Candidates for Council Position 2 / Jack Kerfoot

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?

I believe Portland must develop an urban development plan for each major sector of the city. Each sector of our city has unique transportation, economic, housing, parks, etc. characteristics. Significant improvements in East Portland can only be achieved with a coordinated plan, which requires our bureaus to communicate and collaborate.

An East Portland urban development plan will assess the current population, housing density, schools, roadways, environmental issues, etc. and then formulate a roadmap for the area’s development  for the next 5 and 10 years, based on intensive collaboration with residents and businesses.

East Portland’s roadmap could include establishing an economic development zones to attract new business, like Apple Inc. The urban development roadmap would seek to achieve a balance of high density, low-density and single-family homes with businesses, green spaces and mass transit routes to mitigate traffic congestion and improve quality of life for all residents.

As Commissioner, I intend to champion establishing an urban development plans for each sector of the city. It is essential that clear, measurable milestones for each bureau are established to ensure the urban development plan is being implanted, as agreed between the city and the community. It is also essential that the city provide regular updates on to the community.

I would support the following East Portland initiatives:

a. Economic Development – Establish an economic development zone, which would encourage new businesses to move to East Portland. This concept has been used to re-invigorate cities around the world.

b. Transportation – I will actively support improvements in road infrastructure and the quality of TriMet bus service in East Portland. I will oppose TriMet’s trillion-dollar bond to extend the Max Light Rail beyond Portland, as it will dramatically increase property taxes for East Portland home owners.

c. Housing – I support the city’s “Residential Infill and Better Housing By Design with Portland.” However, the city’s new construction fees and processes are driving up prices for new buildings. I support streamlining the process and reducing fees for new construction and renovation.

d. Parks –Portland’s Parks Board has long been aware that parks and recreation services are unequally distributed around Portland. However, Portland Parks & Recreation estimate that funding will need to double over the next five years just to maintain existing park facilities. I have written about ways our city can provide adequate funding for our parks and community centers (https://www.jackkerfoot2020.com/portland-parks-are-the-soul-of-our-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?

As Commissioner, I will actively promote the development of new business opportunities in our city, making underdeveloped areas like East Portland a high priority. Our city’s climate, lifestyle and cost of living are major selling points for businesses that want an operation on the west coast. Unfortunately, Portland City Council has shown at best an ambivalence and at worst a hostility to the private sector.

Apple Inc. has long been rumored to be interested in establishing an operation in East Portland. In February, my campaign manager meet with Mayra Bautista, Business Specialist at Apple in Cupertino, California. The objective of the meeting was to discuss Apple’s interest in establishing an operation in Portland. Apple sees Portland as an excellent location for an operation, because our city’s attributes are selling points to recruit highly sought-after engineers.

Apple’s only concern about Portland is the city government’s disdain toward the private sector. My campaign manager was told that I am the only candidate or government official that has ever reached out to them about establishing an operation in Portland.

An Apple operations center in East Portland would provide hundreds of high paying jobs, plus hundreds more good paying support jobs. Apple is a corporation that will be actively involved in the community, including support for our schools and parks.

Another opportunity is for our city to work with businesses and unions to develop apprenticeship programs. There are critical skills shortages for long-term health care workers and renewable energy technicians. The demand for long-term health care workers is forecast to increase by 38% over the next ten years.

There is already a shortage of technicians to work on existing wind, solar and hydropower projects in America. Oregon’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050 will not be achieved without trained technicians. I have met with numerous medical professionals that also support establishing a career development program for long-term care healthcare professionals.

I have met with several unions and they all strongly support the concept of developing an apprentice program and training centers for the long-term healthcare and renewable energy professions, similar to the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute in northeast Portland.

I have 40 years of experience turning around under performing companies around the world by working effectively with governments, unions and corporations. I have the communication, collaboration and business expertise to successfully promote East Portland as an ideal location to establish major operations.

 

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?

Portland City Council must recognize that well-intentioned projects, funded by multi-million-dollar bond proposals can have devastating consequences. Every new bond measure causes property tax to increase, which may force people to sell their homes, rents to escalate, business closure and/or layoffs, which all contribute to housing instability.

 I believe the following policies could be implemented to mitigate the risk of involuntary displacement of low-income people in East Portland:

a. Nonprofit Coordination – Portland has hundreds of nonprofits working independently to serve people who are unhoused and at-risk. Nonprofits like Gung-Ho Ministries provide financial assistance to unhoused or at-risk veterans. The city can and should take the lead and coordinate nonprofits and faith-based organizations working to assist the unhoused and at-risk people in Portland.

b. Capping Property Tax Rates – I met one senior citizen who retired but had to return to work to pay for the continued increase in property taxes in her modest home in Lents. The city could freeze property taxes for people on fixed income or seniors over 65 years of age.

c. Equitable Rent Control Policies – Portland’s new rent control policies are adding significant costs to landlords, which are actually causing rental prices to escalate at a faster rate than prior to the new policies being implemented. Rent control policies should be equitable for both renter and landlord. The city could establish a review board to oversee any dispute. The tenant could not be given notice until after the review board decides.

d. Apartment Tax Incentives – Provide property tax reductions to landlords of apartments, if they reduce the rents of their units for a portion of low-income people. I have seen this type of policy work very effectively in Europe.

e. Reduce Building Costs – Construction costs to build modest homes have dramatically increased in 2020. Portland bureaus (Development Services, PBOT and Parks and Recreation) assessed $300,000 in fees to build two small, infill-homes in Southeast Portland. These fees and the slow approval time added more than $150,000 to the price of each home, turning two affordable homes into high-priced homes.

 

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

Our city must first secure funding for street infrastructure. In 2016, Portland voters approved a four-year, ten cents per gallon fuel tax to fund street repairs, maintenance and safety improvements. The four-year tax raised $76 million but will end on December 31, 2020.

Measure 26-209, which will be on the May 2020 ballot will renew the ten cents per gallon fuel tax for another four-year period of time. If passed, the measure is forecast to raise approximately $75 million from 2021 through 2024.

I have formerly endorsed Measure 26-209, as city streets, especially in East Portland, are in dire need of repairs. I believe the four-year, ten-cent gasoline tax is essential to provide adequate funding for street repairs, maintenance and safety improvements.

However, “Vision Zero” the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) plan to reduce fatalities is failing miserably. Since Vision Zero was implemented, traffic related fatalities have continued to increase. In 2019, 49 people died from traffic related fatalities, the most since 1997.

Over the past four years, PBOT’s has committed significant financial resources on “street calming” measures. PBOT has no plans to change their approach to road improvements, even though the openly admit Vision Zero is not reducing traffic fatalities and our streets are in a state of disrepair.

As Commissioner, I will request the mayor to assign me PBOT. My priority will be to ensure that East Portland’s streets are up to the standards of the rest of the city. I will also ensure that PBOT works with the communities in East Portland and the Portland Police Bureau to establish a ranked list of road and improvements.

As Commissioner, I will also ensure that PBOT evaluates other major metropolitan cities in America, Canada and Europe to determine what are the most effective techniques and technology that can be used to maintain reliable roads and to reduce traffic fatalities. Our city bureaus are too bureaucratic and inefficient and unresponsive to what our city needs. No business could stay in business if it operated that way—our city’s bureaus should take a more business-like approach, and constantly seek to improve our performance for our customer, the residents of Portland—including East Portland.

 

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 a city with safe, clean streets that is welcoming to everyone. It is a city with a government that effectively represents the citizens, works to create jobs, affordable housing and is environmentally responsible. My strategy includes:

a. Homeless – Portland has hundreds of nonprofits working independently to help our homeless. Coordination and collaboration between these different groups can and will dramatically improve the aid we give our homeless. Portland city government should take a lead role in coordinating the various organizations to more effectively help our homeless.

Our city must develop an integrated, cost-effective plan to more effectively help our homeless. We must analyze programs in other cities like San Antonio, Texas where public-private partnerships have developed facilities and processes that have proven to be highly effective for over a decade. We can then bring in the private sector, nonprofits and faith-based groups to implement a viable, sustainable program that will truly help our homeless.

b. Safe Streets – Achieving safe streets means reducing skyrocketing traffic fatalities, providing emergency response teams for people with mental health issues and maintaining homeless camp cleanups.

Portland’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities is failing miserably. Our city must implement safety measures that have proven to reduce traffic fatalities in other major cities in Europe and America.

Eugene has used emergency response teams of a mental health professional and an EMT to help the homeless with mental health issues. Homeless camp cleanup is essential for the health of the homeless and other residents in the area.

c. City Government – Portland’s City Council type of government isn’t effectively representing our city’s increasingly diverse and growing population. I support modernizing our city government, with the executive authority with the mayor, creating a paid position of city manager, and electing unpaid city commissioners from districts, not from the city at-large. Until the city has a new form of government, I pledge to hold town hall meetings on a regular basis across our entire city, especially in East Portland.

d. Environment – Climate change is a global problem, which must be addressed at the city, state and federal level. Oregon has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources (wind, solar, etc.) to provide 100% clean, green energy to power our entire state. Our city can work with our major utilities, TriMet and other businesses to achieve the city’s zero carbon emission before 2050.

 

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