Q&A: Portland City Council Position 2 candidates open up
What is the best and quickest thing the City Council can do, as soon as possible, to reduce the number of people living in minimal shelter outside?
Sandeep Bali — We have an influx of homelessness from other cities that simply don't tolerate it. Until we turn off the spigot we will never get ahead of the problem. That has to be the first step.
We need to end "urban camping." Current encampments need to be cleared and the city needs to get serious about keeping them cleared.
We need to focus on treatment. As a specialty pharmacist, I see its effectiveness with my patients every day. Shelter beds and rehabilitation programs should be easily accessible for those who are ready to accept help.
I think the current approach of the city council is completely wrong. I disagree with my opponent, incumbent Dan Ryan, who is working to place "safe rest villages" all over Portland. These types of "housing first" initiatives always fail because they do not address the underlying problems.
A.J. McCreary — They can help mobilize the resources of the City, state and federal governments to fulfill the goals of the #3000Challenge put forth by Street Roots and a long list of organizations and leaders who know that the answer to homelessness is housing. By using proven models for housing and services, we can make use of empty apartment units and hotels to immediately provide stable housing with wraparound supports for people who are living outdoors. This approach is far more dignified and effective than mass sheltering — think to yourself, which would you prefer: having a room and a bathroom that's all yours with a door that locks, or sleeping in a room of 50 or more people where you can't come and go as you please or bring your pets and belongings?
They can also stop the People for Portland ballot measure that would yank 75% of vital funds from the voter-approved Metro Supportive Services & Housing Bond. People for Portland is using this moment of unrest following a deadly pandemic with devastating economic consequences to undermine what little good progress we have made on homelessness to serve the interests of those who don't want to have to look at people who are living on the street. Pulling the rug out now will reduce the mental health and substance abuse resources that people need to get back on their feet. This ballot measure would effectively evict those folks who have been able to successfully get into permanent housing from the May 2020 measure's funds.
Dan Ryan — It is not compassionate, safe, or effective public policy to allow unsanctioned encampments.
Further, our continued enabling of untreated addictions under the misapprehension that we are helping has to stop. Without intervention and treatment, more people will end up like my brother Tim -dead on our streets because he could not get the help he needed.
City Council has the responsibility to move people off the streets as fast as possible —
• Faster progress building safe, clean living spaces.
• Clearing roadblocks to building more affordable housing.
• Increasing addiction and mental health treatment access.
Renee Stephens — City Council should offer incentives to owners of vacant properties in Portland to house homeless people. Then we need to follow up with compassionate care crews to support people in said housing and people who are housed in this manner must submit to mental health and addiction services.
What is the best and quickest thing the City Council can do, as soon as possible, to reduce gun violence?
Sandeep Bali — Slashing the police budget and dismantling the Gun Violence Reduction Team was a huge mistake. In the face of record-breaking crime and violence, the city council has started to backtrack on this terrible idea, but it's too little too late.
We need to rebuild our police department with the best and brightest. Programs like "Portland Street Response" are fine, but they are not a substitute for trained officers who can deal with violent crime and life-threatening situations.
A.J. McCreary — Everything we do on responding to gun violence in our community needs to be focused on the root causes of gun violence. Right now, City Council can start resourcing our communities so that we have less community members who are acting out of desperation and a lack of options. City Council can do that by investing in affordable housing, schools, parks, clean water, community centers, fireless transit, street lights and transit. A well-resourced community is a safe community.
The data is grim and horrific: Portland, like many cities across the nation, has seen an alarming spike in gun violence during the pandemic. It is critical that the City acts on the urgent need to stop the untimely and senseless deaths of our community members, and the fear it weaves into the social fabric of our city.
As a long time mutual aid advocate, I know and understand first hand that to change community safety outcomes we need to invest in community and replace depleted resources. We need to radically reimagine public safety. Another way that City leadership can do that right now is by working hard to make Portland Street Response the best responder program it can possibly be, and that takes sustainable funding.
Dan Ryan — City Council can and should do more.
My priorities will include securing long-term investments in community-based programming that shows success and additional funding for new programs that need to be tested before we scale them. We must build trust between those communities most impacted by gun violence and law enforcement.
I will also work to strengthen Portland's gun safety laws and challenge our state legislature to back us up on common-sense measures to curtail the supply of military-style weapons by civilians, limiting magazine size, and requiring basic gun safety education for every licensed user.
Renee Stephens — Label everyone as what is Valuable.
Do you support or oppose a freeze on Portland Clean Energy Benefit Fund spending until questions raised about its management by the City Auditor's Office and much higher than predicted tax collections are resolved? If so, what are your reform proposals?
Sandeep Bali — I support a freeze. The city needs to get serious about running background checks and setting strict guidelines on how to perform background checks on recipients of grant money.
A.J. McCreary — Definitely oppose.
The City Auditor's report mentioned here outlined the needed accountability and assessment measures, and the PCEF team and Commissioner Rubio immediately welcomed the results and laid out a strong plan and achievable timeline to meet those goals.
PCEF dollars are already supporting projects that deliver on its promise to combat climate change, create green jobs and build resiliency within the city's historically marginalized communities: Human Solutions was funded to lower energy bills through weatherization upgrades of deeply affordable housing in East Portland. APANO and Community Energy Project are adding solar panels to BIPOC Portlanders' homes. Constructing Hope is diversifying the green workforce and Depave is replacing heavily concreted spaces with trees, gardens, and native plants. Highly-efficient heat & cooling pumps are being distributed to help prevent future heat wave deaths in low-income homes. We have to wonder whether the media and Portland Business Alliance frenzy about Portland Clean Energy Fund would be so intense if this were not a program created by, led by, and prioritized for Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and working-class Portlanders. PCEF is not in crisis and it's time to re-center the narrative from big corporations who don't want to pay their fair share for climate action to recognizing that this nationally-acclaimed climate justice program is the first of its kind, a source of Portland pride, and a model for climate action that we all need to support.
Dan Ryan — The Portland Clean Energy Fund is just getting started and all new programs have some implementation bumps. I am confident that Commissioner Rubio is making any necessary adjustments to ensure this groundbreaking program delivers for Portland. Like all new programs, I will expect some edits in early implementation to reach goals. We need to stay focused on shared community goals and track the key metrics: carbon reduction, improvements in neighborhood energy infrastructure, and local jobs created.
Renee Stephens — I support the freeze. While I support incentivizing clean energy projects and social justice initiatives, from my experience, corruption, and the misappropriation of funds are something that is rampant in our city. I believe that if we want to create meaningful and substantive change, we first have to establish a new agreement that places the care of people and life above all else. We are too focused on the movement of money and not focused enough on just caring for people.
Portland voters will be asked to vote on a City Charter reform measure this November that could include hiring a professional city manager to oversee the bureaus; having the mayor elected at large but the other council members elected in geographic districts; and adopting an election process other than winner-take-all. Which charter changes do you support or oppose?
Sandeep Bali — I think the current debate over our form of city government is fretting over semantics. Seattle and San Francisco have district representation and it has not solved their problems. Portland is in crisis now because of years of bad policies, many of which were approved unanimously. I hope to bring a different voice to council.
A.J. McCreary — I do support changing our form of government. It doesn't make sense for City Council to oversee city bureaus and services that we may have no issue area expertise on. We need to be able to focus on setting policies and leaving the administrative oversight of city services to, for example, a city manager hired and fired by a majority of City Councilors. I don't have strong personal preferences for exactly how this reorganization is structured so long as our Charter Commission has been able to hear from a wide, diverse spread of Portlanders on which method makes the most sense for our city. In addition to the form of government, I agree with the Charter Commission that the City Council ought to be larger and representative of geographic districts. Voters should also be able to rank local candidates in order of preference.
Dan Ryan — I have voted in favor of charter reform twice before and will support it again. Portland needs a strong mayor and a city manager -and I support expanding the council for broader representation. We also need to be sure we bring systemic change to our city bureaus. We have 23 bureaus and multiple offices with their own bureau-like infrastructure. We will need to sunset, consolidate, and streamline, so the thousands of talented people who work for our city have the latitude to help us work smarter and get better results for Portlanders.
Renee Stephens — The format of our government is not as important as its' integrity. Laws and regulations don't matter if the people who are applying them are willing to disregard them for money or any other incentive. Before we begin reconfiguring our system we need to establish why we are running society. I believe that caring for Life above all else should be that agreement. This agreement will inform our decisions and direct our activities as a single focused goal.
What is the biggest problem facing Portland that no one is talking about?
Sandeep Bali — The trash. It's an embarrassment that the city has allowed so much garbage to accumulate all over Portland. Homeless encampments are part of the problem, but the bigger picture is that it's very difficult to dispose of trash in Portland. Transfer station access is inconvenient and expensive, so unwanted furniture and construction debris is being dumped on corners all over the city.
A.J. McCreary — Climate change. Last year's heat wave was deadly, and we're just going to keep on having severe weather events. Portland brands itself as a very sustainable and green city when in reality, our most vulnerable communities are at risk should the next severe weather event happen. In reality, our carbon emissions are getting worse and our water is unsafe. We need a Commissioner who will take the bold action needed to move us into being a truly sustainable City. I'm the best person for the job.
Dan Ryan — Portland's housing supply in general has been too low for decades and our policies and practices are some of the most challenging for builders in the county and in our state. Truly affordable housing for essential workers, creative artists and seniors who simply want to age in place, is being built thanks to the generosity of taxpayers and we must continue to raise that supply. Yet, we must improve our services to private builders who have slowed construction in Portland due to obstacles that can be eliminated beginning with a much-needed major overhaul of our city's permitting system. I am leading this effort with Commissioner Mapps and am hopeful a transition team will be deployed to implement the vision of a much-needed streamlined system to improve our growing customer dissatisfaction. On a similar note, we have further depleted our low-income housing stock with frustrating red tape facing our Mom-and-Pop Landlords. We should have protected small business housing providers when we protected renters. We gave lots of protection to renters, including eviction protections and significant relocation assistance, but we failed to provide meaningful protection to the small businesses-people who are renting one duplex, or mother-in-law units/ADUs. We've experienced a significant loss of Portland's residential rental homes in the last few years, and the rate of loss is increasing.
Renee Stephens — Corruption in our trusted private and public institutions (e.g., the legal system, our medical system, the political system.)
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