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Rep. Karin Power will bring new progressive voice to state legislative committees


Rep. Power’s Twitter profile pic.

A former southeast Portland resident who publicly opined about what downtown would be like if we tore out Interstate 5 has been named to two key state legislative committees that oversee transportation.

Representative Karin Power — a Democrat whose district (41) includes the City of Milwaukie and Oak Grove, as well as the Sellwood, Eastmoreland, Westmoreland and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods — is now a member of the Joint Interstate 5 Bridge and Joint Transportation committees. She was appointed by Speaker of the House Tina Kotek in a memo finalized this morning (PDF).

The Joint Transportation Committee is an influential body that oversees all major transportation legislation. This is the group that debated and molded the state’s current $5.6 billion transportation funding bill, HB 2017. The I-5 Bridge Joint Committee will play a crucial role in the resurrection of the Columbia River Crossing megaproject, which is now known as the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program.

This marks an important shift in Portland-area representation on these committees. Rep. Power is one of the most progressive transportation leaders in the state. She was recruited to join the Milwaukie City Council in 2015 by climate change leader and Mayor Mark Gamba and began her career in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2017.

In April 2019, Rep. Power was the first state legislator to demand that the Oregon Department of Transportation conduct a more thorough environmental analysis of their I-5 Rose Quarter project. In a letter to ODOT, Power wrote, “Our planet has 12 years to halt emissions and curb the worst of the coming effects of climate change.” And in October 2019 Rep. Power tweeted from the carfree Tilikum Crossing Bridge: “It’s hard not to cross the Willamette on a lovely fall day and wonder what downtown Portland would look like without a freeway obscuring most of the riverfront airspace… cleaner air, more trees, revitalized contiguous access.”

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Portland’s only other voice on these two committees is State Senator Lew Frederick. Unlike Rep. Power, he supports the I-5 Rose Quarter project.

Asked Tuesday morning for comment, Power said she’s looking forward to the new committee assignments. “I was first elected to Milwaukie City Council on a strong local multi-modal transportation platform, and championed safe routes to school, a ‘woonerf’-style street approach in one of Milwaukie’s neighborhoods, and better overall connectivity,” she said wrote us via email.

Power also said safe streets are especially important as a mother of two children under five years old. “I recognize that families face different transportation needs,” she shared.

Oregon’s 2021 legislative session begins January 19th.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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