Candidates for Council Position 4 / Keith Wilson

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?

The East Portland Action Plan is a comprehensive and well-developed boilerplate document to follow. I will use this plan to help guide me in my decisions and respect those who have come before me and the efforts and hard work they put into this vision. I look forward to using the EPAP as my guide and offer these insights:

Equity: Based on EPA’s Environmental Justice mapping tool, the entire East Portland area has the highest concentrations of diesel particulate matter in Portland, I will advocate that TriMet prioritizes placement of not less than 50% of all new electric buses for operation in this area. This will have an immediate impact with improving air quality to match that of the rest of Portland.

Transportation: A case in point to underinvestment in East Portland compared to the rest of our city is the single bicycle Neighborhood Greenway completed to date while the other quadrants of our city have significant networks already in place. Our citywide goal that a majority of our trips are walking, biking or riding cannot be achieved, like many of our goals, without the full inclusion of East Portlanders in every conversation.

Parks: Commissioner Fritz has been a strong advocate of East Portland and expanding access to parks has been one of her most admirable accomplishments. We have added more new parks in East Portland versus any other part of our city and this should continue as East Portland continues to add more homes than any part of our city. Parks are key to a livable, healthy society.

Housing: No portion of our city has truly enjoyed a proper allocation of city resources with regard to housing and our city is suffering from an affordable housing crisis. I will use everything in the city’s portfolio to help Portland and East Portland to catch up.

Economic Development: East Portland sits at the intersection of a major transportation corridor. Along with MAX, the new Division Transit Project and, hopefully, Metro’s Get Moving 2020 Metro Bond, that is weighted heavily on improving transit and connectivity throughout East Portland, these projects will put the rapid back in rapid transit for East Portland. With these huge investments in mobility, I will work closely with the EPAP to make sure the livability investments, services and jobs are developed and further concentrate on building a vibrant and sustainable East Portland.

 

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?

Continue to focus on investment. We have to go bigger and taller. East Portland has unrivaled potential versus any other part of our city.

Gateway is positioned as a perfect location for a central business district to compliment downtown Portland. These two book ends could be an economic engine to vitalize East Portland. MAX would connect and shuttle people between these two mega-regions in Portland bringing new investment and high wage jobs to East Portland and close the pay equity gap.

With an East Portland central business district to rival downtown, recruiting new and current employers to settle in East Portland, with its lower cost of land, large, diverse and growing talent pool would make solid economic sense.

Transit oriented design coupled with TriMet’s MAX terminal and their focus on growing ridership by building large affordable housing structures on and over their property with built in and nearby services to focus on livability and mobility are a perfect fit for Gateway. East Portland is perfectly set to be one our cities most important central areas. The EPAP’s work completed prior to now has set the stage for exciting opportunities.

There a few parts of our city that hold as much promise and space for a creative urban investment. I am excited to help East Portland be one of our city’s most vibrant and livable areas.

 

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?

We need to add more housing and more low-cost housing choices to ensure displacement never occurs in East Portland. The average cost of a studio in Portland is now $1168. We need to add back a missing rung in the economic ladder of housing. One of my goals for East Portland and Portland as a whole is to fight for DEEPLY Affordable Housing. A recent high school graduate or an adult with income from social security or disability payments should be able work and/or live in East Portland. The solution is Single Room Occupancy (SRO) cohousing or micro units. Over the past 40 years we have allowed thousands of these units to disappear, many through gentrification. These units are small single room apartments that may share a bathroom and kitchen with several other renter’s or have a small bathroom and kitchen in the room. There are many variations and price points that enable this type of housing to be deeply affordable. Let’s modernize this solid, tried and true approach in order to add much needed inventory to our market quickly and cost effectively. Using the SRO / micro unit model, we can deliver truly affordable housing at HALF the $1168 average cost of a studio apartment in East Portland. This type of housing can get within swinging distance of breaking even WITHOUT subsidized rent and remain affordable to someone earning minimum wage. SRO’s and micro units are part of the solution to providing housing for all communities and stations of life. No person should be priced out of East Portland or housing, for that matter.

 

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

Improving East Portland’s street infrastructure is a priority. This part of our city has the highest number of unimproved roads and a disproportionately higher number of traffic fatalities. 39% of all traffic fatalities last year were recorded in East Portland, many of these while walking.

Portland spent $100 million this past five years on road quieting and speed reductions to address our Vision Zero goal with many more millions budgeted for future projects. I own a regional trucking company that uses artificial intelligence that has resulted in zero accidents since I installed. The root cause of escalating traffic fatalities are distracted drivers. As a Vision Zero expert, I will immediately focus on gaining council support of this technology. Once received, East Portland’s high crash corridors will be the first to receive. This technology is much lower cost and immediately more effective. Every East Portlander will arrive home safe and these funds will be redirected to improving East Portland’s streets.

Since 2004, gas tax revenue has decreased 22% as cars have become more efficient; however, road construction costs during that time frame have increased 44%. Our roads continue to fall further into disrepair and we lack the funds to make needed investment to a green transportation network. This funding gap is no more apparent than the historically lack of investment on East Portland roads and bike lanes. By the end of this decade, our city will have embarked on a complete change in road use charging that is beginning to sweep through the world. Vehicle miles travelled will become more common and our infrastructure funding will become more stable again. However, today, the need for bringing East Portland roads up to the standard of the rest of the city should focus on all proposed bike lanes and Neighborhood Greenways that are planned and involve an unimproved road. We can accelerate both initiatives by budgeting as one project.

Our Build Portland Infrastructure Investment program will be well served focusing on East Portland at the minimum of their population makeup in Portland. I look forward to advocating on East Portland’s behalf.

 

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

The on-coming recession has changed everything. 10 years is important but 10 months from now is critical. While my term will begin in January and my focus will be on recovery. My goal will be to get East Portland working as soon as possible. I will ensure that all capital projects in East Portland that have funding in place are fast tracked and not bogged down in permitting or delays. Many of our infrastructure projects are focused on East Portland. There is no time for delay.

The future:

With only one Portland city councilperson in decades from East Portland. In ten years and with me as an advocate, I am hopeful we will have changed our form of government and East Portland will have one or more permanent district-based councilpersons, never to be underrepresented again. We must change from our current Commissioner form of government with at-large elections to a Council / Manager form with council seats representing districts. Our current voting process leads to a lack of diversity, equity and opportunity and East Portland has exemplified this disparity more than any other part of Portland. East Portland needs and deserves a daily champion for the East Portland Action Plan.

Our county will have passed this November’s Universal Preschool measure to ensure East Portland children have the same opportunity as any child in Portland. East Portland is one of the lowest income areas in our city with the least number of children enrolled in preschool. Attending preschool creates so many future benefits and East Portland children should have the same starting point as any other child in Portland.

Everyone will have a place sleep and shelter, at all price points. Deeply affordable housing options will be added back into our housing inventory. We will have used SDC exemptions, tax increment financing investments, development code updates, including incentive zoning for height and density bonuses, and for parking reductions. Transit oriented development will have been done right in East Portland.

I am going to run Portland like it is my business. East Portland tax payors are my customers. At 25% of our population, I am going to focus on serving and listening to this large and very important group of customers as much if not more than others. I need to know much more about East Portland, but you will have an ally in city council in me.

 

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