Candidate Spotlight: Ronault (Polo) Catalani

Candidate Spotlight: Ronault (Polo) Catalani

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 2

Thank you to Ronault (Polo) Catalani for attending our March 5th Candidate Conversation for Candidates for Portland City Commissioner.  Don’t miss candidates for Portland City Mayor on March 31st, 2020!

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Answers to Neighborhood Questions:

1. Homelessness is a crisis in all of Portland, but has disproportionately negative effects in SE and East Portland. Explain how you will address this situation in a compassionate and expedient manner, balancing the needs of both the housed and houseless.

Candidate Answer: I lived on SE 57th Place off of Duke Street a couple of blocks and across the park from your Darlington-Brentwood Neighborhood Association office until 2015. Every morning I biked 11 miles to work downtown then took Bus 17 back home. I’ll save discussing that route’s workday inefficiency and week unavailability for later.

Portlanders without household to live and love, without a place to sleep, are a daily worry at a much higher level of urgency for East Portland neighbors than this an issue is for inner city residents. It is so extreme for exactly the same reasons all our east-end urban problems are so much bigger and seem so unresolvable – and that is because of inequitable way very valuable City services are distributed across town.

In short, earlier incorporated parts of Portland have benefitted from long-term investments in money and downtown focus. The farther out east we live, the less there’s available for maintenance, let alone new investment. Our city core, as beautiful and cool as it is, gobbles up an enormous amount of Portland, state, and federal tax dollars. Meaning that the first place to look for a more equitable distribution of the costs and benefits of being a Portland will require neighborhoods used to a lot of attention, to get less. This requires getting East Portland representation on City Council.

Unhoused Portlanders and neighbors distressed by their increasing numbers is a similar kind of urban planning problem.

On the positive side of this current state of affairs, East Portlanders have demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness in dealing with daily problems, with or no help from the City. My best far Eastside work has been in designing, developing, then delivering solutions to neighborhood needs with partnerships of what little or large City investment we can draw plus local business, neighborhood and faith association, community organizations and schools. We have used our love for where we live, work, and play, we’ve even used our anger to bring us together, demonstrate the change self-reliance makes possible, and use this commitment to leverage City resources.

Central to the fix in this mix will be the participation of houseless neighbors. Central to their commitment to caring for neighborhoods residents care so much about, is peer community members and peer agencies organizing homeless folks into responsible agencies. Agencies that can bring their political influence and their revenue streams into the mix. From there, we build partnerships for determining where and how all of us can live together. The fix is always in the mix.

2. With the implementation of the Residential Infill Project, there will be a lot of new development in areas with larger lots like SE and East Portland. How will you create opportunities for and encourage the development of affordable and accessible housing, while also guarding against displacement and gentrification?

Candidate Answer: The Residential Infill Project will bring opportunities for developing affordable and accessible housing so long as the City of Portland’s policy leaders and urban planners lay the foundation for equitable housing, transportation, recreation, environmental, and public safety services. More than a foundation, this must be a business plan with it’s own rigorous policy and practice enforcement regime. 

City governance has always been weak, while big business interests have always benefitted from the silo-ing of City bureau expertise into almost separate jurisdictions. Each bureau with its own commissioner focused on distinct policy and service goals.    

East Portland residential infill policy must be a created then delivered with a blend of big and local business, downtown policy experts and neighborhood activists, faith and community organizations. Sustainable neighborhoods, families nurturing kids and elders living in place, can only be built and maintained by this mix of motivations.  

3. SE and East Portland have by far the greatest number of unimproved roads in all of Portland. Brentwood-Darlington alone has over 4 miles. How will you rectify this infrastructure imbalance without cost-burdening an already historically underserved area?

Candidate Answer: Southeast and East Portland’s unpaved streets may be a problem or not. This is an issue for local homeowners to determine. I grew up in a neighborhood where grass met uneven pavement and our brothers and cousins enjoyed the kind-of-country feel of it. I’m pretty sure our parents appreciated the lower property taxes. 

When we moved to Parkrose however, our unlit streets and pond-sized mud puddles made it dangerous for our kids walk to and from school, from October to March. So dangerous that we neighbors organized “walking school buses” with flashlights and yellow rain slickers. Again, as I suggested in both answers above, Portlanders’ cost-burdening, same as our benefit-sharing must be central to an equitable City budgeting process. A process that must be a deliberately blended and binding partnership of big and local business, downtown policy experts and neighborhood activists, faith and community organizations.

4. Portland Bureau of Transportation has been installing many traffic calming measures and lowering speed limits all over SE and East Portland. How will you provide the means to enforce these new measures, despite staffing level challenges?

Candidate Answer: East and Southeast Portland’s traffic calming policies and practices can only be enforced by deliberately blended and binding partnerships of local business, downtown traffic engineering experts, local businesses, and neighborhood activists, faith and community organizations. Government can only deliver certain services well, local traffic regulation can be delegated then outsourced to those who’re most committed to our neighborhoods. There are growing bodies of evidence on the cost-effectiveness of electronic speed monitoring measures, as compared to sworn law enforcement officers sitting curbside in their idling police cars.

5. Garbage and graffiti are ongoing issues in SE and East Portland. What will you do to take the burden of neighborhood clean-up off the shoulders of volunteers?

Candidate Answer: Garbage and graffiti. Please see City/neighborhood binding partnership agreements above.

6. In several areas of SE, illegal activity occurs on a daily basis, often for years at a time. Neighbors continuously report this activity, only to be told that the individual is, in short, not worth arresting. Many of these individuals have had multiple contacts with the police. How will you address the revolving door in Portland’s criminal justice system that allows these chronic conditions to continue?

Candidate Answer: Chronic illegal and otherwise societally erosive conduct in our neighborhoods are more effectively addressed, managed, and mitigated by partnerships addressed in section on homeless East Portlanders above. Portland Police Bureau is good at many-many things, but our public safety officers and our police precincts are not resourced for to manage or mitigate this kind of behavior.

7. Much of the Public transportation in SE and East Portland is infrequent and does not serve large swaths of the area. This creates an imbalance in which our neighbors are forced to drive more and pay a larger portion of the associated costs and taxes. Even neighbors who prefer to take transit, can only do so in certain directions and often not on the weekend. How will you work to rectify the imbalance in transit access in our area?

Candidate Answer: About public transportation ineffectiveness or unavailability, please see how I began this discussion. And please note how I’ve answered other questions about far eastside urgencies and urban planning problems really requiring a much better blend of downtown experts plus the actual recipients of often mis-planned City policies misdelivered and City services.