Category Archives: How we see it

Local 2016 Election Comments Are Not About Being Ethnically Inclusive

I for one am not surprised by the content of a November 15 OP-ED article in the Daily Journal of Commerce in which Mike Salsgiver, the executive director of Associated General Contractors (AGC) celebrated the silent majority’s votes in the national election.
(see below)

The truth is Mike and his cohorts have never actually been silent. They have screamed their positions through their policies of exclusion, indifference and outright, i.e., ‘alt-right,’ opposition to minorities and other non-white male exclusion on contracts for jobs in Oregon’s highly-profitable construction industry.

The recent election has emboldened him and others like him, to embrace these discriminatory and racist practices further. Some of us think they can now take the sheets out of the closets. All one has to do is review the many studies that have shown for decades that minorities shared next to nothing economically on Oregon construction projects. It’s an embarrassment that rivals only the election of Donald Trump.

But as Salsgiver unknowingly said, this is not the first time the country has retrenched. I also remember the Reagan revolution over 50 years ago, which  I believe worked feverishly to contain and eliminate racial progress envisioned by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Among other efforts made by the Reagan administration, Blacks and other minorities got short changed by the appointment of Supreme Court justices who shared Salsgiver’s notion of the nation going in the wrong direction. And indeed he’s right about one thing: There is an ill wind blowing in America as whites all across the country are moving to protect their left and right flanks.

All the talk about the blackening and browning of America has translated into fear of the inevitable. It’s a call for all hands on deck to protect the myth of white supremacy. Surely this is history repeating itself. That’s why it was so easy for Salsgiver to talk about the winning candidate’s knock on the media and the Washington establishment while ignoring Trump’s flirtation with white nationalists, his assault on Muslims and other minorities and his many other inflammatory statements. It appears Mike, like his presidential choice, is willing to sell his soul to his white constituents to gain and retain power, like in an ugly episode of the “Game of Thrones.”

As for opinions that Oregon is bucking national trends, the Democrats articulated a lot of rhetoric about diversity and inclusion. But the record is clear: they have not done much better than their Republican counterparts in fostering serious economic inclusion for minorities. As well, it has been reported that white women voted for Donald Trump in overwhelming numbers. As well they should because it is only rational. The fact is they, along with their white male counterparts, are the primary beneficiaries of white privilege, their gender notwithstanding. Hence, look no further at who is benefiting from Oregon’s Disadvantaged Business (DBE) programs.

Across the country white people, regardless of party affiliation or gender, are closing ranks against what they perceive as the onslaught of people of color taking over. Salsgiver will never concede that Blacks have never had an economic recovery and continue to live with economic conditions inherited from slavery and the Jim Crow era. The plight of black people’s economic depravity in America is not in most white people’s consciousness. That’s why despite the fact that white Democrats controlled most of Oregon’s governance for decades, Black Oregonians continue to sink further into economic despair. This factor represents the highest level of government imbalance, but it is unlikely that organizations like AGC will ever voice these sentiments.

However, what Salsgiver is not discussing in the defeat of Measure 97 is the resistance on the part of the white, rich and powerful to any change in the status quo. Those with power and money want to keep things that way, and they will not tolerate any encroachment, leveling the playing field is damned.

On the other hand, AGC lauds its support of Measure 98, which is a common sense measure promising to benefit all Oregonians. What is not said is that Oregon has had a consistent history of excluding people of color from all efforts to train and develop workers, especially in the construction trades. We have no reason to believe it will be any different with the passing of Measure 98. Keep an eye on AGC to see if they will advocate addressing the disparities in the complexion of those being trained for Oregon’s future workforce under Measure 98. We can only hope they will because this is one area where minorities and AGC are potentially on the same page.

We are also potentially on the same page with the prospects of massive infrastructure spending, under Republicans, but only if the formula changes from the disgusting statistics that nearly 0% of all the contracts go to blacks and other minorities while 99.5% of all contracts go to whites. AGC never speaks about this imbalance in government.

Don’t be fooled, AGC and their cohorts have always had at least one hand on the steering wheel. Backed by big money, they continue to initiate and support many policies that are anti-minority and that have driven people of color into the ditch. They’ve cloaked it well over the last several years, but with the advent of the Donald Trump victory, they are willing to show their true colors. If we can believe history, the ride is about to get bumpier for minorities under a Trump- supported, Salsgiver/AGC administration.

– James Posey


The following are the recent comments by Mike Salsgiver, originally published by the DJC Oregon.  

Nearly 50 years ago, another Republican president-elect, Richard Nixon, spoke of the “silent majority.” He described these Americans as a large and normally undemonstrative cross-section of the country that just went about their business. These Americans worked hard and didn’t talk much. They followed the law and generally supported their government. And with all the turbulence, violence and anger of 1968, these Americans did not feel they were being heard.

Today’s “silent majority” finally broke its silence. These Americans looked at the world and didn’t like what they were seeing. Once again, these voters came to the polls and helped move the American political pendulum in yet another direction.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, there are already intense debates and disagreements about what it has meant. But the dust is settling and the results are becoming clearer. There are several initial conclusions we can draw.

From a national perspective, under the constitutional rules we follow, this was a “change” election. Although there are still millions more votes to count, this appears to be the fifth time in U.S. history when the presidential candidate who received more popular votes will lose the electoral vote, and therefore the election. The candidate who spoke out against the media, the Washington establishment and the policy direction of the past eight years has won. The Republicans will continue to control both the House and the Senate. Across the nation, the number of Republicans winning gubernatorial races continues to grow. In 2008, there were 21 Republicans elected as governor. Today, that number has increased to 31.

Oregon continues to buck the national political trend, but is not immune from it. Our state remains heavily influenced by elected Democrats, but there are signs that over 30 years of heavy single-party dominance has its limits. For the first time in a generation, a Republican has won one of the five key statewide partisan elected offices. With the defeat of more than half of the bond and other money measures on the ballot, it also seems clear that pocketbook-driven decisions can still drive voters, especially in communities not yet feeling full economic recovery.

In our view, good government comes from balanced government. When all the votes are finally tallied, it is likely there will be no supermajority in either the Oregon House or the Senate. The Senate Democrats will lose their 18–12 supermajority if, as expected, Republican Alan DeBoer (Ashland) is formally declared the winner in that race.

In the Oregon House, the balance will remain 35 Democrats and 25 Republicans, one vote shy of a supermajority needed to unilaterally approve tax measures. That means that in the supercritical area of tax policy, the House and Senate Republicans will need to be an active part of the discussion and the solution.

Two other indications that voters were changing direction were the votes on two ballot measures: 97 and 98. Measure 97, which proposed a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on sales, was soundly defeated by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. AGC was both an early opponent of this ill-conceived measure and an active partner in the campaign to defeat it.

Voters clearly and overwhelmingly spoke with their pocketbooks and rejected what was estimated to be a $600-per-year increase in taxes per household with no guarantee of how the Legislature would allocate those dollars. This defeat came despite the support of the governor (who in the same election was chosen to complete John Kitzhaber’s unfilled fourth term) and key state legislative leaders.

The failure of Measure 97 means the Legislature will still face a $1.3 billion budget deficit driven by the costs associated with PERS and the Affordable Care Act. AGC will continue its role as a part of a coalition of business leaders and associations that will work to find a way to meet the state’s ongoing needs in education, services, health care and infrastructure, while looking for sustainable revenues through economic growth and real tax reform, control of state government costs and spending, and through targeted investment priorities during the 2017 legislative session.

On another front, the voters also made clear that it’s important to fund career technical education and improve high school graduation rates. Measure 98, which established career technical education funding and high school graduation mandates, passed by almost two to one (65 percent to 34 percent). Driven primarily by our industry’s future workforce needs, AGC financially supported the ballot measure and actively engaged in the campaign.

For us, Measure 98 was the logical extension of our work over the past six years to reinstate funding to rebuild our state’s vocational education programs. These programs are essential for students who do not want to get a four-year college education, but instead want to move immediately into high-paying skilled trades. Voters sent a clear and resounding message to Oregon’s legislators that the state has a dire need to support programs that will help fill highly-skilled, well-paid construction, manufacturing and forestry jobs. Career technical education is one of the strongest tools to do that.

AGC will work diligently with its partners and Oregon’s elected leadership in the 2017 legislative session to fulfill the will of voters and advocate for the full funding and implementation of Measure 98’s career technical education programs that have proven so successful and so critical to our industry.

AGC will also continue to work with its partners and all members of the Legislature to advocate for approval of a long overdue, robust transportation infrastructure funding package. With the massive funding hole facing us, and with economic concerns expressed through the failure of many bond measures, passing infrastructure bills will be difficult. But the needs are still there, they are not going away, and delay will only be more costly to all of us.

In a year when the “experts” (including me) were almost all wrong, voters have demonstrated they still have their hand on the wheel. It’s now our responsibility to help drive the state in the right direction.

Mike Salsgiver is the executive director of Associated General Contractors’ Oregon-Columbia chapter. Contact him at 503-685-8305 or mikes@agc-oregon.org.

 

As Malcolm X would say, “you’re been had, hoodwinked, bamboozled.”

Shortly after returning to Portland a few weeks ago, I was surprised to come across a recent article in the Daily Journal of Commerce titled, “Portland CBA Results Scrutinized”. The article takes up the issue of two Portland water bureau projects and raises several concerns in the process. The story refers to an independent evaluation report which portrays the pilot Community Benefits Agreement as not a “sweeping success”. It points to: high administrative cost for the same results; obvious financial conflicts of interest; overlapping and duplicating functions; poor management; inaccurate reporting; and weak compliance. That the city utilized this process and may still continue to do so in the future is troubling.

But it’s appalling to me that not many Black folks in Oregon know about CBAs. And even more importantly, they have no idea why they should care. A CBA is a modified version of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), proposed and utilized mainly by construction unions. In theory, it is intended to create program mechanisms that would force white contractors to hire minority contractors and workers. In this case, it is an administrative boondoggle and has by the numbers fallen on its face. Indeed, it’s been a sham orchestrated by unions for the real purpose of estabishing a monopoly on government projects.

The CBA agenda occurs under the guise of increasing minority participation. And anxious to solve the decades-long problem of so few minorities on city construction projects, the City has taken the bait. But if the City would have done a little more investigative diligence, they would know that the PLA nationwide is a tactic construction unions have used for decades to keep their memberships lily White. In the case of the local CBAs, the results are consistent with the national trend, demonstrating that Black are the least likely to receive any benefits from this contrived scheme.

In most cases, the Black community is not aware of how tragically these expressions of institutional racism by the City and Union representatives are damaging the economic fabric of our community. I am so worked up about this because for several decades, 36 years to be exact, I have been screaming about this connection between poor public policy and the impact it has on making black people poorer.

james-posey

I recently posted on my Facebook page an article from the Oregonian which declared that “…… half of all black children in Oregon live in poverty.” Sadly, many are not able to make the connection between the catastrophic social conditions in Portland’s Black community and the systematic denial of economic opportunity in its highly-profitable industries. In other words, the inability of Blacks to convert economic opportunity into community wealth assets means Black kids and families are relegated to a poverty status well into the future.

I’ll have more to say on this issue soon, as the reason for this blog is to inform and discuss what to do about this kind of a mess. Look for part 2. In the meantime, please respond and give us your thoughts and recommendations so far.

Finally, a True Black Prime Contractor at TriMet

It is a well-known fact that TriMet has been the perennial leader among governmental agencies for successful results in hiring and supporting minority contractors and workers over several decades. This history spans as far back as the 1982 I-84 Banfield Light Rail project. The chronology includes the Westside Hillsboro line, their signature Interstate Light Rail project, a series of local street car projects, the South Corridor I-205 MAX, the Milwaukie MAX and more.

Thus, TriMet’ s most recent action of awarding a major contract to Black-owned Raimore Construction is evolutionary and is the culmination of many years of struggle. Continue reading Finally, a True Black Prime Contractor at TriMet

White progressive liberals will not save us

How difficult is it for black people to admit that white progressive liberals will not save us. I,for one, was the man in the mirror when it came to supporting Charlie Hales. But he has been a terrible disappointment and showed himself to be exactly who he was as a former City Commissioner: a quitter. As that song says, “I should have known better.”

And now, on a national level, Black folks are facing the same dilemma in choosing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for president. At first, both these candidates seem so committed and interested in solving the race problem. But as Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nahisi Coates have discussed, in most cases the actual performance always seems to fall frustratingly short of the reality.

On the local level, one would think to live in Oregon today, especially in Portland, the home of legalized marijuana and proud haven for same-sex couples, tree huggers unlimited, vegans galore and bastion for homelessness, the notion of racial equality would get some traction beyond nice sounding proclamations. Not so. These politicians are still playing the expectation game, creating powerless commissions and ineffective equity offices, and betting no one will call them on it.

If you’ve been in Portland long enough, this patterned of patronizing black people should scream out at you. Bud Clark, Vera Katz, Tom Potter, Sam Adams and now Charlie Hales have all   reigned over incompetence when it comes to racial issues. Some would like to blame it on the mayors alone. But they were aided by a cadre of other well-meaning public officials, including the likes of Mike Lindberg and Gretchen Kafoury.

Certainly with the best of intentions, Deborah Kafoury carries on the legacy of her mother as a less-than-effective civil rights promoter. For example, the management of the recent Sellwood Bridge project is wholesale evidence of her, Julies Bailey candidate for Portland Mayor, and all of Multnomah County, leadership’s hypocrisy about achieving equity outcomes (See equityscoreboard.com). So Blacks can be assured of generational malfeasance with regards to contracting equity issues unless things radically change.

Additionally, progress is questionable at the Governor’s office because Kate Brown refuses to fire ODOT Director Matt Garrett, who has notoriously prohibited the inclusion of minority contractors and workers on state projects. In fact, the financial influence of AGC, the Associated General “white” Contractors, is the driving force behind this historical exclusion.

Blacks can only hope that if elected the next mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler will not carry this tradition into his administration. Blacks should do everything possible to hold him accountable for a different outcome. He can start by promising that none of the City’s current Office of Management and Finance high-level executives will remain in office once he’s elected. If he and any other mayoral candidates are not willing to commit to this action, they should be rejected by the entire black community on Election Day.

Black Portland stands up for JUSTICE OR ELSE

Portland was on the Mall.

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There is something absolutely thrilling about a mass group of black people coming together to:

  1. acknowledge our unique presence in the universe,
  2. share in the distinct condition we find ourselves in today as descendants of slaves in America, and…
  3. promote Black unity to craft a national plan demanding JUSTICE or ELSE.

march 1Most of us who attended the original Million Man March sought to recapture the excitement and promise of a better America that was stirred in us 20 years ago.

One could feel the resistance from both whites and blacks about the notion that independent thinking black people would have the audacity as group to challenge the oppressive status quo.

march 2

We keep thinking there will be a revolution in the minds of black people that says “we can do this.” Throw off the chains of our slave masters, claim the destiny of true freedom and breathe the fresh air of justice and equality.march 3

We can be especially proud of the Portland contingency who made special sacrifice to attend. Let’s see if we can live up to the challenge of helping to move the needle and lifting the aspirations of black people in Portland.

posey at the march

I, for one, am committed to doing so.  This is not my fight…its our’s.

Together, we stand.

Black Boys to Men: A Big Deal But We Need Much More

It is hard to understand why black people have not put more effort into cultivating the specific relationship between black men and boys. Among the many possible reasons given is the overall general knock on black men: a lack of sensitivity.

Well that certainly was not in evidence a few Saturdays ago when Donald Dixson held his annual Boyz to Men Breakfast at Jefferson High School. There is something inherently powerful when a significant mass of black men come together for the best of purposes. I often reminisce about the Million Man March, which will mark its 20th anniversary in October of this year. The symbolism of both events, equally peaceful, thoughtful, inspiring and challenging, is evidence of the powerful impact black men can have on each other.

And while sensitivity, caring and understanding was clearly demonstrated at the Saturday breakfast, one could not help sense the raw awareness that these types of meetings may eventually determine the very survival of black men. The statistics on us are utterly depressing in just about every area, unemployment, low education levels, poor health, little business ownership, substance abuse, and incarceration. These relationship building meetings can certainly be part of the solution.

And that Saturday meeting presented a ray of hope and inspiration for me and many others in the room. Given that the meeting was a structured event with an opening, orientation, actual breakfast, exercises designed to solicit information, a getting acquainted session, substantive dialogue and a closing, the allotted three hours went by fast. It was a clear acknowledgement that as a group, black men are in trouble and must work extra hard and do all we can now to save ourselves.

The question is, will we mount a full out campaign to make these efforts, or will we revert to the same old model of asking other to do for us what we will not do for ourselves. Convening regular meetings to have discussions is important and a good first step. But how do we strengthen these relationships in our everyday activities at work and play. It will not take much to implement the play elements if we bring the resources together. But the work piece will require mammoth effort, organizing and commitment. Here are a few not so radical ideas to consider: targeted career interventions; individual youth career advocates; regional coordinated career pipelines; long term tracking and evaluation schemes; and finally, maximizing and expanding residential training centers like Job Corps.

The Donald Dixon event’s driven approach is very much needed, but it needs to be a part of a long range continuum. It has to be connected to measurable outcomes that make a substantial difference, and we must start now.

Does Diversity “Equal” Equity?

not equalCan black people really believe there are serious efforts to erase decades of racial discrimination impacts through a current push for diversity? Are Blacks in Portland being asked to sublimate their race issues in favor of a white-controlled and -perpetuated diversity agenda?

This might also explain why black people are so passive in demanding their rightful share of what they’ve worked for and deserve as black American citizens. Just who is comforted by this diversity label? For whatever reason black people are engaged in seeking fairness for other groups rather unwaveringly seeking results in their own interest

For example, recently a few black people, citing a lack of diversity, challenged a newly-developed seven-member minority business commission which included four black members. Can it be only in Portland where Blacks in a public meeting have the audacity to complain about the over-representation of other Blacks for the sake of racial diversity? But as we have seen in Baltimore, racial composition does not necessarily translate into equal treatment. To say it another way, having black faces associated with an issue does not necessarily guarantee satisfactory results for Blacks.

On the other hand, and similar also to Baltimore, we have seen what happens when black people are treated like caged rats: there’s explosive responses, outrage and expressions of violent contempt for their horrendous conditions. In the intervening periods, how does one explain black people’s incredible ability to tolerate endless indignities and humiliations until pushed to the brink?  Maybe we can blame it on what Portland’s own Dr. Joy DeGruy describes as “post traumatic slave syndrome”. Or maybe it is just a perverted version of the Stockholm syndrome. But can we correctly conclude that white people’s indifference or complacency is because of black peoples’ passivity?

I’m no sociologist but I do know if a people are treated like animals, eventually they begin to behave like them. Anyone who has spent time in the ‘real’ Baltimore knows that many blacks, like in many other urban cities, are truly living like animals. No one condones violence, but we understand why it exists.

This is why it’s important to keep asking this all-important question. Can Portland buck the national trend and treat its black citizens as equals in all respects?

Image credit:  BOONDOCKS © 2005 Adelaide Productions, Inc.

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Cozying Up to the New Governor

In the wake of former Governor Kitzhaber’s demise, there is an all-out effort to cozy up to the new governor, Kate Brown. This should not be surprising, but what is most revealing in the entire process is the notion of political loyalty. With Democratic friends like those who turned on Governor Kitzhaber, who needs Republican enemies. It was quite astounding to watch this mass abandonment. Continue reading Cozying Up to the New Governor

Is Portland’s Black Male Achievement Project for real?

What does the advent of the new Black Male Achievement (BMA) project and the 1995 Million Man March have in common?

As an organizer of the Portland contingent that traveled to the March in Washington, DC back in October 1995, I was struck by a reference to the pride of black men made by Mayor Hales in his recent state of the city address. Continue reading Is Portland’s Black Male Achievement Project for real?

Can Black people connect the O-DOT’s?

How do these recent events impact black people:  Mayor Charlie Hale’s 2015 priorities; the recent firing of Catherine Mater, the chair of Department of Transportation Commission; Carol Smith’s Portland Public Schools reorganization plan, and the Governor’s vision for the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act?  They all have huge implications for black people, both specifically and as they interrelate to each other. Continue reading Can Black people connect the O-DOT’s?