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Opinion column: Portland's newly reelected mayor reflects on the challenges facing the city.

Despite significant challenges caused by COVID-19, people across the country turned out in record numbers to make their voices heard and to honor our democratic tradition. Our city and nation clearly made a stand for what we are for — honesty, decency, respect and a commitment to the common good.PMG FILE PHOTO - TED WHEELER

I am grateful to every Portlander who turned in a ballot. Thank you for helping make critical decisions about our shared future. And thank you for the opportunity to continue serving as your mayor.

This election added to the uncertainty, anxiety and fear all of us are feeling in the face of a pandemic and the resulting recession, hard and necessary conversations about racial justice and police reform, and ideologically driven opportunists spreading violence on our streets. We now must move past the violence and turn toward a better future, a future where Portlanders use their voices in a safe way.

The future is unknown, but our community's values should provide us with confidence in our ability to work together to overcome the challenges we face.

I am hopeful about our newly elected president and vice president. The restoration of federal leadership on housing, climate and public health means we once again will have a supporter instead of an opponent in the federal administration. We no longer have to live in a time where division, distrust and fear feed the undercurrent that had been steadily tearing at the fabric of our existence.

And I am very hopeful about our new city council. We have a lot of work to do locally. I am committed to working closely with Commissioners-elect Carmen Rubio and Mingus Mapps and with Commissioners Hardesty and Ryan to ensure we hit the ground running with clear priorities and a strong plan in the new year. And I know that Commissioners Ryan, Hardesty, Eudaly and Fritz will work with me to make sure our work continues between now and then.

Your city council is united by a deep conviction in shared values: Black Lives Matter. The urgent need to restore a safe climate. Safe and affordable housing as a right. Economic opportunity for all. Every child deserves a strong start in preschool and a great education. But we're not there yet.

The truth is our social safety net is frayed. But it can be mended. We can be part of the solution. For the next several weeks I intend to listen. I intend to listen to people in the community, to my colleagues and to friends and foes alike. From that listening will come collaboration with the new city council and leaders across greater Portland.

Together we will refocus our police on the most serious crimes by transforming our public safety system to address the root causes of crime with prevention, education and support services. And we will implement the will of voters by creating a new, more powerful, more independent and better resourced police accountability system to ensure everyone in Portland is safer. To be successful, we owe it to our police officers to include their voices and expertise in this important conversation.

We will respond to the expanding pandemic and do everything we can to help the people and businesses that are suffering as a result. And we will continue our fight to protect our planet from climate change while creating new jobs and innovative solutions that make our community more resilient for everyone.

We will also find more compassionate and humane ways to help people move from our sidewalks into places that are warm, safe and provide access to hygiene and services.

The last four years have shown what we can achieve together. I'm proud of our response to the pandemic. And I'm proud of the progress we've made on housing, homelessness, economic opportunity and climate change.

As I look to 2021, I am filled with gratitude and with hope. This is not a perfect place, and we have many historical inequities to repair, but this is a very special place.

I know we will continue to rise to the challenge of the pandemic, doing what is necessary to keep ourselves and each other safe. And we will be intentional with this opportunity to build back better and do right by future generations of Portlanders.

Portlanders turned out in record numbers to uphold the power of our democracy. The Portland I love, and the Portland I believe in, is full of people who care for each other, care for the planet, and are excited and ready to do their part so everyone is safe, everyone has access to opportunity and everyone can thrive.

It's been a privilege to serve as your mayor. To those who voted for me, thank you. To those who didn't, I respect your choice and commit to doing my best to serve all of Portland, to listening to you, and to helping us come together to create a better future.

Ted Wheeler has been reelected as mayor of Portland.


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