Readers Respond to City Hall’s Neglect of Blue-Collar Employees

“Maty Sauter’s comment about a ‘caste system’ for municipal workers rings very true.”

Alex Martinez has helped repair the city's fleet for 28 years. (Chris Nesseth)

For one week, at least, the mechanics who repair Portland’s vehicle fleet were noticed. Our cover story on the denizens of the Kerby Garage (“The Garage That Portland Forgot,” WW, April 10), resonated with readers who noticed a gap between the city’s rhetoric of equity and its neglect of blue-collar employees. Here’s what our readers had to say:

WornOffNovelty, via Reddit: “Really glad WW is reporting on this again. The dire consequences for Kerby workers and public response to an emergency like an earthquake have been reported on by them before. I grew up right by here and have walked past the wrecked vehicles on Russell for years before I knew the actual purpose of this place.

“I used to work for Portland Parks and Rec, and we got gas for our trucks at the pumps here. At least one of the two unleaded pumps were usually broken. To keep this city operational, the central city garage is absolutely vital, and in the event of an earthquake or severe fire, it would almost certainly be destroyed and its workers with it.

“One thing this article didn’t mention was the Kerby mechanic who was impaled by an axle rod or piece of rebar or something last year. I don’t remember the exact circumstances that caused it, but the guy had to be wheeled up the street to Emanuel on a gurney because the bar wouldn’t fit into an ambulance. It’s already a dangerous place to work, and I’m even more incensed to learn none of them got hazard pay or any time off during COVID.”

Daniel Carlson, via “The funniest part of this article is the raw honesty of the politicians: Infrastructure doesn’t personally serve my interests (political aspirations), so why should I care?”

AdvancedInstruction, via Reddit: “This is a really good piece of journalism because it highlights how white-collar workers get all of the attention for things like renovations while the blue-collar workers that actually keep the city running are completely ignored, and we wonder why service quality declines.”


Maty Sauter’s comment about a “caste system” for municipal workers rings very true. My dad has been a municipal mechanic for decades, and there’s a massive gulf between how he’s treated—in safety, time micro-monitoring, compensation, and in how management values his feedback—and the white-glove treatment I get as a county project manager. This is an important and largely unexplored gap in the equity missions each government claims as a core value.

Peter Tiso

Southeast Portland


Please, no Botanical Gardens, no exhibits, how about a sensitive restoration of the riverfront to where it might have been 200 years ago? And a careful monitoring so it doesn’t become a dump site or encampment [”Action Park,” WW, April 10].

I am a huge fan of the work done along the Columbia in Vancouver, from Washougal east along the river. Restored wetlands, ponds to attract wildlife and an elevated path for pedestrians to view the river.

South Waterfront is a total failure in my mind. A jumble of hideous high-rises pushed up to the riverfront, casting shadows and forming wind tunnels. Nothing to draw visitors there.

Again, they should look north—Vancouver’s riverfront area is thriving, full of life, parks and kids’ play areas, a world-class walkway projecting out over the river, restaurants humming with life, and a vibrant scene overall. The dwelling towers are held way back from the water, allowing visitors and condo dwellers to have a large waterfront “living room.”

We have woefully ignored the potential for an attractive waterfront here. Look at the eastside with a freeway overpass, the slow demolition of historic old brick warehouses that could be salvaged and turned into loft dwellings or exhibition spaces . Any new construction is a hodgepodge and, all in all, nothing that would make it a destination, let alone a place to live. We can even look east to Bend, and the wonderful Deschutes River path.

Portland, you disappoint me! Please, a cohesive plan to attract all generations and income groups to enjoy our waterfront areas.

Hamida Betty Rahman

Letters to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email:

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.