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?
First off, I want to sincerely thank EPAP and EPNO for their consistent policy, governance, and community leadership in our city. Some of the best thinking and work around sustainable, equitable cities that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot-- in Portland and around the world) comes out of this coalition office and its committees and, as mayor, I will be committed to elevating your presence, priorities, and power in City Hall.
I need to listen and learn from EPAP to succeed as Portland Mayor and am committed to attending EPAP meetings at least quarterly. I also commit to following your recommendations and being held accountable on issues that matter not just to you as East Portland but to all Portlanders, because Portland is only as successful as our least served neighborhoods.
The progress we make together with the full power of the Portland Mayor’s Office behind EPAP’s long-range and strategic priorities will, I anticipate, result in good outcomes which can then serve as model for truly sustainable development that will circulate well beyond our city boundaries.
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?
I was glad to help knock doors in support of the Portland Clean Energy Fund even as the incumbent aligned himself with downtown business interests in opposition to it. I will work to ensure that the fund is well-stewarded and that the values alignment between EPAP and PCEF is borne out through sizable investments in East Portland.
I have proposed significant investments in community energy and municipal broadband in my Green New Deal for Our Portland plan (sarah2020.com/greennewdeal) which would create multiple benefits for East Portland families by lowering household utility costs while creating family-wage, green collar jobs along with improvements in workforce development and access to education.
To many East Portland workers are regressively SOV-dependent. In addition to working with TriMet for increased transit service, I will work to increase affordable micromobility options, e-bike subsidy programs, protected active transportation infrastructure, and even jitney service to ensure quality transportation options to East Portland’s workers and families.
By virtue of my working-class background, my geographic ties to the outer eastside, and my small-donor powered campaign, my economic development mindset is not centered day-to-day on the interests of the downtown real estate development community but on the vitality and resilience of East Portland’s residents, organizations, and businesses as the locus of economic development opportunity in Portland. Much of this work will be coordinated with continued investments in the Gateway Education/Economic Development Center as we continue to shape a polycentric city for future resiliency and prosperity.
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?
As East Portland develops rapidly by virtue of policies such as Residential Infill Project, Better Housing by Design, and the re-legalization of many forms of affordable housing citywide (e.g. ADUs), we want to ensure 1) that the benefits of this growth accrue to East Portland residents and 2) that we are not displacing people. As a resident of an outer eastside neighborhood at high risk of displacement from RIP, I testified at City Council in support of the deepest affordability bonuses possible and will continue to foreground anti-displacement as a key principle in public policy, rather than an afterthought.
If the lessons from twenty years of major investments in Lents URA tell us anything, it’s that we need clear metrics to evaluate success across the duration of redevelopment plans. For too long, the benefits of Portland’s urban renewal investments have accrued to downtown developers while leaving East Portlander behind. As mayor, I will keep a close-eye on this issue to ensure that our investments are not resulting in unintended consequences and that our policy goals and outcomes align. I plan to keep the urban development and land use bureaus in my portfolio-- including Prosper Portland-- to ensure compliance.
As a city, we must prioritize housing options across the spectrum of affordability with an eye to quality and energy efficiency. I will maintain a focus on anti-displacement and strong tenant protections along with investments in infrastructure such as schools, safe streets, jobs centers that ensure neighborhood prosperity. You can explore these ideas and others in more detail at sarah2020.com/housing.
4. What is your strategy to bring East Portland’s street infrastructure up to the standard of the rest of the city?
I’m probably the only person running for mayor who’s been a transit-dependent renter in East Portland within the last five years. I recently resided at SE 148th and Powell in the Centennial neighborhood (2016-2018). The majority of the past decade, I lived adjacent to 82nd Avenue in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood. As a carfree Portlander, I’ve spent hours on TriMet stuck in traffic, only to end up stranded and calling a Lyft because there are no bikesharing or carsharing options. I’ve waded through puddles and potholes to get to the supermarket, and walked miles to find the nearest coffee shop or library. I can look EPAP members in the eye and share a frustrated sigh about the state of our transportation system and what it means to our community’s health, economic mobility, and quality of life.
I’m supportive of the renewal of the gas tax, and cautiously supportive of Metro’s transportation bond if it includes Regional Youth Pass. I will continue to advocate for budgetary alignment of PBOT’s capital project investments, vision zero goals, and equity goals as I have done the past several years in my time on the city’s transportation bureau and budget advisory committee.
I centered transportation justice as one of my core issues in my “Rethinking Public Safety” policy plan (sarah2020.com/publicsafety). We’ve seen traffic fatalities continue to rise despite passing the Vision Zero resolution back in 2015. This is a preventable epidemic that disproportionately burdens East Portland residents, especially those who are low-income, transit-dependent, people of color, disabled, young and old.
I plan to focus on acquisition of ODOT’s orphaned highways and in doing so, establish community-led development policy that prevents displacement and promotes environmental justice even as we make investments in the high-risk communities along these corridors. These areas—defined by stakeholders and frontline communities would assess equity in public investments (e.g. local tax revenue vs. local tax expenditures); define community benefits for development in those areas; and inform community-based housing stabilization and development priorities and investment needs including but not limited to community land trusts, rent stabilization, co-ops, homeownership programs, and investments to reduce utility costs, food access, and tree canopy. This would be financed, in part, through closing of URAs where they aren’t needed or useful and could be applied linearly (as opposed to by district) for redevelopment of “orphaned highways” such as Powell Boulevard and 82nd Avenue.
5. If you are elected, what is your vision of East Portland a decade from now? What is your strategy to get us there?
I sincerely value East Portland not as a problem to be dealt with but as one of the most diverse and vibrant parts of town, and the neighborhoods with the greatest opportunity for leading on climate justice for the next generation of Portlanders.
East Portland has never had a Mayor who used her own personal, lived experiences to inform policymaking and investment priorities. I see thriving, intergenerational, ecologically sustainable communities prospering in East Portland with the appropriate reinvestment coupled with meaningful anti-displacement and community empowerment initiatives. I’m so deeply grateful for organizations including Unite Oregon, Rosewood Initiative, East County Rising and the East Portland Action Plan who are building political power to realize their vision. As Mayor, I look forward to finding opportunities for community empowerment to ensure we achieve this vision.
We have everything we need to begin solving our most pressing problems today by harnessing our resources and organizing our communities into a formidable force for change. Despite the scale of the challenges we face, I have the knowledge, networks, priorities, values, and vision we need to accomplish a lot very quickly. We need a leader who knows the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk; a leader with the know-how to harness our resources and empower our communities into a formidable force for change. Together, with our collective skills, we can create the change that Portland desperately needs.
A key part of my strategy to get there lies in the sort of campaign I have been able to run. Because of my participation in the Open and Accountable Elections program, I have been able to spend my campaigning time working closely with community groups, including many in East Portland, instead of calling up wealthy, downtown donors for big checks. While my opponent has collected numerous four- and five-figure donations, I’ve received over 2000 donations with an average size of $30. This means that, when elected to office, I won’t be beholden to real estate developers, downtown business interests, or others promoting austerity politics or inequitable housing policies that will disproportionately hurt East Portland’s vulnerable populations. Instead, I will be beholden to everyday Portlanders, especially those involved with treasured community institutions like the East Portland Action Plan, and I will be accountable to providing the full weight of the mayor’s office towards finding the resources and bully pulpit necessary to fully implement EPAP’s vision.