Portland has long been a progressive city, from climate change to transportation to small business development. Our city's leadership has long championed the ideals of progressivism, but for who?
The lens through which we view our city matters, and in order to be radically inclusive we must utilize the lens of the most oppressed and marginalized communities. It is not enough to simply talk about more dedicated bike lanes when we have children and seniors walking and rolling through the middle of the street in East Portland because there are no sidewalks. It is not enough to simply talk about more affordable housing when we have families and individuals that are so impoverished that even a completely rent-free home is not enough to change the trajectory of their lives for the better. It is not enough to talk about multimodal transportation options when many individuals can't come up with the $2.50 needed for the cheapest TriMet day pass.
If you look at the crisis that has exploded in our streets, what do you see? I see myself, my family, my friends — all of whom at any given moment could be a job loss, stress-induced mental health crisis or trauma-driven encounter with drugs or alcohol away from living on the streets. But even deeper than that, within an already pronounced crisis, I see people who are marginalized three or four times over beyond being homeless.
It's not enough to solve part of the problem; we must aim to solve the entire problem. To do so requires us to sit in a space where our best efforts, as we've conceived them, may not be enough. We must then find the strength and innovation needed to go further. To do so requires us to realize that we sometimes miss the mark.
Even in being a champion for marginalized communities, I have sometimes missed the mark. Whether missing the mark means that my passion was misunderstood or my sense of urgency pushed people outside of their comfort zones to a place where they didn't think collaboration was possible, I have missed the mark before. But I don't let those moments define me, and we can't let our city's collective missed opportunities define Portland, either. Just as I have committed to go further and be better, so must we commit to go further and be better as a city — together.
How will our work be centered in the lived experiences of underserved communities, policies based on the desires of underrepresented communities, delivering results that directly address both the tangible and intangible needs of marginalized communities? It is not enough to simply believe in equity or speak about progressivism — we must live through the ideals of social justice where we focus on equity of opportunity and outcome instead of only the appearance of equity in the distribution of resources.
As a single mother who raised my Black son here in Portland, I learned how to fight for what was right and what was just. As a congressional staffer for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, I learned how to read a multi-trillion-dollar budget to find federal dollars and advocate for resources that were needed right here in Portland. As a county commissioner, I learned about introspection, collaboration and compromise. It is my desire to take all of those things I've learned over the last 30 years on the ground fighting for frontline communities in Portland to City Hall to go further and do better. We have the talent, technology and resources to make Portland a shining city on the hill. The only question is, will we rise to the occasion?
I am the experienced, collaborative, creative leader our city needs for the work ahead. I have a proven track record of success and I am not afraid of a tough fight. I believe our community needs to be fully prepared for the fight that is going to be required for us to find our way back from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am going to be the leader that ensures that we don't just return to normal; we must return to better.
When I look at my two granddaughters, I can only dream about a Portland where they will grow and flourish alongside every other child from every other corner of the city regardless of the cards life may have dealt them. Any other alternative is too unbearable to imagine; any other alternative is not representative of what we can accomplish together.
I am asking for your vote on Aug. 11, and your partnership in the years ahead, as your next Portland City Commissioner. You can learn more about my accomplishments, my priorities, and my supporters at votelorettasmith.com.
Loretta Smith is a former Multnomah County Commissioner who is running for a seat on the Portland City Council. A special election was called for Aug. 11 to replace Commissioner Nick Fish, who died in January. Smith's opponent, Dan Ryan, also was offered the opportunity to write a column.
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