Candidates for Council Position 2 / Cynthia Castro

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?

Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the racial and socio-economic disparities in this country. We are seeing worse Latinx employment outcomes, more severe health impacts on Black and Native communities, immigrants and refugees facing language barriers, and people with disabilities being denied services.

As a City, we must with greater intentionality and urgency address the systems and structures that have perpetuated these disparities. This is a priority for me.

I have seen the incredible advocacy work of the East Portland Action Plan advocates in City Hall, when I was with the Portland Parks Bureau, and throughout the City.  The East Portland Action Plan was adopted over a decade ago.  It is because of this advocacy that significant changes have been made to policies and programs at the City. 

I will continue this incredible work by:

• Supporting charter change and making sure East Portland community members are represented on the charter review committee.  Geographic districts would ensure East Portland’s presence and leadership on Council.

• Finding a sustainable funding model for Portland Parks & Recreation.  This means prioritizing vulnerable communities like those in East Portland to ensure the benefits of the system are enjoyed equitably.

• Supporting grants to small businesses and local organizations like mutual-aid associations, small non-profits, etc to ensure ALL Portlanders are getting access to City resources.

• Prioritizing our most vulnerable populations in the post-COVID recovery efforts.  East Portland neighbors and small businesses will need help.  I will ensure centering of racial justice with the City’s recovery.

• I support universal basic income.  We need to bring back our safety nets to protect our communities before crisis hits.

Finally, I will continue what I have already done with my six years at the City; partnering directly with the community to ensure their voices are heard. 

 

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?

The economic crisis created through the international pandemic is exacerbating the already difficult economic position of our marginalized and under supported communities.  I would work with organizations connected to EPAP, Hacienda CDC and their Latinx Small and Micro Businesses program, and other organizations on the front line to increase funding and strengthen relationships.  I would work with the Mayor to ensure Prosper Portland is continuing to support East Portland with workforce development opportunities especially during capital projects.

Finally, there are many barriers East Portland community members face with income and job opportunities.  I would work to reduce those barriers by continuing my advocacy that started six years ago to hire and PAY higher wages to multilingual speakers at the City of Portland.  I would also work with the Portland Bureau of Transportation and TriMet to continue to advocate for better more reliable transportation services and safer streets to East Portland, because transportation and safety are significant barriers.

 

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 would make sure the City uses the data we already have to protect current East Portland community members from being displaced.  New housing projects, construction, or business development should have impact analysis done to understand and prevent displacement, much like environmental impact statements.

The City should work with County and regional partners to support programs that support home ownership for families who lack intergenerational wealth.   These programs should focus on immigrants and refugees as well as low-income individuals and our community elders.

I coached an immigrant and refugee girls soccer team in East Portland. I know that language is a barrier for them and their families. This is why I have been committed to meaningful language access and Title VI work within the City of Portland. Any actions need to include connecting with community members in the languages they can understand.

I am proud that the City of Portland passed a $15 per hour minimum wage a few years ago, but our wages need to keep up with inflation. I support exploring Universal Basic Income for Portland, so our communities have a greater safety net that will allow them to afford rent and housing increases.

 

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

As mentioned above in question two, East Portland community members face many barriers to ensure economic prosperity.  One of those barriers is the lack of infrastructure and overall safety of streets in East Portland.  I’ve seen photos of potholes that turn into lakes when it is raining on many of the unpaved streets in East Portland. 

I would work with the Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation to continue to prioritize East Portland in sidewalk safety, street paving, and especially lighting.  I would also want to address any past Council decisions that have exempt builders from putting in sidewalks.  It is important that the City work with the private industries benefiting from Portland’s growth to ensure that growth does not displace current community members, but that it also benefits their livelihood and livability of their community.

 

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 for Portland and all of the community members is that there is geographic representation on the City Council, ensuring that East Portland and outer East Portland voices are heard in City Hall.   I would envision more street lights, crosswalks, paved roads and sidewalks.  It would be where East Portland residents all live close to a Park or natural area they can enjoy with their families.  It would be easily  accessible via public transportation.  There would be more affordable housing.

My plan to get us there is centering racial and social justice in all the work that I do, in every vote I take or policy I draft.  I would continue to work in partnership with the East Portland community like EPAP members to listen to and amplify their calls to action.  I would make sure whatever bureaus I control have staff working directly with and in the community so they have an on-the-ground understanding of the challenges and can bring back community driven solutions.  Finally, I would continue to be collaborative and transparent in my work.

 

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