Candidate Spotlight: Keith Wilson

Photo courtesy of Keith Wilson

Candidate Spotlight: Keith Wilson

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 4

Thank you to Keith Wilson 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:

A note from Keith: Answers are brief and prepared for question and answer period of candidate forum. For complete information on platform and positions, please go to

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.

  • Last year 80 people died living on the Portland streets, mostly due to addiction, homicide, exposure and illnesses, often untreated because of unsafe and unhygienic conditions
  • Allowing people to camp on our streets is misguided compassion
    • Allowing people to die on our streets is not compassionate at all
  • It is made more difficult to address what is generally a local issue when homeless in-migration from outside of Oregon results in two steps backward for each success our desperately underfunded programs achieve:
  • 1st
    • We need to engage our police and justice system, not in a punitive fashion but to uphold our laws and values. Writing an abundance of citations will not solve illegal camping. For example, Boise only cited six people last year for illegal camping. However, Boise has only 61 unsheltered homeless per night versus Portland with 2,037. The difference: The Mayor, City Council, Police, Fire, justice system and homeless service agencies all work TOGETHER to communicate to homeless encampments that illegal camping is not allowed and follow up immediately and as needed. No bureaucracy, just a partnership that involves all stakeholders
  • 2nd
    • We have a moral obligation – We all love Portland and want our city to thrive. Quality of life is important for everyone and living on the streets is not a safe option. We have to act to find housing and safe shelters for the vulnerable people in it
    • Pop-Up Temporary Shelters – Everyone needs somewhere to sleep and shelter
      • Establish a network of Pop-Up Shelters (BEDDOWN) using parking garages and spaces that are left empty at night. We have dozens of these structures throughout the city. Combining our public and private resources could provide a safe and clean alternative to sleeping on the street. Without a home or shelter there is no way to protect yourself or your limited possessions, to sleep without fear or to get truly rested and ready for the next day. For a person already struggling with mental illness, addiction or trying to keep a job, the lack of sleep only aggravates an already difficult situation. Pop-Up Shelters help provide stability each night and a steppingstone out of homelessness. We have to provide a better alternative than sleeping on the streets.
  • With minimal capital required and limited operating expenses, this approach enables a temporary and fiscally sound decision that better matches the ebbs and flow of our homeless population. This is only temporary. We want to end homelessness.

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?

  • We need to add more housing and more low-cost housing choices to ensure displacement never occurs to any neighborhood in Portland. The average cost of a studio in Portland is now $1168. We need to add back a missing rung in the economic ladder of housing. I will fight for:

DEEPLY Affordable Housing – A recent high school graduate or an adult with income from social security or disability payments should be able work and/or live in Portland. The solution is Single Room Occupancy (SRO) cohousing or micro units. Over the past 40 years we have allowed thousands of these units to disappear, many through gentrification. These units are small single room apartments that may share a bathroom and kitchen with several other renter’s or have a small bathroom and kitchen in the room. There are many variations and price points that enable this type of housing to be deeply affordable. Let’s modernize this solid, tried and true approach in order to add much needed inventory to our market quickly and cost effectively. Using the SRO / micro unit model, we can deliver truly affordable housing at HALF the $1168 average cost of a studio apartment in the Portland area. This type of housing can get within swinging distance of breaking even WITHOUT subsidized rent and remain affordable to someone earning minimum wage. SRO’s and micro units are part of the solution to providing housing for all communities and stations of life.

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?

  • The RIP will assist as development and density is increased. Improvement in roads will slowing increase. However, our road funding model is not working
  • 22% revenue versus 44% increase in road costs.
  • $200 million in deferred maintenance
  • My first goal is to repair the streets and fill all potholes
  • My next goal is to employ a new paving process that lowers the cost of repaving a road – Green Streets – It is new technology that recycles a road in place and uses ground up plastic bottles as part of the material placed back in the road. Lower cost, lower emissions, lasts longer.

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?

  • Portland has $100 million spent this past 5 years on these measures.
    • However, fatalities continue to climb
  • The components of Vision Zero are the three E’s – Engineering, Education and Enforcement
    • My company has driven 2,000,000 million miles in 2019 with ZERO accidents
      • We focus on Education – We use artificial intelligence
      • Drivers self-coach and receive feedback when driver distraction occurs
  • While re-engineering roads is an important component of improving safety, the education technology I use can be used in Portland to saves lives, is much lower cost and much more effective

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?

  • First, your sense of pride and commitment to your neighborhood is wonderful
    • I do the same in my neighborhood and at my company
  • Root cause is growing homelessness
    • We can’t keep increasing budgets as homeless population grows unchecked
  • We must provide temporary safe shelters AND enforce our illegal camping ordinance & rules
  • A clean and well maintained neighborhood is a safe neighborhood – It shows we are governing ourselves and we are not helpless
    • I will be in the city and in all neighborhoods frequently
    • I sweat the small stuff
      • If I see a pothole in your neighborhood, I want it filled
      • If I see trash on the side of the road, I want it picked it up
      • If I see an abandoned car on your street, I want it removed.

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?

  • Portland’s ranking – 100 largest US cities:
  • The root cause is tied to our fast-growing homeless population that is outpacing our population growth due to an influx of unsheltered and homeless upon arrival persons from outside of Multnomah County
    • Currently, our police have been sidelined from enforcing our no camping ordinances
    • As a result, our unsheltered homeless population has increased 22% this past two years
      • Our population has only increased 1%
  • The Mayor, City Council, Police, Fire, justice system and homeless service agencies have to all work TOGETHER to communicate to homeless encampments that illegal camping is not allowed and follow up immediately and as needed. No bureaucracy, just a partnership that involves all stakeholders.
  • Homeless encampments are illegal
    • We must enforce our camping ordinances
    • We must provide temporary pop up shelters to provide a safe nights sleep
  • The result will be that service resistant homeless that came to Portland will return home and property crime will reduce

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?

  • Short term, Division Transit Project go-live 2022. This will compliment Max Orange Line and Green Line. More and faster transit options are coming
  • I need and will learn more about this area, which, true, is a transit island
    • We need to ensure that public transit is the first option, not second or third
  • Long term, density will bring more service will be needed to service a larger population
    • Portland’s population is expected to grow by 260,000 this next 20 years
Photo courtesy of Keith Wilson