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State Rep Khanh Pham at Youth vs ODOT Rally
Episode 243rd September 2021 • BikePortland Podcast • Pedaltown Media Inc
00:00:00 00:11:32

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In this episode we hear from Oregon State Representative Khanh Pham. Pham was just elected to office back in November and represents House District 46 which stretches from Interstate 84 to Mt. Scott and from about Laurelhurst Park to just east of I-205.

She's garnered several headlines on BikePortland recently for her leadership in calling on the state of Oregon to invest more in 82nd Avenue. Pham lives in the Jade District and brings a lot of personal understanding and urgency around 82nd Avenue's many problems to her job as a legislator.

Known primarily for her work as an environmental justice organizer with the nonprofit Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and the successful campaign for the Portland Clean Energy Fund, Rep Pham is becoming a leader on the transportation front as well. It's just the latest sign of how the tremendous challenge of fighting climate change is creating broad coalitions of activists that are connecting dots between the environment, social justice, energy use, and Oregon's largest source of greenhouse gases — transportation.

On Wednesday September 1st, Pham spoke at a protest of youth climate activists who've been rallying in front of Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters in downtown Portland for 5 months now. Through her mask - emblazoned with a bike and the words "Viet Nam" in honor of her home country — Pham gave a rousing speech and then I was able to chat with her for a few minutes afterwards.

First you'll hear her speech, which I've edited a bit for clarity, then you'll hear our short interview.

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Show notes:

- Full episode transcript (via Rev) - https://www.rev.com/transcript-editor/shared/3gpRwpjwCZ-_lN5_OLwyJ7Jjjv7hUdfXwLDlkUaROtYhzugRqT_0UJV2dZ1dR3x-j_YEqZJ6u_MyAX9YDQ3UYarQGL0

- Rep Pham Official Website - https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/pham

- Rep Pham on Twitter - https://twitter.com/KhanhPhamForOR

- An op-ed on House Bill 3055 - https://bikeportland.org/2021/06/21/guest-opinion-stop-the-freeway-widening-slush-fund-333961

Transcripts

Jonathan Maus (:

Welcome to The BikePortland Podcast. I'm your host, Jonathan Maus. In this episode, we hear from Oregon State Representative Khanh Pham. Rep Pham was just elected to office back in November and represents House District 46, which stretches from Interstate 84 in Portland to Mount Scott and from about Laurelhurst Park to just east of I-205. She's garnered several headlines on BikePortland recently. You might recall her leadership in calling on the state of Oregon to invest more funding into 82nd avenue and to hasten that transfer from the state over to city jurisdiction. Rep Pham lives just off 82nd in the Jade District. And she brings a lot of personal understanding and urgency around 82nd Avenue's many problems to her job as a legislator.

Jonathan Maus (:

Known primarily for her work as an environmental justice organizer, Rep Pham is becoming a leader on the transportation front as well. It's just the latest sign of how the tremendous challenge of fighting climate change is creating broader coalitions of activists that are starting to connect the dots between the environment, social justice, energy use, and Oregon's largest source of greenhouse gases, transportation.

Jonathan Maus (:

On Wednesday, Rep Pham spoke at a protest of youth climate activists who've been rallying in front of the Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters in downtown Portland since about April, so for about five months now. Through her mask, which was I got to say emblazoned with a really nice little embroidery of someone riding a bike and the words Vietnam, which is in honor of her home country, Rep Pham gave a rousing speech. And then she was nice enough to take a few minutes afterwards to answer a few of my questions. So first, you'll hear that speech, which I've edited a bit for clarity. And then you'll hear our short interview.

Khanh Pham (:

I think of all of us who are paying attention right now and scared and heartbroken of what's happening around the country and in the world. And when I look here at my home here in Oregon, I really see the human cost of climate change. I see communities who are losing their neighbors and homes from wildfires in Southern Oregon and Santiam Valley. People losing loved ones in the heatwave, which are unprecedented and whole economies that are being devastated by the drought, by the fires. Whole ways of life that are being lost. Traditions on tribal lands and of farming communities across the state. These disasters aren't the new climate normal. The climate I grew up in 20 years ago doesn't exist anymore. And we have to face the reality that it's not coming back. And that these disasters that people say are once in a millennia are now what we have to get prepared for each and every year.

Khanh Pham (:

But you know what gives me hope? It's coming to organizing like this. Actions like this. Being around people who are coming together and not staying in isolation, but they're actually organizing to take action and fight back because we can't let our grief and heartbreak paralyze us. We have to use that to fuel us, to take action, and do what you all are doing now to talk, to speak truth to power. And that includes me. I know I'm talking to, speaking truth to elected officials like me and across agencies across the state whose decisions are having an impact on your life and your future. As a member now of the state legislature, I also bear responsibility for our state's transportation system, and I'm elected to work alongside leaders at ODOT. And I'm a part of this institution. And I see that ODOT has a critical role to play in this transition.

Khanh Pham (:

The community is watching our decisions, and we know that our budget is a reflection of our values. So we need to make sure that we're investing in a transportation system that allows us to meet all of our needs. For mobility and access to climate and public health goals. Oregon is home to many different communities with different needs and expectations, but what we should all be able to agree on is that transportation should connect us to the things that will help us thrive. And we all want, no matter where we live in Oregon, we all want a stable climate because we see this summer has made so clear that climate change is devastating all of our communities. And if we want it to protect our communities, the status quo cannot hold. And we must change course collectively as a state. All right. So I am also riding high on our recent victories, right? Our recent victories against the Zenith Oil Terminal and the passage of not one but three Oregon clean energy opportunity bills this past legislative session. These are all signs of the growing power of our movement to demand serious climate action.

Khanh Pham (:

Oregon's transportation sector accounts for 40% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. So serious climate action means serious transportation action as well. We need a transportation system that is visionary and responsive to community needs. And I believe that ODOT can get there.

Khanh Pham (:

So I know that community groups are working with state and city governments can come together to work out solutions, to intractable problems, and make some big shifts. I know it because I've seen it this past year. I saw us do that community pushing for years, city and state governments to make, to bring jurisdictional transfer and funds needed to transfer 82nd Avenue over to the city that took over a decade of work, but I've seen it happen. And it's going to have to happen faster and more clarity of the climate crisis we face. I know it's hard, but it's possible, and it's not without work.

Khanh Pham (:

And of definitely strong advocacy and organizing like what you all are doing here, but I've seen it happen. And so I want to encourage you to really see this vision for our safe transportation system. You all are fighting for our future, with your future, all of our futures. And I am committing to you now as a legislature that I'm going to listen to you and work with you as a state legislature to make sure that your voices are heard. And not just heard but I'm going to make sure that you're at the decision-making table, crafting the policy solutions to make sure that we're on the issues that directly impact your life and your future. That's my commitment to you as a state legislator. So I'm mostly here to listen to you all today. I'm so excited. Thank you so much for inviting me, and I look forward to continuing this [inaudible 00:07:19]. Thank you.

Jonathan Maus (:

Representative Pham think we can talk to for a sec?

Khanh Pham (:

Yeah.

Jonathan Maus (:

Okay great. Thanks. What are you going to take away from this event?

Khanh Pham (:

I'm taking away inspiration. These are young people who are just self-organizing, and like I said, this is really giving me a lot of inspiration. I missed a lot of really devastating news right now in the world. I think what I draw hope from is, is seeing people, young people, coming together and putting forth their vision and making demands about the world that they deserve.

Jonathan Maus (:

More specifically, you called for a serious transportation action in a tweet. And now today, can you give me an example of what that means? I mean, we're here in front of ODOT. Is there a specific thing that you think that could apply to ODOT?

Khanh Pham (:

We should make sure that we're any major transportation capital project needs to have a climate analysis we need to have an understanding of the impact on the vehicle miles traveled or greenhouse gas emissions.

Jonathan Maus (:

Sort of on that note, I think one of the things that I've heard you talk about, or we're going to have at least a billion be coming down from the white house from the Biden administration into this pot that you probably know is called highway funding. And I think there's some concern about what the pots are for, let's say transit or the pots are for bicycling and walking. Do you think there's a chance, or can you, will you be able to do something at the legislature around maybe changing the rules of that highway funding pot so that we can spend some of it for transit bike and walk projects?

Khanh Pham (:

Absolutely. I think we definitely need to make sure that our funding ratios and proportions reflect our values. And so we know that one in three or one in four Oregonians don't have access to a car. They can't drive. They can't afford it for whatever reason. And we need to make sure our transportation system that we're investing just as much in and people who, who don't necessarily aren't able to drive, but they still have a right to be able to go to where they need to go and access opportunities.

Jonathan Maus (:

And another thing sort of keeping it to ODOT. Lot of the energy for this rally here is based around the I-5 Rose Quarter Project. And I wonder if you could share what your feelings are on that project. Do you support it? Or are you in opposition to it? Or have you been involved with it at all?

Khanh Pham (:

Specifically the I-5 one, I haven't as much cause it's not. Yeah. I just know that it's complex, so I haven't delved deeply into it yet. Sorry.

Jonathan Maus (:

Let's see. Oh, I just want to ask you something. Were you aware of Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez's statement about no longer supporting any fossil fuel projects sort of highway project, unless ODOT can commit to funding orphan highways like 82nd or TV highway? Is that a commitment that you'd be willing to make as well?

Khanh Pham (:

Yes. Absolutely. I think that we need to make sure our funding decisions reflect our values and that orphan highways are where so many people, particularly in my community in the second avenue, low-income communities, BIPOC communities depend on. And we need to make sure that we're making proportionate investments, equitable investments.

Jonathan Maus (:

Great. Thanks. One last question. So sort of on that note, there was a bill in the legislature this year, house bill 3055, which a lot of people at this rally and elsewhere really were concerned about calling it a blank check for ODOT and a slush fund for highway building. If I'm not mistaken, you voted for that. Can you help us understand why you supported that bill?

Khanh Pham (:

I can tell you, but I don't know if I have a good answer. In hindsight, I think that there was a lot of things going on during that session. And in hindsight, I think I might reconsider that vote.

Jonathan Maus (:

Thanks for chatting today. I appreciate it.

Khanh Pham (:

Thank you.

Jonathan Maus (:

That was Oregon State Representative Khanh Pham speaking at ODOT headquarters in downtown Portland. She's a promising new champion for transportation reform, and I have a feeling we'll be following her career very closely in the coming months and years.

Jonathan Maus (:

Thanks to all our subscribers and supporters who make BikePortland possible. If you liked this episode, please leave a review so other people can find it more easily and make sure to subscribe via Apple, Google, Spotify, and any other platform you listened to your podcast on until next time, see you out on the streets. And thanks for listening.

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