Mayor Charlie Hales plans to invite the mayors of other West Coast cities to town in May or June to talk about common problems they all face, including growing income inequality and the lack of affordable housing.
Hales announced the effort during his second annual State of the City speech before the Portland City Club at noon Friday. It was one of the few new initiatives Hales unveiled during the speech, which mostly struck to the back to basics theme he promised during his successful 2012 campaign.
Among other things, Hales recapped his efforts with Commissioner Steve Novick to raise more money for street maintenance, his lobbying of the 2013 Oregon Legislature with dozens other mayors for more money for schools, and his work to implement the with the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations of police mistreatment of the mentally ill.
Hales also said he was committed to persuading Trader Joe's to return to the redevelop project at Northeast MLK Boulevard and Alberta Street. After the speech, Hales told the Portland Tribune he hopes to travel to Los Angeles next week to meet with executives of the grocery chain. They pulled out of the project after members of the African-American community complained it could increase gentrification because it lacked affordable housing.
And Hales thanks Airbnb, the San Francisco-based company that helps rent vacation spaces in private homes, for deciding to opening its North American office in Portland, creating around 160 new jobs.
Hale opened his speech by quoting a Portland Tribune editorial that praised him for not being afraid to tackle the boring stuff. He occasionally stretched the concept of basic to include relatively new issues, like equity, but primarily struck to proving city officials were committed to regaining public trust by proving they understood the need for delivering fundamental public services.
Before Hales spoke, the vast majority of City Club members voted in favor a study report that recommended a "non" vote on the proposed Portland Public Water District on the May 20 Primary Election ballot. The report also called for the creation of an appointed Portland Water and Sewer Authority that would oversee the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services. Hales said he agreed the measure should be defeated and promised the council was committed to greater oversight of the bureaus, but did not endorse the proposed authority.
City Club members repeatedly responded to Hales' comments with applause, including when he said the newest 11 members of the Portland Police Bureau were half people of color and women. They also cheered his pledge to work with the Multnomah County Commission to guarantee funding for joint programs, including the SUN Schools.
After the speech, Hales said the idea of inviting the other mayors to Portland grew out of conversations with them at a League of Mayors conference. Hales said they include Seattle Mayor Ed Murry, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Vancouver BC Mayor Gregor Robertson.