The Memo asked City Council candidates Loretta Smith and Jo Ann Hardesty six questions about east Portland issues. Their answers to the first three, published Aug. 30, are here. Answers to the last three are below.
4. Since annexation to Portland in the mid-1980s, the unincorporated neighborhoods east of 82nd Avenue have been slow to receive full city services and currently face gentrification issues. Other than an urban renewal area about to expire, and dozens of plans for east Portland that have been created over the last 30 years, what’s your priority to invest in the area?
Smith: Investing in east Portland is a top priority for me. For decades, I’ve seen people of color and lower-income residents be pushed out of the city core further and further east. I’m dedicated to bringing jobs, transportation investments and other enhancements to this neighborhood, including:
• Bringing a major employer to locate a new facility in east Portland, delivering family-wage jobs so residents can work, live and play in their neighborhood.
• Adding more sidewalks, safe crossings and bike lanes.
• Supporting the Division Transit Project that will bring faster, more reliable bus service from downtown to east Portland, while also be advocating for more north-south connections.
Hardesty: We’ve heard a lot of buzz about congestion pricing, but what people really leave out of the conversation is how this will significantly impact east Portlanders who have already been pushed out to the outskirts of the city due to rising housing costs. After housing, transportation is the second highest cost burden for any individual living in Portland.
For residents like me who live in east Portland where many of the community members rely on public transit, services need to be expanded—especially north to south—and I would work with TriMet and Metro to ensure adequate funding is provided. East Portland also deserves investment from the City of Portland to build necessary sidewalks.
Small businesses make up 87 percent of the businesses in the City of Portland, yet there is little support to emerging and existing small business owners. Two critical areas where people get stuck are bonding and permitting. The city should develop a fund for small business owners where the city would cover the bond and/or permitting process for a set period, reducing the burden on the business, all the while creating more opportunities for entrepreneurial activities.
While I applaud the city for working to establish a small business advocate position, we need that individual to be deeply involved with the community to understand where the gaps are and how we can move forward. The city can also partner with organizations to encourage events that promote and highlight locally owned small businesses and build incubator spaces for upcoming small business initiatives.
5. Do you support changing election to city council by district over the current city-wide model?
Smith: Yes. It would bring more focus to the issues and challenges facing a district, such as east Portland. I think east Portland would look much different if it had a dedicated representative on City Council.
It’s worked on the Multnomah County Commission where I represent District 2 in north/northeast Portland. I’ve successfully brought resources and funding to my district, and that model can work for the City Council.
Having a district-elected city commissioner would ensure investments in jobs, infrastructure and public services within that district. Cities across the country have district-elected representatives; it’s time to make it happen here.
Hardesty: Yes—but I believe the public—not politicians needs to make that decision about how those districts are formed, how many city council positions we need, and so on. In 2021, the city will be required to put a Charter Review Commission in place, and that is when we should have a community-wide conversation about how we envision a better government for ourselves.
People need to be represented, and our current form of government does not represent all people, as they are catered to big business interests. Today, elections are primarily won by those who can raise the most money.
As a result, big business interests have a significant influence in who gets elected. East Portland makes up more than 20 percent of the voting population, yet the majority of the current City Council lives in southwest Portland. We need reduce the influence of money, and we need to ensure that everyday community members are able to run without the barriers of “viability.”
6. What makes you most qualified to be elected to city hall?
Smith: I’ve been in public service for nearly 30 years, working 21 years for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and eight as Multnomah County commissioner. I’ve been a champion for those left behind, from seniors and veterans, to young people who are disconnected from schools and jobs.
As a county commissioner, I’ve helped seniors stay in their homes and found affordable housing for veterans and for women impacted by drug use. I’ve created thousands of jobs for high school students through my Summer Works program. I led the local effort that just resulted in a $28 million federal Promise Neighborhood grant to help underserved and under-resourced students and families in the Jefferson High School cluster and Reynolds and David Douglas school districts.
Working for three years to put local funding in place and building a coalition of community partners, we demonstrated to the federal government that we deserved this five-year grant. This is new resources that will help 7,000 students graduate and set them on a path to a better future. I will bring this same collaborative approach to City Council to deliver for east Portland and the entire city.
Hardesty: I am the only candidate in this race that has served in the Navy, served in the legislature, served as a nonprofit leader and served as a community advocate. When I was a state representative between 1997 and 2001, the Oregon Legislature was Republican-controlled. To get anything done at the legislature, I had to work across the aisle and collaborate with my colleagues in a way that still aligned with my values.
Grassroots approach means working on the ground with underserved communities to achieve the best possible outcome for them, and it is a philosophy that my 28 years of experience solidly reflects. I believe we should encourage all Portlanders to have their voices heard, because I believe we make better decisions with more community input and will fight for opportunities for regular folks to get involved in decision-making.
As an elected official, I will continue to use my organizing skills to engage the people most impacted by these issues so that the decision is a collective one rather than one based on who shows up at council meetings. Bringing community members together to have input and impact city policies is the best way to push equitable change. Elected officials need to be consistent and committed to attending community planning meetings, especially when those efforts are spearheaded by the communities themselves.