lying, Megan or Butterfield?

Betsy Hammond: Gary:

I like your style. Thank you for reading closely and doing the math.

My numbers are correct, but I can see why you might question them.

The biggest difference between the lead chart (showing 2,266 grads out of 3,077 students, or 74 percent) and the overall dropout rate referenced in the article (62 percent of the class of 2011 got diplomas in four years; 1,300 did not, suggesting a total class size above 3,500) is that the chart (clearly labeled as such) shows only the students who started out at a regular Portland Public Schools high school. Other students start out in charter schools, alternative schools or other small district-run schools. The biggest group of them are addressed high in the story, in the fourth paragraph called out with a bold dot. "An additional 500 students entered an alternative school from the start. Just 36 of them, or 7 percent, earned diplomas."

The point of the main graphic is that those 811 students who started out at regular high schools, mainly as freshmen and sophomores, are students that Portland Public Schools should have been able to get to diplomas in much larger numbers. The high schools get 89 percent of the students who stay to graduate. But they are watching as 1 in 4 of their students transfer away, nearly always to a dismal outcome.

Gary Shtaymoss: Betsy,

Thank you for clearing the math up for me. So, after rereading and thinking some more, I see that the "illusion of success at big high schools" headline isn't questioning the fact that 89% of the students of class 2011 who stayed at the same school all four years graduated on time. Your story is trying to make the point that PPS high schools aren't as successful as they seem because about 1 in 4 students transfer somewhere else.

If that is the knock on PPS high schools, then let's figure out why they are transferring. Is it because of a change in residence? Is it an interest in other schools' programs/curriculum? Is it that the school personnel have failed the students, as you claim with your Megan Brophy example? Are the high schools forcing students to transfer (which is what your story implies)?

All PPS parents (that are actually parenting) should be aware that only 28% of the students of class 2011 who transferred schools graduated on time. Parents should do all they can to keep their child's high school experience stable and consistent.

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