This fall Portlanders will vote on a bill that, if approved, would create a $30 million fund nonprofits could apply for to create green jobs.
The Portland Clean Energy Fund announced in July it had collected 60,000 signatures – 25,000 more than it needed to qualify for the ballot. Organizers have continued to canvass and engage in outreach and the campaign has had a timelier feel in August as wildfire smoke has choked much of the west coast, resulting in unhealthy air quality off and on for the last two weeks.
“As communities of color we realized there were a lot of obstacles to participating in the green economy,” said Khan Pham, manager of immigrant organizing at Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Pham sees a range of potential jobs the fund could create, including solar panel installation, insulation upgrades, sustainable food production and other jobs that would help Portlanders use energy more sustainably and adapt to climate change.
The fund taxes retailers with total annual revenue over $1 billion and Portland annual revenue over $500,000 to fund clean energy projects such as renewable energy; heating, lighting, water and cooling efficiencies; green building design and tree canopy. One-quarter of the fund should be used for jobs training for communities of color, women, people with disabilities and people who are chronically underemployed.
The fund is modeled on the Portland Children’s Levy, Pham said, and there would be a nine-member committee to review grant applications. The Portland Children’s Levy, created in 2002 by retiring Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, is a $10 million a year fund that provides grants to nonprofits for services such as child-abuse prevention, early childhood education, after-school mentoring and family hunger relief.
This petition is the culmination of a two-and-a-half year process that began when the NAACP approached APANO about building a coalition to include people of color in the green economy.
“We’re building a force, kind of a brown-green coalition,” Pham said.
“This is really about finding new ways to re-power Portland but also a way to build political power as groups that are not seen as traditional stakeholders.”