As Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission bid a fond farewell to former Chair Katherine Schultz, former Vice Chair Chris Smith and Commissioner Mike Houck in June, three new members were ready to step up and begin their tenure on the City’s advisory body that guides long-range planning, climate action, and more.
Johnell Bell is president and founder of Espousal Strategies, a boutique government, public, and community affairs consultancy. He co-founded a nonprofit to increase educational attainment for Black community members, and he’s previously served on the Auditor’s Committee on Benchmark Analysis and Mayor Potter’s taskforce that created the Human Relations Commission.
Bell has a history of creating more equitable outcomes for communities of color and notes our built environment must reflect our values of inclusion and diversity, with public process being accessible and inclusive.
At TriMet, Bell created the Transit Equity Advisory Committee as well as a Transit Equity Index to guide transit investments in communities of color and low income communities. He also spearheaded the low-income transit fare program and developed a program to provide free fare for low-income clients.
“As a native Portlander, the future of our city – and how it’s built – deeply matters to me,” he said. “Our built environment must reflect our values of inclusion and diversity and ensure that our plans foster participation of all communities. Helping to shepherd this process is an exciting prospect for me.”
Gabe Sheoships is executive director of the Friends of Tryon Creek and an adjunct faculty instructor of Indigenous Nations Studies and Environmental Science and Management at Portland State University.
With vast experience building and leading coalitions grounded in a racial equity framework, he has led efforts to bring equity to mainstream environmental sectors.
A scientist, educator and community leader, he has worked on environmental issues in the Columbia River Basin for 20 years. Sheoships looks forward to connecting community voices to the efforts and issues the PSC focuses on and finding solutions across a wide spectrum of backgrounds and interests.
“I’d like to bring more non-western perspectives to the PSC,” he said.
Erica Thompson is an associate at Hennebery Eddy Architects, whose perspective is shaped by a broad range of career and volunteer experiences. Her professional experience includes commercial, mixed-use, housing, and nonprofit projects, as well as energy efficiency consulting.
With a Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon, a commitment to environmental stewardship and a strong belief in building more equitable and just communities, she is dedicated to fostering a collaborative process based on listening and engagement.
“My perspective is shaped by a broad range of career and volunteer experiences that go beyond architecture,” she said. “The common threads of these are a commitment to environmental stewardship and a strong belief in building more equitable and just communities.”
Her aspirations for the PSC are to close Portland’s current energy benchmarking gap, which fails to include multi-family residents (“We need a program that provides apartment dwellers with the same access to transparent information and the ability to estimate their utility bills.”) and promote more equitable distribution of quality transit, bike infrastructure, and safe sidewalks throughout the city.
We welcome our new PSC commissioners and look forward to seeing how they help shape the future of our city and communities. They will each serve a four-year term.