On Thursday morning, three Portland faith leaders paid a visit to the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) to deliver a letter signed by 25 of their colleagues, urging the alliance to stop opposing the Portland Clean Energy Initiative on moral grounds. But they didn’t get very far.
The Portland Clean Energy Initiative, formally known as Measure 26-201, is a ballot measure that would collect a one percent business license surcharge from businesses that make at least $1 billion annually, and use it to fund environmentally friendly projects like weatherizing homes, training people for green jobs, and upping the city’s use of clean energy. The PBA is one of the leading opposition groups to the measure.
Portland faith leaders hoped to persuade the alliance to stop opposing the measure. But the PBA refused to meet with Rev. Dr. Janet Parker, Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, and Rev. E.D. Mondainé.
“When I arrived earlier in the morning, the Portland Business Alliance office was unlocked and the receptionist spoke with me,” said Mondainé, a pastor with the Celebration Tabernacle Church and President of the NAACP Portland Branch, according to a press release from the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “When I returned at 9:30 am with my colleagues to deliver our moral call, the office was locked and staff were hiding from sight.”
Security officers asked the faith leaders to leave the building. The faith leaders were joined by some members of the Portland Clean Energy Initiative campaign, who caught the interaction on camera:
The PBA is housed at the 200 Market building, which includes retail and restaurant spaces. The faith leaders moved on from the PBA office to a cafe in the same building—only to have security officers again ask them to leave the building altogether. They refused to do so, as they were paying customers.
The faith leaders never got a chance to deliver their letter, which lays out their reasons for supporting Measure 26-201 as a moral imperative.
“We urge you to reflect deeply on why you are opposing this community-generated solution that aims to address historic inequities, our city’s growing wealth inequality and the crisis of climate change,” reads the letter. “We, as faith leaders, stand with and stand for Portland’s frontline communities—communities of color and low-income communities that experience injustice and inequity first and worst.”
When reached for comment, the Portland Business Alliance provided the Mercury with the following statement from PBA President and CEO Andrew Hoan.
"No one should feel unsafe or threatened in their workplace. Once informed that the Clean Energy Fund Campaign was planning a ‘meeting’ in our offices without our knowledge, we took reasonable precautions for the safety of our staff. I take the wellbeing of our employees as my first priority, and reject any behavior that would potentially create an unsafe environment for both the staff of the Alliance and those who enter our office as welcomed guests.
I am personally open to meeting with any individuals and groups interested in a prosperous future for all Portlanders. We must rise above our differences on any single policy issue and find solutions that accomplish that shared goal. It’s not whether you win or lose in an election, it’s how you do it."
Damon Motz-Storey, a spokesperson for the Clean Energy Initiative campaign, expressed incredulity about Hoan's statement.
"It's hard to believe that three members of the clergy wearing religious garb should cause PBA any safety concerns," he said. "That sounds like a convenient excuse to not engage in face-to-face conversation. ... These faith leaders wanted to deliver their message and letter in person, not be passed off to a phone line or email thread. It speaks volumes about how out-of-touch the Portland Business Alliance is with the people of Portland that they won't even permit three clergymen to step into their reception area."