Candidates for Council Position 1 / Carmen Rubio

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?

East Portland has long been underserved by the City, with few and inequitable government and infrastructure investments, and yet it is one of the more affordable areas in Portland. It is also home to many immigrants, people of color, working people, and multigenerational families. Thanks to East Portland advocates and community, there has been a push in recent years to invest city dollars in parks and streets, yet city investments still haven’t brought this part of our community up to parity with the rest of the city. This has begun to take its toll, through encroaching gentrification - forcing to move beyond East Portland to more affordable places in Salem, Gresham, Hillsboro, or Vancouver- and also increased traffic but the evident lack of necessary safety measures and transit and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, which has led to many traffic fatalities. I will be a strong advocate for East Portland through community-centered engagement, especially when making decisions about new development and zoning to prevent unintended and adverse impacts on East Portlanders. I will advocate for local businesses, for infrastructure needs, preserve housing affordability, accessible and safe transit, and the creation and preservation of parks across the region. Major arterials like SE Stark, SE Division, SE Powell traverse East Portland and I will advocate for increased and improved transit service, transportation infrastructure like sidewalks and bike lanes to support multi-modal, livable 20 minute neighborhoods. I will also be a good faith jurisdictional partner to my colleagues in Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, Maywood Park, and Wood Village to address our shared goals of housing affordability, good jobs, and a strong economy. I’d also advocate for the Columbia River industrial area, which has some of the best jobs in East Portland, but lacks reliable and safe public transportation. I will also strengthen the City’s commitment to having geographic diversity on Boards and Commissions, with EPAP as a critical partner to ensure equitable representation.  I would also push to utilize data and analyses of past investments when making decisions about any current investments to ensure geographic equity - something I also know EPAP is responsible for introducing to the City.  

 

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?

Communities of color and low-income Portlanders know that this city’s prosperity has often come at the expense of our communities. Displacement and gentrification can lead to adverse impacts on the local small business community. Through strategic investments, we can create prosperity in East Portland, lifting up community-led  economic development practices. This work has been happening in certain spots, but we can scalethis through placemaking to more areas throughout East Portland by increasing our investments in key local small businesses and economic collaborative opportunities that have historically and currently sustain the culture and presence of the current communities (a successful example of this kind of partnership is the Jade District’s International Night Market). I will advocate for the doubling down on investments in immigrant, indigeneous, and people of color businesses, especially businesses owned by women of color, and the retention of local East Portland businesses. I am also committed to expanding our workforce development efforts that provide training and support to help those living on low incomes get and retain livable wage jobs and opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Also critical is expanding our partnerships with the labor community to create pipelines for young people into training and apprenticeship opportunities. Finally, as we begin to plan for our economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, I will also ensure East Portland is included equitably in any economic relief efforts for businesses and the community.

 

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?

I am strongly committed to addressing displacement through policy interventions. While this housing crisis isn’t new, we need to keep these historic injustices in mind when we put forward anti-displacement strategies, and be sure we are addressing the root causes of displacement, and ensure this negative history doesn’t repeat in places like East Portland. Tenant advocates, affordable housing advocates and city leaders have made important strides in several tenant protection policies, and passing bonds to support affordable housing, and both the City and County invest in numerous homelessness prevention strategies such as rent assistance and foreclosure prevention programs, and I am committed to protecting/expanding these supports and exploring other policy options to prevent displacement in our communities. The vital part of this plan is to ensure that we develop strategies that reflect and involve the geographical communities impacted.

While the City and Prosper Portland have taken important steps to acknowledge our history, we can also use data more regularly to ensure we are making community-centered decisions on development, and keeping an eye on any emerging issues or areas. For example, Dr. Lisa Bates with Portland State University has put together a mapping tool that highlights which Portland neighborhoods are at risk for gentrification, which has led to engagement on strategies to head it off.  I will work closely with Council to see how we can pilot some of these recommendations to develop best practices for reducing this risk and preserving affordability for residents going forward. I’m also very concerned East Portland residents are particularly vulnerable to displacement due to the COVID-19 global pandemic as jobs are lost and it becomes even more difficult to pay for housing. I will advocate for additional resources to lessen COVID-19’s impact on the community, and work with my colleagues on City Council to lobby for strong federal and state solutions to assist those affected by this unprecedented crisis.

 

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

We need to make it safer for people to bike and walk, and start by prioritizing areas that are highly transit dependent, under-resourced, and with the poorest infrastructure, especially East Portland. Many pedestrians are forced to walk on the shoulder of the road, and many of them are high-crash corridors - where we know that the severity and number of crashes is high. This is unacceptable. This is an equity issue and a public safety issue. I strongly support efforts underway by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to invest in East Portland, including investments in sidewalk, transit, bike lanes, and signalized crossings on arterials like SE Division, SE Stark, SE 122nd and more.  I know plans are in place with PBOT to expand East Portland neighborhood greenways which I fully support.  ODOT received $110m from the state legislature to design and construct sidewalks, bike lanes, new signalized crosswalks, stormwater treatment, and more along Outer Powell which will make a huge improvement in this area.  When it comes to East Portland street infrastructure, we can and must do better. These improvements I refer to will  improve safety for all who live, work, or travel in the area.

I also support renewing Portland’s gas tax - the Fixing Our Streets program - to continue funding for transportation projects throughout the city and in East Portland. The infrastructure improvements needed in East Portland require funding. The City’s existing budget, especially in response to COVID-19 - faces a significant budget shortfall. Renewing the gas tax will help, but not completely address, East Portland’s transportation needs.

I’m aware a disproportionate percentage of Portland’s unpaved streets, incomplete sidewalks, and lack of a complete bike network are in East Portland.  As your commissioner, I promise, I won’t overlook East Portland when it comes to transportation infrastructure investments - it’s a matter of equity and safety.  PBOT’s Gravel Street Service is a temporary solution to help improve the condition of some of East Portland’s worst unpaved roads - but it is not enough. East Portland deserves equity. I would advocate for additional resources for road improvement, sidewalks and safety infrastructure  in budget discussions and specifically look for how to fund and implement these improvements when deliberating as part of the City’s budgeting process.

 

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

My vision is for a city government that works for all Portlanders, and helps working families, underserved residents, and vulnerable community voices have a meaningful say in making the decisions that affect them. I will restore and build the community’s trust in government through balanced policies and initiatives that represent East Portland’s needs. My strategies include: 

Bring urgency and focus to the affordable housing shortage and homelessness through prevention and intervention services. I will advocate for housing affordability at all income levels, eviction prevention, and rent assistance for those who need it.

Ensure that current and new systems to provide mental health, substance abuse treatment, and other support services for the chronically homeless are effective and in place.

Participate in advocacy at the state and local level for investments in homelessness and family stability programs, and stronger, more strategic alignment in partnerships with the business community, philanthropy, and nonprofit sectors to close these disparities.

Focus on responsible and balanced public policy and investments and infrastructure development in areas beyond downtown and the central eastside. Neighborhoods in East Portland that still lack sidewalks, paved roads, safe arterial crossings, bus shelters, and access to more frequent and accessible transit options.

Encourage community-centered development on city projects, not solely driven by developers and planners, and prioritize underserved and under-resourced areas and safety hazard areas first. We need a people-based approach to placemaking that supports and encourages positive development, businesses and neighborhoods, and avoids involuntary displacement and enables community members to have a real voice in these processes. 

Lead as a partner with my colleagues at the state, County, and local level - Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, Maywood Park, and Wood Village - to address our shared goals of housing affordability, climate justice, transit, jobs and a strong local economy.

Support and invest in renewable energy, climate-resilient infrastructure, and community; implement Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) and getting funds to frontline communities for implementation.

Create a financially sustainable funding mechanism for the creation, preservation, and sustainment of parks and recreation facilities across our region.

Advocate for increased public transportation options, such as Youth Pass and fareless TriMet, so more cars are off the road, and residents have equitable access to public transportation.

Support Rose lanes and other initiatives that will make TriMet service more reliable for riders who are transit dependent.

 

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