Wheeler talks homelessness, election violence at press conference
On the heels of announcing a program that provides $500 Visa gift cards to Portlanders impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and in the midst of another coronavirus spike, Mayor Ted Wheeler took questions from the media on
Monday, Oct. 26, ranging from the proposed police oversight board to the city's homelessness issues and possible election-time violence.
He spoke just over one week before the Tuesday, Nov. 3, general election.
Shortly before the mayor's media availability, opposing mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone released an open letter to Wheeler over police, houselessness and housing. It was in regard to recent articles detailing the Portland Police Bureau's record of "criminalizing poverty," including a story in The Oregonian that said approximately half of all people arrested in Portland in recent years are homeless.
In the letter, Iannarone penned a three-step approach to addressing what she says is "the outrageous over-policing of houseless people and the corresponding massive waste."
During the press conference, Wheeler was asked for his thoughts on the seemingly never-ceasing issue of homelessness in the city.
"I believe we need to make a sizable investment and a quick investment into getting people off the streets," Wheeler said. "The Oregonian article over the weekend highlighted that housing remains paramount and we have a dire shortage of low-income and workforce housing in this community."
He said, with more financial resources coming in, there's a chance to further allocate funds towards getting those experiencing homelessness into low-income housing.
"I believe there are rules, there are regulations that we could disband during this time of crisis for the specific purpose of building some large number of low-income housing units in this community," Wheeler said. "I would argue with the resources we have coming in, the question I would ask isn't 'why don't we?' — my question is what would it take to build 5,000 units or be on track to build 5,000 units within a three-year period?"
Also in the media briefing, Wheeler said an announcement is coming in the next day or two about specific interagency plans for any potential election night violence.
"The goal is for all of us to move a little bit, for all of us to compromise a little bit so that we can have a solid mutual aid agreement that we all agree to in advance — that we are all on the same page and we won't have to stop and have discussions or deliberations about whose policies or whose directives are in effect and whose are not," he said. "Everything is on the table in these discussions, from the use of crowd dispersal techniques to the question of federal deputization, to the role of state versus county versus local law enforcement."
Oregon has been named one of five states at the highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, according to a report which reviews the latest data on right-wing militia organizations across the country.
The joint report comes from Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a crisis mapping project, and MilitiaWatch, which researches U.S. militias.
Groups described as militias that have been active in Oregon since the beginning of the summer include Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, III%ers, Boogaloo Bois and Sons of Liberty, according to the report.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found at here.
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