Candidates prioritize crime, homelessness during forum
City, county and legislative candidates put their focus on crime and homelessness during the Gresham Chamber of Commerce candidates forum on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Twelve candidates — representing Gresham City Council, Multnomah County Chair, and two legislative races — joined in the event held at Persimmon Country Club.
In attendance were:
n Candidates for House District 49: Rep. Zach Hudson, D-Troutdale, and Troutdale Mayor Randy Lauer, running as a Republican.
n Candidates for House District 50: State Rep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham, and Amelia Salvador, running as a Republican.
n Multnomah County Chair: County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, and incumbent Jessica Vega Pederson.
n Gresham Mayor: Incumbent Travis Stovall (unopposed);
n Gresham City Council Candidates: Cathy Keathley, Eddy Morales, Jerry Hinton, Mario Palmero and Janine Gladfelter.
Each of the candidates gave four-minute opening remarks, followed by brief question-and-answer sessions, and final candidate statements.
HOUSE DISTRICT 49
First up were the state representative candidates running for House District 49, which included Rep. Hudson, running as Democrat and Lauer, running as a Republican.
"I have been on (the Troutdale) council since 2016 because I felt a calling to give back to my community," said Troutdale Mayor Lauer, who is now running for state office. "Two years into it I feel the same calling to step up again, I feel like East County and by extension Oregon deserves the absolute best representation. I feel that one party rule in Oregon is not the way to go and we need a balance."
Lauer was referencing the hold Democrats have on the Governor's office and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.
Lauer, running as a Republican against incumbent Hudson, touted a need for novel ideas in Salem and relief for business owners and working class families. Lauer also mentioned that he and Hudson had come into an agreement avoid negative campaigning.
With that, Hudson took the stage to list his accomplishments and the work he had done to assist Oregonians during the pandemic including business owners. "We passed bills that helped renters, homeowners and bills that helped landowners," Hudson said. "We increased the amount of loans available through Business Oregon to help businesses get through the pandemic and get back stronger."
Hudson also shined a spotlight on the funding he has brought to East County to combat youth violence and gang diversion and prevention, which would continue to be an issue discussed during the forum.
HOUSE DISTRICT 50
Next up were Rep. Ruiz, a Democrat, and Salvador, the Republican challenge in House District 50.
Salvador, a commercial real estate broker and small business owner, focused her opening remarks bemoaning the homelessness issue and escalation in property crimes and violent crimes, which she claims has made her neighborhood unrecognizable from two years ago.
"I have had enough of driving down Powell Boulevard and seeing a woman pull down her pants and defecate right there on the sidewalk in front of the post office," Salvador said in her fiery remarks to the Gresham Chamber. "We have to fear for our lives and fear for our safety just to do our jobs."
Ruiz responded in turn acknowledging the threat to public safety and assuring those in attendance that it was an issue he felt deeply about.
"Living in the neighborhood of Rockwood I can tell you that safety was one of the biggest concerns of ours growing up. We didn't know what was going to happen, hearing sirens or hearing gun shots." Ruiz said. "Frankly I fear for that even more being a father. I want to make sure that my daughter grows up in a community in where it is safe for her to play with her friends in park."
Like Hudson, Ruiz mentioned the strides being made in curbing youth violence and crime.
For the Gresham City Council candidates, crime, homelessness and policing continued to be the main topic of discussion and ammunition for those looking to unseat incumbents.
"We all see the increase of crime and homelessness and I am afraid that we will look like Portland if something isn't done now," said Keathley, who is running against Morales for the Gresham Council Position No. 2. "I want to be your next city councilor so I can reverse this downward spiral."
Keathley also had strong words in her opening speech against her opponent Morales, claiming he has made the council a place for politically driven initiatives and has shutdown debate when opinions swayed from his own. Keathley and Hinton both stated that a status quo in this year's election will exacerbate Gresham's homelessness and escalation of crime.
City Council incumbents Morales, Palmero and Gladfelter each emphasized the work the council has done to support law enforcement. "I have been working on community safety since I worked at the Gresham Police activities league in the early 1990s," Morales said during his opening remarks. "We need to be focusing [on] tackling the immediate needs of our communities and the root causes of crime."
Morales also mentioned allocating $5.2 million in American Rescue Plan Funds toward public safety.
Councilor Palmero, running against Hinton for Council Position no. 4, also mentioned Gresham's programs of providing shelter for the city's houseless population, and providing wrap-around services so those individuals could continue to be housed into the future.
Multnomah County Chair candidates Sharon Meieran and Jessica Vega Pederson both ran down their list of accomplishments and shared their goals for the county.
"Being here in Gresham and having lived in outer east Portland, I know that often times that Multnomah County considers what is happening in East County as an afterthought," Vega Pederson said. "My commitment to you, in becoming the Multnomah County Chair would be to have true engagement with our East County cities, our unincorporated areas and Gresham. I know that we need to work together in order to address these problems."
Although Meieran said she had respect for the Vega Pederson's work during her time as County Chair, she also described the difference between the two candidates as night and day. "The main difference between myself and Jessica is that I feel that we are going in the wrong direction," Meieran said. "I am an ER doctor and in the ER we triage. We actually act on crisis when they come through our door, we do multiple things at once and then we put people on a road to recovery once we resuscitate them."
Meieran's main priorities include put resources into mental health and addiction treatment, along with public safety. Another top issue for Meieran would be ending homelessness through Built for Zero, a data driven strategy to get to zero people living outside.
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