Portland Clean Energy Fund: Making History in Portland

Khanh Pham, manager of Immigrant Organizing with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), shares her thoughts on a historic opportunity for Portland to take a stand on climate change and inequality.

Make History in Portland: Khanh Pham Talks Portland Clean Energy Fund

Khanh Pham, photo by Rick Rappaport
Khanh Pham, photo credit Rick Rappaport.

Columbia Riverkeeper is proud to partner with frontline communities leading the charge on the Portland Clean Energy Fund ballot initiative, which would raise more than $30 million per year to support renewable energy projects, energy-efficiency housing upgrades, and other climate resiliency efforts. Khanh Pham, manager of Immigrant Organizing with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), shares her thoughts on a historic opportunity for Portland to take a stand on climate change and inequality.

Why is APANO supporting the Portland Clean Energy Fund Initiative?

Asians and Pacific Islanders are the first and hardest hit by climate change. Many of our members, particularly our immigrant members, are struggling to find living-wage work. This ballot initiative allows us to tackle both climate change and growing inequality at the same time.

Tell us about the early days of the Portland Clean Energy Fund. How did an idea turn into a ballot measure?

It started in the basement of a church, when APANO, Verde, NAYA and Coalition of Communities of Color first met with NAACP and 350PDX to discuss this concept. It was a scrappy unfunded group then, and has been  largely an all-volunteer effort the whole time. It’s incredible what a small (and now much larger) group of passionate people can accomplish.

Share your favorite story from the campaign.

Hearing volunteers talk about how they faced their fears in the course of this campaign. Gathering 61,000 signatures requires a lot of conversations with strangers, facing rejection, and it was so moving to hear people talk about how hard it was for them to be ignored or rejected. But they got back up because of their deep commitment to this cause. I read once that to win, your love has to be greater than your fear. And these stories speak to me about the depth of our vision and our love.

More than 200 organizations endorsed the initiative. What does this mean for the Portland Clean Energy Fund?

It means that we’ve got such a broad coalition that almost every Portlander will find at least one group—and likely very many—that they trust which has endorsed the initiative.

Social justice and environmental groups are working closely on the Portland Clean Energy Fund. How does this alliance influence the campaign?

This alliance is building relationships that are not just transactional. It’s based on shared values, and we’re building an alliance that will last well beyond November. This alliance is shifting the balance of power in Portland, and I look forward to continuing to work with these groups as we advance a just transition in Portland and beyond.

What political spin do you expect from opponents of the Portland Clean Energy Fund? How can Portland voters see through it?

I expect the standard political spin to raise doubts: It’s poorly written, will raise costs, decisions will be made by an unelected and unaccountable citizens grant committee. I’m hoping Portland voters will recognize the standard arguments that are always trotted out, and trust the 200 community organizations and political leaders who have endorsed it.

In 10 years, what do you think the Portland Clean Energy Fund can accomplish if Portland voters approve the measure?

In 10 years, I hope we will have put solar on every school building in Portland, and that at least 100 multi-family apartment buildings will have been weatherized.

What motivates you to be an organizer?

Love. I love the rice fields in Vietnam. I love the Columbia River and the salmon who know how to follow their instincts to go home. I love my family and friends, and my little chickens, and I love my daughter and also my future grandchildren and great grandchildren. Being able to contribute toward a movement for social and ecological justice is what gives my life meaning.

This is your chance to fight climate change while tackling inequality!

Portlanders: Please vote YES on measure 26-201 (official ballot measure and title: Measure 26-201 Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative). Ballots are due on November 6, 2018. Want to help get this initiative across the finish line? Volunteer through November 6.


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