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The advocacy group formed after the death of George Floyd met online Friday to review progress.

PMG SCREENSHOT  - Reimagine Oregon held an online session Friday that included Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and other elected officials.Gov. Kate Brown said she is laying the groundwork for paying reparations to Black Oregonians.

Brown made the comment during an online Reimagine Oregon meeting with elected officials throughout the state and other community leaders Friday, April 2. Reimagine Oregon is an advocacy organization formed following the death of George Floyd to press state, regional and local governments to eliminate systemic racism. The noon meeting was scheduled to update the progress on promises made by elected officials last year.

In brief remarks, Brown said she was studying what was happening in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, which is 16% Black. The City Council there has committed $10 million over 10 years to repairing the ongoing harm that systemic racism has caused the city's Black residents, starting with a housing initiative. The council voted Monday, March 22, to allocate $400,000 to give 16 eligible Black households $25,000 each to be spent on home repairs or down payments on property. The funds come from new taxes on legalized marijuana.

"I want to lay the groundwork to make sure we do this right," said Brown, who did not offer any other details of her proposal.

Brown also said she is working to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds equitably.

Dozens of other elected officials in addition to Brown attended the meeting, ranging from Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to Metro President Lynn Peterson and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. Numerous state legislators, Metro councilors, county board members and city officials also attended, along with leaders of housing and social service organizations.

"The reason we are here is that Black lives still matter," said Reimagine Oregon leader Katrina Holland, the executive director of the homeless services nonprofit JOIN, who led the meeting. "We must end the disease in Oregon that is racism."

Much of the meeting was spent reviewing the status of bills in the 2021 Oregon Legislature supported by Reimagine Oregon. Few have passed, although many are moving through the hearings process, including a set of police reform bills scheduled to be heard Monday evening in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Equitable Policing chaired by state Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley. State Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Northeast Portland, urged supporters to schedule one-on-one meetings with legislators on committees considering the bills to explain why they are important.

Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzales said the elected regional government has participated on a TriMet task force looking into public safety reforms on the transit system. He said the task force had made a series of recommendations to the TriMet Board of Directors and asked Reimagine Oregon to review and provide feedback on them.

Holland said the group would reconvene in a month to review progress since the Friday session.

A previous Portland Tribune story on Reimagine Oregon can be found here.


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