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?
As we all know, we can’t achieve equity by simply allocating the same resources per capita, when some areas have suffered from historic underinvestment. That is why the City has significantly ramped up investments in East Portland--in particular PBOT and Parks. East Portland is a priority for me with PBOT, many of our high crash corridors run through East Portland and pedestrians in East Portland are twice as likely to be killed than in the rest of the city. This is unacceptable. PBOT is currently “overinvesting” relative to anticipated growth to make up for this historic underinvestment. I also led Civic Life in reallocating Neighborhood Coalition funding to be more equitable to East Portland, a difficult conversation that had been kicked down the road for many years. We have yet to achieve true equity across the city with our investments, but it is a priority for me--one that I have demonstrated through my work on Council and I will continue to champion.
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?
Bringing family-wage jobs to East Portland begins with productive strategic partnerships with organizations and individuals who are willing and able to make significant and equitable investments in the area. Past City Councils focused on downtown development and runaway gentrification at the expense of communities and areas -- like East Portland -- that seemed unimportant. Some candidates in the mid-2000s even ran explicitly on platforms of deregulating the development process. This needs to change.
First, we need to bring community voices back to the table so that the effects on these areas are acknowledged and weighed in our decision-making processes. We need to ensure that the execution of our Comprehensive Plan aligns with our Goal 10 objectives of providing a fair distribution of affordability and livability throughout our entire city.
Second, we need to strengthen partnerships with entities like Prosper Portland and ensure that their project focus is equitably distributed. Project models like transit corridors and “community center” plans have shown a lot of promise for attracting robust economic activity.
Third, we need to have a focus on building wealth in these areas alongside building bricks and mortar. One of the projects that I’ll be working on in my next term is a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase program, to ensure that the wealth in these communities isn’t simply siphoned off to landlords or owners who live elsewhere. In addition, I would like to be cognizant of the opportunities for including project labor agreements into these projects, to ensure that work is supplied locally (as locally as possible) and that these projects double as vocational training and apprenticeship opportunities as warranted.
There is no immediate “silver bullet,” that will transform East Portland overnight, but by changing our city’s mindset as to how to approach these kinds of economic stimuli and projects, we have opportunities to build wealth in these neighborhoods, focus our infrastructure priorities where they’re needed the most, and attract jobs.
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?
Housing is a basic need and a human right. Our failure to recognize that is at the root of our ongoing housing crisis. This is one of the issues I am most passionate about, and although I do not oversee the housing bureau, I have worked on housing issues almost constantly throughout my time on City Council. Stemming the tide of cost-burdening and displacement across our city was a top priority for me coming into office and an issue I’ve made considerable progress on.
Tenant protections are an essential but long neglected component of solving our housing and homelessness crisis. The Relocation Ordinance I passed in my first thirty days in office dramatically reduced no-cause evictions and protected tenants from exorbitant rent increases. My Fair Access in Renting policies reduced barriers to housing including security deposit and screening criteria reform. Last year I developed, advanced and successfully funded an anti-displacement directive to develop meaningful anti-displacement policies to protect Portland residents from development driven displacement--we cannot continue to treat this issue as an afterthought.
I’ve fought hard in conversations from the Residential Infill Project to the Metro Regional Transportation Funding Task Force for the inclusion of strong anti-displacement measures. My office works closely with Anti-Displacement PDX who identified a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase program as their next most important priority. I fully support this concept and am working on developing this policy now, including identifying financial resources. East Portland is home to thousands of units of naturally occurring affordable housing. I’m committed to working with community partners to assemble a strategy to protect and preserve this housing while creating family wage jobs for women and minority contractors.
4. What is your strategy to bring East Portland’s street infrastructure up to the standard of the rest of the city?
Because of the way that East Portland was developed prior to annexation by the City of Portland, and an underinvestment by the city in East Portland until recent years, there are serious transportation infrastructure deficits in East Portland. I am working to improve that through historic investments through Fixing Our Streets, stop gap measures like Grade and Gravel, and looking at the way the city designates responsibility for sidewalks and street trees--currently the responsibility of the adjacent property owner-through an equity lens.
When I was assigned PBOT, one of the first things I did was pour through the annexation documents to gain an understanding of what the city agreed to deliver to East Portland. Unfortunately, sidewalks were not included in the array of city services and amenities enumerated in those documents. While we have been filling in gaps in pedestrian infrastructure on major streets, with an approximate $1 billion in deferred maintenance, PBOT does not have the resources to deliver sidewalks everywhere where they are currently lacking (primarily East and SW Portland). However, I am looking at other possible revenue streams that would allow us to start building more sidewalks as well as take over the responsibility for maintaining sidewalks and street trees.
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 of East Portland is that of a vibrant, connected, mixed-use community that celebrates its diversity. In ten years, we need to have meaningfully addressed the inequities and disparate impacts from income to transit to infrastructure to public health and safety. And with the area being located between Mt. Hood Community College and PCC Southeast, we should take note of the high-tech investment Clackamas Community College made over the past decade which yielded positive economic activity from Milwaukie to Oregon City and is a great attraction for employers, and pursue similar coordinated investment in the MHCC District.
This transformation is not going to be an easy task, but it is eminently doable. As I noted in my answer to question 2, we need to begin building wealth -- from both empowering tenants to purchase their own homes as well as bringing increased investments into the area. As I noted in question 1, I am ramping up investment in East Portland infrastructure -- over the next decade, this should be coupled with bold investments in transit expansion opportunities as well as improvements to existing transit options, such as my Rose Lane efforts making transit a more equitable and attractive option.
Ultimately, my vision for East Portland ten years from now is that it’s a safe, affordable, and vibrant place to live, where educational and economic opportunities abound. But this transformation is not just a 10-year look forward; it requires ongoing attention and vigilance from residents, City Hall, advocates, and other stakeholders--building a community is an ongoing process, and as your City Commissioner I am honored to assist and support you. Thank you.