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Voters must pass the Metro housing measure and champion solutions to ensure there is affordable housing for every Oregonian

COURTESY PHOTO - Cameron WhittenOur society has been changed forever by the novel coronavirus.

This pandemic has sent shockwaves that show the cracks in our system are actually chasms. Growing inequality, homelessness and broken health care systems are continuing to threaten the vision of the thriving Oregon we want to see come to fruition. We need bold leadership and bold solutions in order to change course.

Hundreds of thousands of working families and vulnerable people in Oregon are facing uncertain futures through no fault of their own.

This ongoing and ever-changing emergency has made one thing absolutely clear. We need bolder policy solutions that protect working families and our most vulnerable communities.

Congress recently took action by passing a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package. Unlike the 2008 economic bailout — which primarily benefited big corporations and banks — this legislation featured significant provisions to bring immediate support to unemployed and vulnerable Americans. We've also seen how a re-thinking of stimulus funds could make a difference locally, thanks to recent investments for small businesses by the city of Portland.

This is only the start of the re-shifting of economic priorities we need to ensure we emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.

We need to take a good look at our systems and realize that we've always had the ability to make bold policy decisions to address our most critical issues. It's unfortunate that it's taken a global pandemic to show that we've simply lacked the political courage.

For example, our Metro regional government faced pressure from coordinated opposition to remove from the May 19 ballot a historic measure to fund homeless services throughout the Portland region. This opposition (which includes the Portland Tribune editorial board) runs counter to the type of action we need to take right now. It is more important now than ever to defend and do what is right.

We must pass this measure, and fearlessly champion effective solutions to ensure there is affordable housing for every Oregonian. Housing saves lives and dramatically strengthens the resiliency of our entire society — especially in times like these.

And we're not done after the May 19 election. We must act boldly to end ineffective anti-camping policies, guarantee legal representation for renters and homeowners facing eviction and foreclosure, provide affordable housing and health care for all and to realize just how quickly we can take these kinds of urgent actions.

Together as Oregonians, we've had a history of fighting for and winning progressive victories. Now, more than ever, we need that leadership and spirit.

All of our lives are depending on it.

Cameron Whitten is a community activist, nonprofit executive and candidate for Metro Council District 5, which includes much of Northeast, North and Northwest Portland. He can be reached at

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