Memorial Garden for Oregon’s First Black Politician

By Ruth Eddy

The Gladys McCoy Memorial on MLK and Knott. Photo credit Sue Stringer

At the busy intersection of Knott and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, a small semi-circle of grass with a few roses gives a break to the surrounding concrete. At the center of a faded, red brick wall is a portrait of Gladys Sims McCoy etched in stone, with wafted hair and bright eyes watching over passersby. McCoys’s smiling face is surrounded by an engraved list of her accomplishments, as well as the mindless graffiti tags familiar to underappreciated spaces of a city. 

McCoy’s accomplishments were many. She was the first African American elected to public office in Oregon. She was elected to the Portland Public School Board in 1970.  She also served for many years as a Multnomah County Commissioner. In remembrance, her name now graces a public park in Portland, public housing, and most recently, Multnomah County’s new downtown health department building.

Gladys McCoy – Photo courtesy Multnomah County

When she died in 1993 from thyroid cancer, her name wasn’t on any buildings, and her friend, Venerable Booker, wanted to ensure her legacy was remembered.

Booker was then the President of American State Bank, the first Black-owned commercial bank in the Pacific Northwest, which was located in the building directly north of the memorial, now a dialysis center.

A few blocks north of the bank, Hillary Mackenzie owned an architecture firm. As a customer of American State Bank, she got to know Booker well and was hired to design the memorial. She recalled he had a clear vision for the project, which would include “a walkway so you have to enter in the site, to settle in and read it. He wanted that recognition and then he wanted it to be pretty, so it was a place people would linger for a few minutes.”

McCoy’s portrait has recently had a front-row seat to many protests marching past in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. After the first night of protests in May, Irvington resident Kate Thompson went to survey the damage she had heard about on MLK. Across from the smashed Nike store windows, she found herself lingering at the memorial. “I walked past it for over a decade, walking to work at Good Sam’s,” she said. “It was not until I retired that I had time to be curious about its history’.

She started pulling weeds that day and has been returning most Friday mornings for the last three months. She has recruited others who wanted to help and started calling the group the Gladys’ Garden Gnomes.  The garden has become a place for Thompson to channel her outrage of racial injustice into something positive.  “We all need time for reflection,” she said. “Quack grass gives us that opportunity.”

For Thompson and her fellow volunteers, pulling up weeds provides an apt metaphor for our nation’s racism. The grass is deeply rooted and sends out runners in many directions, making it difficult to remove. Thompson acknowledges that she doesn’t know what good it will do, but that “it’s a choice to have hope.”

Thompson has been in contact with Mackenzie to add irrigation and some other features to the original design, including a way to memorialize Venerable Booker, the man who made sure our community knew Gladys McCoy’s life was a Black life that mattered.

Kate Thompson and the five arborists from Mossy Tree Care – photo courtesy Kate Thompson

Update: In October Mossy Tree Care donated their time to get the trees in shape which was very apprciated especialy after the big windstorm. According to Kate Thompson, “Five men from Mossy Tree Care each donated two and a half hours of energetic labor to clean up the hardscape of the garden. They were a delight to work with.”

Eliot Neighborhood Association Board Meeting Agenda 11/16/2020 6:30pm

Incoming co-Chairs: Jimmy Wilson and Allan Rudwick

Monday, November 16 6:30-8:00

Join Zoom Meeting (phone instructions at bottom)

Agenda:

1. Welcome & Introductions

2. Eliot NA Officer Elections

3. Racial sensitivity training proposal

4. Committee Updates – LUTC – Diesel Letter – crime (do we want an official subcommittee?)

5. Public Comment

6. Approve October Minutes

7. Adjourn

please join by phone if you have connection issues:

Dial by your location
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 847 8809 4161
Passcode: 097864  

Obituary: Errol Michael Beard—Bridging Art, Light and People in Portland and Beyond

Born in Portland, Oregon. Raised in Vancouver Washington. A 1968 graduate of Ft. Vancouver High School, he also attended the University of Washington, studying architecture. As a youngster he found it easiest to go by Mike, but in recent years many friends knew him as Errol. Mike passed away peacefully in his home from ongoing health issues. He was preceded in death by his brother Gary. He’s survived by his children, Christopher M. Beard 26, and Nicole M. Beard 24, both of Portland, as well as his brothers Ed and Jeff and his sister, Cheryl Cristobal.

Mike spent his life working in the arts, focused on architecture, bridges and serving the community. He started his business, Errolgraphics, in 1979. He was well known for his series of Mt. Hood Jazz Festival posters, beginning in 1983 with the piano floating on Trillium Lake and for his 19 years of posters promoting the Bite of Portland. He’s also known for his series of architectural renderings of Portland’s bridges and his images of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as New York’s, Chicago’s, Pittsburg’s and London’s bridges and many other iconic structures. Mike did many projects promoting Portland, including the Portland Opera, Chamber Music Northwest, the Portland BridgePedal, the Arial Tram and more. His national works were often featured in popular cinema. Mike was a founding member of the Willamette Light Brigade, focusing on lighting the city’s bridges, and he was a driving force behind the Winter Light Festival. Mike’s body of work is large and included national treasures, some of which can be found in the National Archives.

He loved the arts, golfing, rafting, camping and connecting with friends and strangers alike. As a child he spent summers camping and waterskiing with his family. When his own children were young, he spent endless hours at their sporting events and camping with them around the Pacific Northwest. He loved where he lived. His neighborhood in NE Portland filled him with energy. His neighbors knew him to sit on his porch and talk with everyone. That porch was a neighborhood gathering place. Mike will be remembered by those who knew him as a fun and generous spirit. He was creative, thoughtful and talkative. He was a loving father, brother, neighbor, and friend.

Due to COVID-19, there will be no funeral service. Mike will be laid to rest at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver WA.

Mike’s children, Chris and Nicole, intend to honor his life by continuing to manage and sell his works at Errolgraphics.com.

Community Flu Shot Clinics

From Legacy Health

We’re making it easy to protect your family and community from the seasonal flu. While supplies last, we’re offering free flu shots at select Legacy locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The vaccine is even more important this year with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s especially important for children to get vaccinated, even though they are not physically in school, because this group tends to be largest transmitters of the flu. The annual flu shot is the greatest defense against this yearly infection. These flu clinics are providing flu shots for anyone aged six months and older. No payment or insurance is required.

Our staff follows all necessary safety precautions to ensure you and your family can safely get your flu shot. You can also visit one of our two drive-thru location to get your shot in the comfort of your vehicle. Locations and details listed below. 

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
11/3 & 11/10
1pm – 7pm | Main Lobby
2211 NE 139th Street,
Vancouver, WA 98686

Legacy Medical Group
Family Wellness Clinic
11/6
1pm – 7pm | Drive Thru
1000 S.E Tech Center Drive, #120,
Vancouver, WA 98683

Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center
11/7 & 11/14
1pm – 7pm | Cascade Classroom
Cascade Building Sleep Center
24700 S.E Stark Street,
Gresham, OR 97030

Legacy Emanuel Medical Center
11/6 & 11/13
1pm – 7pm | Conf. Rm East / West
Medical Office Building 2
501 N. Graham Street,
Portland, OR 97227

Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center
11/4 & 11/11
1pm – 7pm | Drive Thru
Overton Parking Garage
2145 N.W. Overton Ave,
Portland, OR 97210

Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center
11/2 & 11/9
1pm – 7pm | Rm 117
Health Education Center
19300 S.W. 65th Ave,
Tualatin, OR 97062

Legacy Silverton Medical Center
11/4 & 11/12
1pm – 7pm | 1st Flr Lobby
Family Birth Center
342 Fairview Street,
Silverton, Oregon 97381

Legacy Holladay Park Campus
11/5 & 11/12
1pm – 7pm | Lab Conf. Rm
1225 NE 2nd Ave
Portland, OR 97232

What Do I Need to Know About the Portland City Charter?

The City of Portland uses a foundational document, known as the City Charter, as a guide to how the city should be governed (similarly to the way the US relies on the Constitution). Portland’s charter requires that the document be reviewed and updated at least once per decade. It’s time for just such a review and the city is kicking off the process now.

The Charter Review Commission has an opportunity to examine the way the existing charter works, including how the government operates, how officials are elected, and how the government is structured. The commission determines its own scope and sets its own timeline. The City of Portland oversees the selection of 20 Portland residents to form the commission and has vocally committed to creating an inclusive commission that is representative of Portland’s demographics (as well as the city’s geography). Each city commissioner selects four Portland residents to serve, including the mayor, for a total of 20.

Due to COVID-19, the Charter Review Commission will meet virtually. Commission members will receive a stipend of $500 in place of childcare, food, and transportation they would have received under normal circumstances. Commission members should expect the process to last for 18 to 24 months.

Several key issues are expected to come up during the commission’s review process:

  • Portland’s form of government: Portland is one of the few remaining cities using a commission-style government. Portland City Club published a report in 2019 (https://www.pdxcityclub.org/new-government/) on the inequities of commission-style governments and our need to adopt a more inclusive form of government. In the report, they directly connect the incredibly low numbers of women (9) and people of color (3) elected to the local use of a commission-based government. JoAnn Hardesty, elected in 2018, is the first woman of color to be elected to Portland’s city government. 
  • The City Auditor’s office: While Portland’s City Auditor is independently elected, the city charter grants control of the auditor’s budget to the city council, effectively allowing the city council to limit the power of the city auditor. Given that the auditor’s job is to examine the city council’s work and report back on the results to the people of Portland, the current city auditor, Mary Hull Caballero has concerns about that control. The city council asked that the Charter Review Commission examine the question.
  • Policing and community safety: The city charter sets expectations for public safety and could be used as an avenue to address defunding police, as well as implementing new approaches to public safety in Portland. 
  • Election reform and security: As other cities have adopted ranked-choice voting and other reforms through ballot measures, the city charter review process offers an alternative opportunity to explore municipal election reform. Furthermore, during the primary, the incumbent mayor and police commissioner, Ted Wheeler, accepted donations significantly larger than those allowed by the city charter.
  • Neighborhood associations: Portland’s neighborhood associations wield significant power and are primarily composed of affluent White home owners. The past few years have seen major critiques of these neighborhood associations as well as the Office of Community and Civic Life (formerly the Office of Neighborhood Involvement), which oversees the associations.
  • Prosper Portland: Previously known as the Portland Development Corporation, Prosper Portland’s existence is based on the city charter. The organization is responsible for a variety of so-called “urban renewal” projects that have gutted Black communities and stolen Black wealth in Portland, as well as displacing other communities.

Critics of the charter review process do suggest that city commissioners can prevent meaningful action by the Charter Review Commission, because they can vote to block the commission’s recommendations from taking effect. During the last charter review, in 2011, the commission pushed for the adoption of a new form of city government, but were largely ignored by the then-mayor and city council. The Charter Review Commission can choose to send recommendations directly to voters, provided 75 percent or more of the commission members agree to do so.

While the Charter Review Commission’s power is limited, there are arguments for participating in the process: commission members are empowered to investigate the way the City of Portland conducts business, which could help all residents of Portland better understand whether elected officials truly are working on our behalf. The city council may feel more pressure to listen to residents during these times of heightened attention on police forces and governments. And if city commissioners don’t listen to the Charter Review Commission? Portlanders know how to throw a good protest.

Tentative Timeline

  • June 30, 2020 — Charter Review Commission Work Session -read notes from the work session here. (https://www.portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission/events/2020/6/30/charter-review-commission-work-session)
  • Fall 2020 — The City of Portland appoints Charter Review Commission members
  • Winter 2020 — The Charter Review Commission develops a work plan, including community engagement strategy and procedures
  • Early 2021 — The Charter Review Commission meets with community members to gather feedback.
  • Late 2021 — The Charter Review Commission provides an initial report to the Portland City Council.
  • January 2022 — The Charter Review Commission provides recommendations to the Portland City Council.
  • Spring 2022 — The Charter Review Commission and the City of Portland determine if changes to the charter must be voted on as ballot measures before implementation.

Additional Resources

Compiled by Thursday Bram. Please contact @ThursdayB on Twitter with comments, questions, and concerns. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. If you’re interested in using this information to create a more visually-oriented explainer, please contact Thursday!

I-5 Community Advisory Board Disbanded

I-5 freeway and surrounding area. This aerial view is from Google Maps.

View Posts

The Oregon Department of Transportation just decided to dissolve its community advisory committee (right before a meeting where about half the committee was going to resign) because they wanted to “ensure more input from Albina’s historic Black community”.

Not mentioned was the fact that the community advisory committee was given almost no power to make any changes to the project and was basically asked to be a rubber stamp on the project. The city of Portland and the Albina Vision Trust have both stepped back from the project, removing their support.

It feels like the internal politicians inside ODOT are trying desperately to keep this project moving in their desired direction. It also feels like community activists are very close to getting the project killed completely.

You Can Still Chat with Senator Lew Frederick

By Nathan Soltz

The regular Senator Frederick’s Second Saturday Chats have been held virtually since March. They’re still the second Saturday of every month at 9 am, but they are live-streamed on Senator Frederick’s Facebook page: facebook.com/SenLewFrederick. The format is the same as it would be in-person. Senator Frederick gives his updates and then answers any questions from people watching. They ask their questions by typing in the chat and then they are relayed to Lew.

Please feel free to sign up to join our mailing list at oregonlegislature.gov/frederick (e-Subscribe at top right of page). We send out reminders every week before the chat and also post one on Facebook.

We’ve had a pretty good turnout, getting about 40 people each time and lots of views afterward as well (we post the live stream recording as soon as it’s over). They go about 40 minutes to an hour, ending when we’re out of questions.

For more information or questions contact Nathan Joseph Soltz, Chief of Staff, Senator Lew Frederick, 900 Court St. NE, S-419, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 986-1722 (Office)