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House District 50 incumbent focuses on housing, diverting East County youth away from crime

COURTESY PHOTO: REP. RICKI RUIZ  - RuizRep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham, is vying to retain his seat in House District 50. He will face challenger Amelia Salvador in the November general election.

Ruiz was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2020 and works for the city of Gresham's Parks and Recreation Department as the community services coordinator. In 2017 Ruiz ran and was elected to the Reynolds School District Board of Directors.

Pamplin Media Group reached out to all the candidates running in the November general election. Here are Salvador's responses, edited for space and style:

Pamplin Media Group: What experiences do you have that make you the right candidate for House District 50?

Ruiz: I have had an elected position since 2017, so I have about five years of working in local policy. Specifically at the school board, we are working with what the state gave us, and we do a lot of local policy implementation. I fell in love with that work and realized that it was with the state that we could do that work and help organizations, school districts and be a more direct service.

PMG: If reelected, what do you hope to bring to the position? What are you proud of in your first term?

Ruiz: We did a lot of tremendous work when it came to COVID-19 relief, keeping people housed and keeping our small businesses open through the resources we provided. In terms of my first term, I was part of the education committee, the human services committee and the economic and prosperity committee. We did everything we could to provide the resources to keep people housed, keep businesses afloat and keep school going, and I am very proud of that because it required everyone to be on the same page to get that work done.

PMG: How will you address the historic levels of violence in East County?

Ruiz: I have lived in Gresham all my life, 28 years. Living in the neighborhood of Rockwood, I would experience that violence and my apartment was shot up about six years ago because of a drive-by shooting. A bullet missed my sister by about a foot and having her try to go back into that kitchen was difficult for her because she was traumatized.

Before that, I had friends who were involved in gun violence and victims of it, so I was able to bring that experience to the Legislature. We were able to secure $2 million to fund the Gresham youth prevention and intervention program each biennium, which will basically provide prevention and intervention services for youth and families who are in the midst of experiencing difficulties with gun violence, gangs and addiction. Thanks to this funding the city of Gresham was able to create the Youth Services department.

PMG: Do you believe that gun regulation would help limit the violence we are seeing?

Ruiz: Yes, I think having some sort of process that is more responsible is needed. We are seeing such horrible cases across the nation. We just saw what happened in (Uvalde), Texas. There was an 18-year-old kid that just went out to get guns. And the fact of the matter is that these assault riffles that are designed for war are easily accessible.

We need to have a more rigorous ruling when it comes to these weapons. I know that we have responsible gun owners who are keeping their guns in lockers, keeping them away from other family members, and they shouldn't have to suffer the consequences of other people. But we need their cooperation to ensure that their local grocery store, school or church doesn't get shot up.

PMG: Where do you see the state fitting in to help the homelessness epidemic? What are some ways you hope to address the growing homeless population in Oregon and East County?

Ruiz: I believe that Gresham is working on homelessness differently than anyone else. We have seen that the city is intentional in relation with the people that they help, and you are seeing that in our communities. We are seeing less people living in the streets because of the way we run things in Gresham. Now, that is not the same case across the state of Oregon. And there is no question that the biggest, fundamental thing we need is housing. Without accessible, affordable and stable housing we can't combat this the way we should.

You look at the neighborhood of Rockwood, which is one of the most diverse and in need communities of the state of Oregon, the average rate for housing is $1,400. And we aren't talking about a state-of-the-art apartment, we are talking about ones that have issues. That is not OK.

I am part of the task force that addresses racial disparities in homeownership, and we found that we need affordable apartment living, but we also need to bridge the gap in homeownership. We need to educate families to be financially responsible and what it takes to be a homeowner. Without homeownership, we will be circling back to the same place we have been.

PMG: What is your opinion on abortion?

Ruiz: I am pro-choice. I am honored to have a lot of support from pro-choice organizations from around Oregon. The decision of Roe v. Wade has been fundamental when it came to abortion and reproductive care, and it is just not OK that we are taking this away. So, I am hopeful that we as a state can continue to provide that care.

PMG: Any final comments?

Ruiz: I think it is important for us, in Gresham, that we put away our differences and really look for solutions that support our Gresham residents. We live in the fourth-largest city in the state of Oregon, and we speak over 80 languages in this city. We are dealing with a housing crisis; a public safety crisis; an addiction crisis and a health care crisis. We all have to come together as a whole to look at the root issues of this and come up with a solution that works for us, all of us.

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