Candidate Spotlight: Margot Black

Photo courtesy Margot Black

Candidate Spotlight: Margot Black

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 2

Thank you to Margot Black 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! This event has been cancelled due to health concerns. We are working on a virtual solution to connect you with your candidates for Portland City Mayor.

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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.

If we actually house the houseless, the problem is solved. We need to invest in prevention in the form of rent control, which has no cost to the government. We need to make real investments in the Housing First model. and we make affordable housing actually affordable and invest in living wage jobs so people can stay housed.

It’s a myth that homelessness cannot be solved; we have not tried to solve it. We’ve let the problem fester, and we’ve let the gig economy and housing crisis push people into the streets while giving them no way to get back indoors.

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?

I would support the creation of a program to help low- and moderate-income homeowners redevelop their properties in exchange for guaranteed affordability of new units. I also support the use of land trusts so the public can acquire affordable units. We can increase the supply of new, truly-affordable housing, allow homeowners on limited incomes to stabilize their own housing through a small, but steady monthly revenue stream, and encourage new forms of property ownership where speculators will be unable to prey on our most vulnerable communities. 

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?

Brentwood-Darlington residents have a history of being forced to pay, in an equitable manner, for infrastructure upgrades, such as sewer and stormwater improvements. Bad roads create high costs for car owners (tires, shocks, and other repairs) and make it difficult for people to choose alternatives like bikes and electric scooters. Brentwood-Darlington has fewer ‘Fixing Our Streets’ Projects than most neighborhoods. 

I will prioritize infrastructure spending on underserved areas, being mindful of the fact that upgrades need to be made based upon community input and need. We need to ensure that economic opportunities exist in every neighborhood and support small businesses so that people have a chance to improve their lives while their neighborhoods are becoming potentially more expensive. We need to ensure that more of the benefits of economic growth are felt by the residents most impacted rather than Wall Street speculators.

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?

The City needs to have a serious conversation about the trade-offs involved in using photo radar in enforcing traffic speeds, particularly given the difficulty in hiring enough officers. I would encourage PPD to work closely with the most highly impacted neighborhoods to identify the most troublesome intersections and focus resources accordingly while giving residents real agency in making these decisions.

We need to ensure that police enforcement is equitable across demographic factors such as race. We also need to ensure that low-income residents who commit occasional moving violations are not unfairly burdened by the cost of moving violations.

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?

I want to hire local residents, including high school students, retired people and homeless people to help with the clean up— this way, people will have a stake in making their neighborhoods look nice.

The Parks Bureau should create or expand partnerships with SOLVE, Hands-on Portland, the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and other groups to bring volunteers and resources from other parts of the city to help areas hardest hit by graffiti and dumping. I would expand the Summerworks program that hires youth to allow it to work year-round. I would also look to expand Metro’s bag and RID programs.

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?

I have lived experience dealing with close family members who are houseless and mentally ill. I know that focusing on the root causes of these problems and investing in upstream solutions is the only viable way of solving the problem. This requires careful coordination between the city, residents, NGOs, and county, state and Federal government. We have a patchwork mental health system, and the city is left with people who fall through the cracks. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an “unwanted person,” and I believe that non-police response teams need to address the vast majority of concerns about houseless people.

Still, when public safety and sanitation is a chronic issue affecting a community the police need to take action. The city must create systems and employ technology so that we can listen to residents in real-time and take a humane, equitable and data-based approach to focus police responses— while using a police response as an absolute last resort.

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?

I support major increased investment in transit, including making Tri-Met free, the Rose Lane project and increasing bus lines. Bus and Max fares account for about only 10% of the Tri-Met’s budget, so finding additional funding—for example taxing the wealthy—would be relatively easy to not only cover the 10% but to expand services. 

City Council should direct Trimet and PBOT to find a solution to serve 72nd and increase access to Mt. Scott Community Center and Foster-Powell area. The city must listen to neighborhood associations and systematically survey residents to prioritize problems and create effective solutions.