Tag Archives: Oregon House District 47

Jefferson Smith’s view from the east

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Jefferson Smith? Don’t know the name? You soon will.

Smith is an Oregon representative for the House District 47 that encompasses East Multnomah County. His working-class district has seen dramatic changes in recent years, including having thousands of immigrants and refugees flock to east Portland and Gresham, and absorbing a wave of poor folks from inner Portland who have been displaced over the past two decades by gentrification. The neighborhoods and schools that make up Smith’s district are full of a rich diversity of cultures and economics, yet there are major challenges.

While some areas of Portland are experiencing a renaissance of young, affluent, mostly white individuals and families moving to the city’s urban core, many native Portlanders and Oregonians continue to be pushed to the outer rings of the city by economics.

Less than 4 percent of Portland’s transportation money is spent east of 82nd Avenue. When $11 million in a federally subsidized loan program became available for schools — steered by the Portland Development Commission and the city — no school east of Interstate 205 was invited to apply for the funding, despite the fact that between 24 percent and 28 percent of Portlanders and more than 40 percent of Portland’s schoolchildren live East of 82nd Avenue.

Smith is fighting back, or at least he’s trying. One of the founding members of the Oregon Bus Project, a grassroots, youth-oriented political mobilizer, Smith is now faced with working for a district that is feeling the brunt of the recession and trying to find a formula for success fore residents of East Portland.

Israel Bayer: You have argued that the city has neglected and ignored the needs of East Portland. Can you put this into perspective?

Jefferson Smith: I want to encourage the positive efforts, including the East Portland Action Plan (a citizen task force with a small budget), the Rosewood Initiative (community safety around 162nd & Burnside), Gateway Green (a park near Gateway), and more. At the same time, we need to keep East of 82nd in mind as we consider big decisions, such as stimulus, transportation dollars, subsidized loans for energy retrofits, and urban renewal dollars.

I don’t want to say ignored or neglected. Rather, I would say that there has been a tradition of underinvestment, and we need to increase the priority and the urgency to change that tradition. I have had some robust conversations with City officials, many of whom have a lot of knowledge to share. I am hopeful that the City will achieve meaningful results, work to turn around the underinvestment, and create a new tradition. Continue reading