Legislature Delivers Transformational Investment in Outer Powell Blvd.

SALEM – This session, the Oregon Legislature delivered a major investment in outer Powell Blvd. that will dramatically improve traffic and pedestrian safety. The state’s bonding package included $17 million to build sidewalks, improved roadways, crosswalks, street signals, bike lanes, buffer zones, a center turn lane, proper lighting, and a score of other safety improvements on Powell Blvd. from SE 122nd to SE 136th Ave.


Powell Blvd. and SE 122nd Ave. is the single most dangerous intersection in the state of Oregon, with 37% more crashes than similar Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) roads. The frequency and severity of these crashes leaves residents with little to do but wait anxiously for the next tragedy.  Pedestrians who travel along Powell Blvd. have no option but to walk on the road itself with no barriers between themselves and traffic traveling 35 mph to 50 mph.  Nighttime serves to exacerbate the problems with sparse lighting doing little to improve visibility.  In a community survey, East Portlanders identified the passage from SE 122nd to SE 136th as the number one safety priority.

Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-NE Portland), Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-North Clackamas/East Multnomah), Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-East Portland), Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley/East Portland), and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) have continually advocated for improvements to outer Powell Blvd.

Read the letter Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-North Clackamas/East Multnomah) sent to legislative budget writers in April where she made the case for funding outer Powell Blvd.

“This investment is the product of a bipartisan effort to keep the East Portland community safe,” said Sen. Chuck Thomsen. “These improvements will transform the intersection of Powell Blvd. and SE 122nd from the most dangerous in the state to a place where drivers, bikers, and walkers can all traverse safely, greatly improving the quality of life for those who live and work in the area.”

“In my short service in the legislature, I have already attended two candlelight vigils for pedestrians who died tragic deaths on outer Powell Blvd.” Rep. Fagan said. “That’s two too many.”

Rep. Shemia Fagan on Powell Blvd.“As leaders,” Rep. Fagan continued, “we are called, not only to mourn with these families, but to take real action to prevent these tragedies in the first place.  Today’s investment means our community’s long awaited transformation of outer Powell Blvd. will become a reality.”

After the Legislature allocated $3 million for Powell Blvd. in the 2013-2015 biennium, HDR, Inc.’s Portland office was hired to design and engineer the Outer Powell Blvd. Project.  HDR, Inc. assessed the cost of full construction of Powell Blvd. from SE 122nd Ave. to SE 136th Ave. at $17 to $20 million.  Upon learning about today’s $17 million investment, the City of Portland committed an additional $3 million to the improvements, ensuring full funding for Powell Blvd. from SE 122nd Ave. to SE 136th Ave.

“Members of the East Portland community consistently rank improvements on outer Powell Blvd. as one of their top transportation priorities,” Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick said.  “I applaud the Legislature, and particularly the East Portland delegation, for prioritizing transportation safety investments on outer Powell.  I am proud to partner with the state legislature and ODOT to make this state highway safer for everyone.”

This historic partnership between the legislature and the City of Portland means the design and engineering will be completed and ODOT will break ground in 2018.

Three good reasons to break my no-work-on-weekends rule.

As a mom and wife trying to balance legislative service with my family, I try not to work on weekends during the session.  Well … I broke that rule last weekend, for three good reasons.

Shemia FaganMy office is assisting one of our neighbors in a land-use dispute with the city of Portland.  They
invited me to come see the farm in dispute.  So I deputized my mini-intern and headed to the farm. While there, we had the opportunity to meet a six-week old foal …

Shemia Fagan


… ride a beautiful mare
Shemia Fagan





… and totally wuss-out over a garden snake.




Please remember that my office is available if you could use a hand dealing with local government, or a private company (even if you can’t introduce me to a baby horse). See the variety of services we offer and request help for your family or business here.

Photos by Paul Grosjean


Protecting Oregon Schools from Oregon’s Kicker

This month the legislature voted to allocate at least $7.255 billion to schools for the 2015-2017 school years, a $600 million increase from the previous biennium. You might be surprised to learn that even this amount does not allow our schools to completely recover from the recession that slashed teachers and school days. For that reason I am committed to a greater investment in our schools. In fact, when I saw the proposed budget of $7.255 billion I immediately reached out to the Co-Chair of the Budget Committee, Representative Peter Buckley to get an explanation as to why the number wasn’t higher. We went over the reasoning behind the budget and I held a Virtual Town Hall with him to explain the difficulties of reaching a higher funding level. You can watch it here, or if you’d prefer a quick read the Oregonian wrote an informative article after the vote – Billions to Buoy Schools.Shemia Fagan fighting for Oregon schools

In essence, our budget is divided between three categories, education, human services, and public safety. This leaves us balancing these categories against each other rather than investing the funding we need to improve them. We face even more obstacles when we consider the kicker, Measure 5, and Measure 11, all of which strain the state budget without provisions that counteract their fiscal impact.

All that to say, we passed the schools budget early this year to protect schools from the impact of the likely $350 million kicker that is looming. Also, there are proposals being floated to increase corporate taxes, given that large out of state corporations enjoy the lowest tax rate in the nation right here in Oregon.

I want to hear from you about your experience with Oregon’s schools, your thoughts on Oregon’s unique kicker rebate, and any other ideas you have for giving our kids the schools they all deserve.

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Forget the global dominance of robots, I just want them to stop calling my house!

Robocalls, Remember Them?:

Shemia Fagan protects consumers from robocallsMany of you remember last fall when there was a persistent robocaller for about 5 weeks that kept calling your house. You asked me to do something about it because there was no way to get off the call list!  So I did.  Earlier this month my bill, HB 3031, passed the House and is headed to the Senate.  HB3031 requires robocallers to provide an opt-out by pushing a single number in the first 10 seconds of the call (e.g., “…to stop receiving these calls, press 2.”).  If a robocaller doesn’t comply with the law and continues to bug you, under HB3031, you will be able to call the Oregon Attorney General’s consumer hotline and have the caller fined up to $25,000 per call.  Serious business!

If you have a question about a consumer-related issue or would like to file a consumer complaint, you can contact the Oregon Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or complete an online Consumer Complaint Form anytime.

Consumer Hotline:

Salem: 503-378-4320
Portland: 503-229-5576
Toll-Free: 1-877-877-9392
Email: help@oregonconsumer.gov

How easy should it be for dangerous people to buy guns?

The Oregon Firearms Safety Act:

Oregon Firearms Safety ActThe Oregon Firearms Safety Act, SB 941, passed off the Senate floor and is on its way to the House Rules Committee. The bill aims to close a loophole in the background check system for private gun sales and ensure that law enforcement is informed when someone fails a background check while attempting to buy a gun. Under current law, felons, domestic abusers, and certain persons experiencing mental illness are prohibited from buying guns, but they can still go online and easily buy guns because there is no requirement that a seller run a background check during a private sale. This bill will close that loophole. Let’s be clear, this bill is not the end-all-be-all to prevent gun violence, but it is one more step to make it more difficult for dangerous people to access guns.

Paul Kemp, our neighbor in Happy Valley, has some thoughts:

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Let’s Talk about K-12 Funding

Passing the state’s budget for the next two years is the most important job your legislature faces every session. Of all the services that the budget funds, funding for K-12 schools is a top priority for Oregonians.

On Thursday March 19, join Rep. Shemia Fagan and Rep. Peter Buckley (the co-chair of the Budget Committee himself) to discuss the proposed budget for K-12 schools, the impact the kicker will have if it is triggered, and how we can invest more in Oregon’s schools.

You can participate, ask questions, and share your opinion, right from the comfort of your own home. Register to attend by CLICKING HERE.

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While other states are constructing barriers, Oregon clears the path of even the slightest obstacles to voting.

I hope you had time, or soon have time, to watch President Obama’s historic speech from Selma, Alabama.  Some have called it the best speech of his presidency.

He stood on the bridge at Selma to mark the 50 year anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and called for a renewal of the Voting Rights Act saying,

…Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor. How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office.  One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it. If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year. That’s how we honor those on this bridge…

While other states are constructing barriers, Oregon is working to clear the path of even the slightest obstacles to voting.  Last week, the Oregon House and Senate passed HB2177.  Under HB2177, through routine interaction with the DMV, eligible Oregonians will be automatically registered to vote, with an opportunity to opt-out if they choose.  New Moter Voter, as it is called, was the signature priority for (then Secretary of State, now) Governor Kate Brown.  Upon her signature, Oregonians will become the first people in the nation to enjoy opt-out voter registration.

As Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Eugene, Junction City) said in her closing remarks before the passage of HB2177:

…When [my colleague] asked, “Are the barriers large?” No. But they are there. So why make registering to vote easier?  Why not?…

Oregon continues to blaze the trail.  Onward!

For my remarks on HB2177, watch here.

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Look Mom – I Can Fly! Memoirs of a World War II P-38 Fighter Pilot

A hero.  Period.

Rep. Shemia Fagan and Bob "Smoky" Vrilakas.  Photo by Shelly Parini

Rep. Shemia Fagan and Bob “Smoky” Vrilakas. Photo by Shelly Parini

Bob “Smoky” Vrilakas, a resident of Happy Valley, OR, held a book signing this week for his WWII memoirs, Look Mom – I Can Fly!  He donated proceeds from the book sales to the Clackamas Community College Military Families Scholarship Endowment. I was honored to be on hand to meet Smoky and welcome the guests to the event in his honor.


In the mid-1920s the sound of airplane motors would cause the entire inhabitants of author Robert “Smoky” Vrilakas’ small Northern California village to dash outside to look up at the sky. Overhead would be a Ford Trimotor passenger plane droning off toward some unknown destination, a sight almost as awesome then as watching a manned satellite pass over in space today. The author, then a young boy, thought those who flew airplanes had to be super humans, far beyond anything he could ever even dream of doing. Later, in the midst of the Great Depresssion, Smoky Vrilakas’ life took a sudden, sweeping turn. Six months prior to the December Pearl Harbor attack and at only 22 years old, Smoky was drafted into the army in preparation for an expected major war. Look, Mom-I Can Fly! takes you through the author’s Army infantry training and his Army Air Corp flight training. You will share Smoky’s experience in learning to fly the Army’s top fighter airplane of the time: the P-38 “Lightning.” In mid-1943 you will travel with him and 65 other P-38 volunteer classmates to North Africa and Italy. (Read More)

Imogene Fagan aboard ship 939, named in her honor for a perfect weld.

Imogene Fagan aboard ship 939, named in her honor for a perfect weld.

I had the honor of telling the story of my own Grandma Fagan, a welder on the Portland shipyards during WWII.  After welding ship 939 perfectly, it was named in her honor.  The USS Imogene Fagan.

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Out of the mouths of babes: New laws proposed by 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary

What ideas do Oregon second graders want to see become law?

This week, I had the opportunity to visit with students at Oregon Trail Elementary school in North Clackamas. After an hour answering the questions of 72 second graders, let me tell you, I was fearless heading back to the Capitol to only deal with adults.

Sweating bullets, Rep. Shemia Fagan took questions for an hour from 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary.

Sweating bullets, Rep. Shemia Fagan took questions for an hour from 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary.

I spent an hour with two 2nd grade classes talking about state government and my job.  I explained how an idea becomes a law and solicited ideas for new laws.  Following my lead (my idea = that we eat ice cream every Friday) the kids came up with some fun ideas, e.g, everyone has to own a kitten, people have to be careful to walk where horses walk, and everyone must eat pizza on Mondays.

While these ideas about ice cream and pizza were circulating, I called on a little girl and asked, “What is your idea for a new law?” Quietly she replied, “There should be no more wars.” 

Whoa.  Second grade!

Rep. Fagan learning about the opportunities that come from investing in CTE grants.

Rep. Fagan learning about the opportunities that come from investing in CTE grants.

Later in the week, I was visited by two amazing young women who were here for the Career and Technical Education student’s day.  One was the president of Oregon’s Skills USA, the other the Vice President of Oregon’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.  Both impressed me with their poise and clear vision for what they wanted for their futures.  They were in the Capitol to thank legislators for the money we invested in CTE grants last session.  Using those grants, Skills USA was able to double its membership in Oregon!

It was encouraging to get a taste of what happens when we give Oregon’s kids the tools they need to pursue their dreams.  I’ll keep fighting to give all Oregon kids, regardless of geographic location or family income, the same opportunities.