Woman’s mission is keeping Laurelhurst safe
TJ Browning believes in the power of the people, to volunteer and help out the city of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau and organize community members and neighborhoods.
It’s why she has been known, for many years, for her efforts in police accountability while representing the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association, in which she serves as a liaison to Portland Police Bureau. She also helped organize a citywide meeting of neighborhood association representatives in the spring of 2023. And, for good measure, she organized the neighborhood picnic.
To deal with Portland’s problems with homeless, unruly protesters, and crime, citizens have to do their part to help public entities improve city conditions, Browning said.
“Everybody is sitting back and saying, ‘When is city hall and the police going to do something?’” she said. “There are more of us than them, the city, and they’re overwhelmed and overworked. If citizens all did something, it’ll get done quicker. It’s my mantra. Our city wouldn’t be so messed up if more people got involved.”
It’s part of her philosophy of taking charge and doing something. “We all care,” she added. “If you need help, go ask somebody. Everybody wants to help. Most people do not know how. You’re offering them a chance to help. Everybody wants a better Portland. They just don’t know what to do to make that happen.”
A Centennial High School graduate, Browning has lived in Laurelhurst since the late 1980s. (“I’m not telling my age. It implies I should be dead or something,” she said. “I will take ‘in my 60s.’”) She was a part-time pharmaceutical representative for 21 years while raising a family.
She loves Laurelhurst.
“It is reminiscent of my childhood and what I thought all neighborhoods were like,” she said. “It had several families that were intergenerational. There’s a strong sense of community here.”
For the most part, it has been a strong community, perhaps interrupted most significantly by Antifa protesters and homeless campers in recent years — a problem in many neighborhoods. Browning has done some work for people experiencing homelessness, as one of her best friends, her son, and her father all have backgrounds in helping homeless folks.
One year, she provided feminine hygiene products to homeless women. Another year it was socks. Problems arose when a camp was set up at Laurelhurst Park, and also Antifa “walking through every night of every week,” she said.
“Portland is frightening people, and (older people) don’t want to stay and fight for it,” Browning added.
As vice president of the Laurelhurst board of directors and its safety chair, she gets a call if anything goes down in the neighborhood. She came about such responsibilities because of her serving on former Mayor Vera Katz’s stakeholder committee designed to hear complaints lodged by citizens against police officers, a role she continues. She remembers in 1992 when police shot 12-year-old Nathan Thomas during a hostage situation, which greatly impacted her. An investigation found that police had done nothing wrong in their actions, but, she said, “training, policies and procedures let officers down, and that had to change.”
Police accountability work dove-tailed into being a safety lead/PPB liaison. If there is graffiti, gunshots, fire, crime and homelessness and protester malfeasance in Laurelhurst, she sends out alerts (and ensures PPB knows about it).
The fight continues in Laurelhurst, but she also has taken the lead in organizing neighborhoods to discuss shared issues. The March neighborhood summit attracted 65 neighborhood officials. Neighbor Steven Rebiscke helped her organize the summit, as did Vadim Mozyrsky of The Neighbors West Northwest.
Rebiscke has high praise for Browning while crediting Laurelhurst’s Kayleen Kusterer for her work in the neighborhood.
“(Browning) is the opposite of a wilting violet. She’s relatively aggressive in a kind, activist sort of way,” he said. “Police accountability and safety, in general, and especially where we live starting in 2020, is a real issue for regular Joe citizens who are wanting to go to the park or walk in their neighborhood. She stood up to a lot of mean, violent, angry, ugly people.”