Candidate Spotlight: Alicea Maurseth

Candidate Spotlight: Alicea Maurseth

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 2

Unfortunately, Alicea Maurseth was unable to attend our March 5th Candidate Conversation for Candidates for Portland City Commissioner due to illness, but you can still see her written answers below. She encourages neighbors to view her interview on KATU by clicking here.  Don’t miss candidates for Portland City Mayor on March 31st, 2020!

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Introduction from Candidate:

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and have seven sisters. I attended Holy Trinity for grade school and Valley Catholic for high school. I began my college education at University of Oregon with a Philosophy and International Studies major. After three years there, I switched to a Civil Engineering major and received my degree at Portland State University. My goal was, and still is, to be able to help in underdeveloped and disaster-ridden countries. The main needs for these areas are education, medicine, and infrastructure. There are places within the United States that are struggling with these issues. 

My inspiration came from my father, a Civil Engineer, who worked for US Army Corp of Engineers. He was able to help in areas destroyed by natural disasters. He also analyzed existing structures and helped facilitate construction of new infrastructure in some of the northern provinces of Afghanistan. Hearing his stories encouraged me to follow a similar career path. I am participating in this campaign to raise awareness of issues I care about (and have perhaps taken a back-seat), like seismic safety and climate change. I hope to encourage discussion on a wider range of issues as well.

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: The Portland Police department is understaffed, but that gives us an opportunity to try alternative solutions to the issues they are often tasked with. Last year, 40% of arrests in Portland were of people experiencing homelessness. Last November, Mayor Wheeler funded the Street Response Team pilot program, championed by Commissioner Hardesty.
For anyone who doesn’t know, this program sends an emergency medical specialist and a crisis worker to respond to 911 calls in the Lents neighborhood for welfare and mental health checks, among other things.
Right now, this program is just one team of two people. If it is successful, as the similar program in Eugene was, which has expanded to 40 people, then we should expand it to surrounding neighborhoods, including yours.
I also want to thank Candace Avalos, who was one of the first people to endorse the program.

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: After some initial research, it seems like the idea is to subdivide lots and create more housing at what they hope will be a lower cost. There are some loopholes in the low-income housing I would want to close while at the same time reevaluating/redefining “low income” to reflect the cost of living.
● affordable housing should be mandatory and permanent for all development
● affordable housing availability at a percentage of the total units rounded up (negotiable) and base it off of what is currently available and demand for it in the area
● Recognize that one person may be developing in multiple areas under different LLCs and might need to factor this into the calculation (sometimes to avoid providing affordable housing)
● Transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness or other stability issues with resources available to facilitate the transition
● Avoid the wealthfare cliff
● Other factors should be discussed
● Community engagement — ultimately, people in the area affected should be consulted. While at the same keeping in mind that some have already been displaced and may want to return and contribute to the discussion
I believe that money and power tend to lead to corruption and the consolidation of Portland’s rental market into the hands of a few larger management companies is a net negative for renters. With corporate personhood, individuals have been able to distance themselves from their decisions, no matter how destructive the repercussions. Without regulations, I believe people will use ambiguity in the laws to exploit the under-privledged. The loopholes should be closed as we transition away from this aggressive economy to a more equitable one. Everyone should have a safe, stable place to call home.
Here are a few housing related issues that I’ve formed an initial opinion on. These opinions are not concrete and are subject to change, with further research and discussion.
● Reverse gentrification,
● Mandatory low-income housing – no loopholes and no expiration,
● Make low-income units permanent in new multi-family housing,
● Transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness
I am most concerned with health and safety, especially for Portland’s most marginalized residents. Just because “life’s not fair” doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.
I believe housing is a basic right and that everyone should have access to stable living conditions, no matter their history. I support the city’s new ordinance, Fair Access in Renting, which is scheduled to take effect next month and think the free speech lawsuit filed by Multifamily NW is absurd. Even if a court sides with Multifamily NW on the language restrictions, I hope the rest of the document will impact the way applications are processed and get this city closer to a more equitable standard of living. Criminal background checks often do more harm than good. If we truly wish to have people re-enter society, we need to fix the way individuals are treated. Not just with regard to housing, but employment and social interaction as well. They have become accustomed to a lifestyle filled with trauma and uncertainty and need people willing to facilitate a stable, health transition.

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: I would want to work with the communities to brainstorm solutions that address the issues they face. I know that most new construction is required to make improvements to the public right-of-way (ROW), so with new development, the roads would be repaired in front of the property. The city will sometimes expand on this to reduce cost… The city could encourage new development in Brentwood-Darlington with inclusive zoning and perhaps abatements, which will lead to private investment in ROW within the neighborhood, with the remaining budget being used to finish unimproved areas.

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: I’m excited about Commissioner Hardesty’s Street Response Team pilot program. Police in Portland are well compensated for a highly skilled profession, and they aren’t an all-purpose solution to our city’s problems. I am not convinced that PPB is understaffed, I think they are over-tasked. That said, I am open to learning more about the issue. If you or PPB believe that PPB’s mission is defined appropriately, then I’m open to the opportunity to learn.

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: Portland has a lot of experience confronting this issue, we should socialize that knowledge. Whatever you may think of the Clean & Safe District, they clean up an unbelievable amount of refuse and graffiti given their tiny budget. Some of their ideas about diversion may be applicable to Brentwood-Darlington.

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: If it is a non-violent crime, it may be worth investing in a new program similar to Commissioner Hardesty’s Street Response Team that could handle this instead.

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: The city should work with Trimet to increase frequency and coverage. Survey the area and hold forums at varying times and locations to try and reach the most diverse group of people (day vs night shifts and weekday vs weekend). Improve roads and add more bike and pedestrian friendly paths.

Additional Questions Asked By Neighbors at the Event: 

1. Over the past several years, Portland has made national headlines for the brutal response to protest by Portland Police. How will you respond to protest?

Candidate Answer: They are there to help keep the peace and I would hope they have the training and skills needed to do so. I would want to evaluate the existing staff and make sure they have the proper training in dealing with crowds and de-escalation. As well as tactics of de-escalation, Portland Police could benefit from further training on Oregon’s laws about brandishing weapons, and other laws intended to prevent violence before it occurs. We should ensure that their rules of engagement can’t be gamed by grifters who want to slander the city I love so they can get rich on GoFundMe.
I also believe the protesters share some of the responsibility. I found it disturbing that some groups openly admit to their desire to promote violence (especially those that don’t even live in Portland). I supported and appreciated the efforts of other groups to remain peaceful and inclusive, offering de-escalation training for volunteers for some events held in the last few years. I would want to see if there is any way to revoke permits for groups that only seek to promote conflict. I doubt it would stop them from attending as counter-protesters at other events, but it’s a place to start.

2. A water bureau question: Chloramine is added to PDX water. Will you remove this toxin?

Candidate Answer: I think it would be beneficial to public health to research the effects of using this chemical and find a sustainable alternative for water treatment/decontamination.

3. On my street in BD neighborhood, an apartment building painted and did some small upgrades. They then raised monthly rent by $1,000.

Candidate Answer: SB 608, the new Oregon state rent-control law should prevent something like this, only allowing rent to be increased by a little more than 7% per year. The law allows a few “Landlord-Based reasons” for not renewing a lease, such as: “The landlord intends to make repairs or renovations and the property will be unsafe to live in”. Portland City Council should clarify that our interpretation of this law is that these repairs or renovations are not just cosmetic.

4. Transportation Question: Will you (make) ask Tri-Met to bring back fareless square in Downtown?

Candidate Answer: I don’t mind asking, if that is something Portland communities want, but I’d rather focus on increasing frequency, coverage, and accessibility. I would also want to improve access to the low-income fare and redefine “low-income” to better reflect cost of living within the Portland area.

5. In BD we have extremely high tax rates and low services. How are you going to make taxation and services equitable?

Candidate Answer: I would want to research and collaborate with the community and professionals (like an accountant and lawyer) to find solutions to these issues. I’m not from this neighborhood, and I don’t want to dictate to you what services you’re lacking. But my inbox is open, and I hope to hear about how I can help!