Candidates for Council Position 1 / Candace Avalos

1. East Portland is home to 25% of the city’s population, yet has historically been allocated a smaller share of city resources than other areas of town. How will you support equity for East Portland in city investments in transportation, parks, housing and economic development?

This is precisely why I began my campaign on a strong platform to change our form of government and finally bring district representation to Portlanders. Portland is the last US city with over 100,000 residents to still have a commission form of government, where commissioners are not only responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions of our bureaus, but are assigned arbitrarily by the Mayor. This archaic system rooted in Jim Crow-era segregation has created a lack of consistency and long term strategic planning to address the most pressing problems facing our communities. In addition, with a population of over 600,000 all of our commissioners are elected at-large, which means the leaders who most often succeed running for office come from wealthy families from the west side of town and do not reflect all of our unique communities. It’s time we bring true representation to all areas of our city. We deserve to elect members of our own unique community that understand the lived experiences of our neighbors, and can bring new diverse voices to the table where crucial decisions are being made for our future. This will be a crucial next step in ensuring East Portland has a voice at the table so we can advocate for our communities.

Since annexation, East Portland has consistently given more in tax revenue to the City than they have received in services. The broken promises of street and safety improvements even as the area becomes more dense cannot go on. Promises made must be promises kept, and while we wait for the change of our city charter to hold City Council accountable, I will begin working towards keeping those promises to East Portland.

The affordability and livability of our city needs to be a cornerstone for how we continue to grow. It is imperative that we keep wages on par with the cost of living. Affordability in housing, transportation, childcare, and access to various services must be a top priority for the city of Portland. We cannot continue to let people be priced out of a city where they spend so much of their time and money.

 

2. East Portland lags behind the rest of the city in personal incomes and job opportunities. What will you do to increase the number of family-wage jobs in East Portland?

As we enter a new decade, we are continuing to see the impact of a changing society and workforce—especially now as we plan for life post COVID-19. It’s important that on the local level we make decisions that give Portlanders equitable access to growth opportunities. This includes prioritizing local businesses, creating more apprenticeships for young people to learn trades, and investing in local labor on major city projects. A more equitable Portland is not possible without addressing the urgent need to unionize labor and combat growing wage inequality. We need to continue to fund the capacity of small businesses to grow through Venture Portland grants. We should be leveraging the actions of Prosper Portland to include spaces for makers, not just more coffee shops.

Through city planning and programs, Portland has made valuable investments in city infrastructure, but the result is often gentrification rather than improvement and neighborhoods with marginalized communities continue to be passed over for overdue infrastructure projects. In addition, the current programs of small grants to business districts through Venture Portland and larger investments by Prosper Portland must look toward a future that includes everyone. The vision of the city must include spaces for makers, artists, and first time business owners. In light of COVID-19 we must learn to diversify our workforce and provide more direct funding to small businesses through grants and give them the technical support they'll need to recover and thrive.

 

3. Portland is experiencing a severe housing crisis, and East Portland residents are particularly vulnerable to displacement. What tools will you implement to prevent involuntary displacement of low-income people from East Portland?

While we must do everything we can to keep people in their homes, including fully funding rental assistance, we must address the root cause of the housing crisis by building affordable housing affordably and at scale. If the private market left to its own devices was going to solve the housing problem it would have by now—which is why we must incentivize ways to build affordable housing affordably at scale. I’d like the City to create an innovation hub for affordable housing design and manufacturing so we can diversify the type of housing we build because our families have diverse needs. These units would be affordable not because of subsidies but because they are able to be built and sold at a market rate which is truly affordable. In addition to building more affordable housing, we must continue to build housing for all at every level.

We also must invest in more integrated housing, and create neighborhoods with families of mixed income. Your ability to have a thriving community with access to resources and activities should not be determined by the type of home you can afford to buy or rent. When we make decisions about transportation, parks, and commerce, we need to take into account the needs of those communities and create spaces that are more financially welcoming to families of all incomes and this is done by creating spaces where Portlanders have immediate access to basic needs like healthcare, groceries, education, and transportation networks.

At the core, I believe the most appropriate next step in addressing houselessness is connecting care through city facilitated case management systems to provide frontline services and resources to the unhoused community. I’d like to see us invest in self-governed spaces that can serve as a transition tool to get people housed, because we don’t have enough housing for everyone overnight so we need interim protections. While we are trying to build the housing that will ultimately lift them out of houselessnes, we must meet their immediate needs now, where they are while we put energy in resources into making sure no one else ends up in the same circumstances. Additionally, as a Commissioner I want to build a more robust rental assistance program to ensure those on the edge of becoming houseless can continue to stay housed, because in the long run this is the most efficient way to spend our resources.

 

4. What is your strategy to bring East Portland’s street infrastructure up to the standard of the rest of the city?

A quick walk through many of the neighborhoods in East Portland, it's clear that the streets are being neglected. The City has an obligation to spend its resources wisely and invest in neighborhoods that need basic infrastructure to improve safety and overall investment in the community. PBOT is moving in the right direction by putting down gravel on unimproved streets, and I’d like to see that continue throughout the city to at least offer some relief for neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades. Still, it’s not nearly good enough and why did it take so long? East Portland has been asking—begging—for improvements for years. There is so much left to do, and adding more sidewalks, safer crossings, and better lit streets need to be prioritized. The City needs to develop a comprehensive plan to address a realistic timeline to accomplish these much needed improvements, and I’d like to see them do that by doing an audit of all the neighborhoods and create a list of priorities to start investing in neglected parts of the City. A major part of this problem is that East Portland was unincorporated and annexed by the city of Portland in the 1980's and 1990's. The City promised East Portland improvements, but instead they make them pay more than they get back in services. East Portland needs to have every dollar they invest put back into the community, and I’m interested in starting an action team specifically to come up with plans to address this infrastructure. 

 

5. If you are elected, what is your vision of East Portland a decade from now? What is your strategy to get us there?

I continue to come back to changing our form of government, because I believe it is a critical change we need to make in order to correct the many years of disinvestment from underrepresented communities on City Council. I’m also running on a platform of updating our government to leverage the tools of the 21st century for engaging our communities. Not only are we severely underrepresented by a city council that doesn’t get elected by districts, but we also have seen a lack of consistent efforts on behalf of the City Council to engage people on the community level. It really is as simple as creating a space for conversation, making sure it’s well advertised and has accommodations, and bringing in the community to talk about what they’re facing and what ideas they have to address it. This includes holding official city council sessions throughout the city during varied times, with childcare options, to engage (the majority) of Portlanders who cannot attend meetings as currently scheduled. We need to meet people where they’re at and engage the communities impacted by policy decisions. It’s not our job as leaders to have all the answers, but instead to bring together different voices to create the ideas that will lead to them. By increasing our commitment to community engagement, I’d like to see East Portland at the very minimum have the basic infrastructure I listed in question 4, like more sidewalks, street crossings, and street lighting.

 

◄ Return to Other Candidate Responses