Candidate Spotlight: Diana Gutman

Photo courtesy of Diana Gutman

Candidate Spotlight: Diana Gutman

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 2

Thank you to Diana Gutman 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.

Connect with this Candidate!

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.

My idea is utilizing the “zombie” lots to create supportive housing because right now it’s just wasted space not serving the community. So let’s use these lots and serve our community. Designating these lots for specific transitional needs, whether you are from the homeless community, whether you are a Survivor of abuse trying to flee an abusive situation, or whether you are a student. Students are at risk for homelessness because they’re paying so much in debt to go to school, to have an education to be part of our community. It’s looking at the people who are vulnerable and trying to identify ways that we can actually protect them and I do believe that if we were to come up with programs to further help our community partners it would bridge that gap and create something more sustainable so that our city can thrive and individuals here will have more room to grow.

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 gave public during the City Council meeting on 01/15/2020 in regards to this very subject. I believe that the City needs to review the recommendations from the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission and Portland Neighbors Welcome and find a way to implement these recommendations. They are influenced by a broad coalition of groups. This is what community is all about, people coming together from diverse walks of life to find ways to advocate for our community and share their first hand experience. It is this experience that we as a city must lean on in order to address these pressing issues. Everyone should have access to safe, secure, inclusive shelter. We as a City and community need to help the people who are in need of stability. I believe that the Residential Infill Project can have a positive impact in our community and the City of Portland. To fully serve our community I believe that it is crucial that we designate select units to be built for supportive housing. Bringing in our community partners (such as: New Avenues for Youth, Join PDX, Raphael House, ect.) to help us establish the “Residential Infill Supportive Housing Project”. Affordable housing is a human right. To serve the City of Portland we need to serve everyone and identify what their needs are and meet them exactly where there at. Working with our community partners helps us identify these needs so we can help those who are vulnerable. 

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?

This is more than a “one” note answer. As your prospective City Commissioner I would be involved in details of these changes, speaking up to advocate for those who would be negatively impacted if plans are being established without the regard for the residents in the affected neighborhood and the land itself. I believe that we need to conduct an audit of City funds and find the areas where the City can allocate a percentage of the City expenditures and use that to fund the paving of roads in the SE and East Portland areas. Having to fill the potholes on these gravel and unpaved roads is not cost effective to the community and is harmful to our environment. The City needs to push for improving these roads and working with contractors and community partners to pave these roads and use materials that will not be harmful to our environment and the people who reside in the neighborhood.

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?

As your perspective Commissioner I believe that education is key. There are many creative ways to engage with the community to bring awareness to these changes. Furthermore I would work with the neighborhoods and community partners to create programs that would generate funding, this funding would be used to install radar enforcement detectors. Installation would be prioritized base off of the high impacted areas, this would require the guidance and feedback from neighborhood and community partners.

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?

This is a two part question. First off I would address the garbage clean up. In downtown Portland the City had to get involved to help address the impact of litter and garbage on the streets. To address the garbage clean up, the City had to work with community partners. I believe that the City needs to work with community partners and the neighborhoods in SE and East Portland to come up with funding to add designated garbage cans in these high impact areas. However for the garbage clean up to be effective we need to address the root issue — the growing homelessness in our community. We are in a housing crisis and this has a major impact on people in our city. By working with community partners the City can better serve the community as a whole.
In regards to the graffiti issues in SE and East Portland I would assemble a committee made up of key partners (neighborhood associations from SE and East Portland, community partners and active community members from SE and East Portland). I have done research on graffiti clean up in Portland Oregon. There are quite a few businesses out there that offer graffiti clean up but what really caught my attention was Alberta Art Works a Non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon. They are located in NE Portland and take a creative approach to addressing the graffiti issue. By working with local artist Alberta Art Works helps the community and community partners with the graffiti clean up. I have personally reached out to them to see if they would be interested in working with a committee and find ways to work with local artists and business to create a new program and call it the “SE East Portland graffiti Art Program.”

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?

The first thing I would do is, walk through these areas with a committee (key community partners and members from the neighborhoods and law enforcement) and do an assessment. Find out what type of illegal activity is taking place. Once this has been identified I will work with the committee to see what type of program and training can be implemented to help community partners address these issues and serve the people in our community.

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?

This is a complex answer because it’s a complex question and finding a solution that will not have a negative impact on our environment is crucial. I would like to work with community dealerships to see if they would like to participate in what I would call the “SE East Portland Transportation project” and help us obtain electric cars that Public Transportation partners such as Tri-Met, Uber, or Lyft can use and to increase public mobility while protecting our environment. Implementing new forms of public transit in SE and East Portland key to serving members in our community. In addition to addressing the transportation issue in SE and East Portland we need to be mindful of our environment.

Additional question(s) submitted by neighbors at the event on March 5th, 2020:

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?

I would respond with compassion. When people come together to protest, they are making themselves vulnerable to express their concerns for the things that they want to see change. Our city has many protests that take place and I do encourage peaceful protests, and so I would want the people that are showing up to advocate for the concerns that our city is facing, I would want those people to be protected. I would want law enforcement to respond responsibly. I do believe that there should be more protest-training tailored to the City of Portland and this training should be trauma informed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. I don’t think that’s something we’ve even fully navigated. We are a boisterous city, we should have emergency responder protest training. Not emergency responder training for natural disasters, but specifically to protesting. There is something that is very impacting when you’re there and people arrive having other opinions. When there is a counter protest to a protest that’s when it becomes really dangerous, because you have two groups of people with different viewpoints advocating for their own concerns. No matter what the opposing concerns are, everyone should have the right to feel safe. I care about the people who are going to be on the frontlines advocating for the needs of the City and that also includes emergency responders. As a human right’s activist, I know other people who want to feel safe and for the MLK march that we had, it was being spearheaded by our youth. There are youth that participate in protests. We have students. We have minors. Minors should never be subjected to abuse, ever! And so this training, this protocol really does need to be talked about. There needs to be material and language wrapped around this so that people can express themselves freely in a safe manner.

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

This is a serious topic that is often brought to the attention of the Council at City Hall and is more complicated than a “yes or no” answer. I believe that the water bureau needs to be better regulated and the City should seek the guidance from health experts who do not represent the water bureau directly, so that advocacy for public health is not influenced by internal bureaucracy.

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

This is an unfortunate situation and I believe that more should be done to protect current renters who are residing in the BD neighborhood. I have experience with property management leasing, and as your prospective Commissioner I would like to work with landlords in the community to address the rising rent in the City of Portland. The City must address landlords who are not adhering to Fair Housing compliance. 

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

Absolutely, I support making downtown fareless. This simple change in our public transit system would benefit our community and allow Portlanders to have better access to public transportation within the core of Downtown Portland. 

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

If elected I will work with the neighborhood associations to advocate for the community and to push for more inclusive services that are accessible to everyone. 

6. I would love for the people of color running for office to stand. Why do you think Portland needs you and not the 20 white people next to you?

It’s no secret that Portland was built off of colonial violence and racism. I believe that it is time for the City of Portland to address our racist history. My ancestors originally inhabited and took care of these lands before the City of Portland had its name, the host peoples of these lands are the Chinook, the Kalapuya, the Clackamas and the Tlatskanai. The City of Portland, Oregon was issued a territorial charter in 1851, incorporating 2.1 square miles of land. In 1913 The Natives Land Act was the first major piece of segregation legislation passed by the Union Parliament. (It was replaced in 1991.) The act decreed that whites were not allowed to buy land from natives and vice versa. While the commission system flourished in United States cities during the progressive reforms of the early 20th century, it has been replaced in most major cities for more favorable systems of government. Portland is the last city with a population greater than 100,000 to use this format and has not changed it since it was first approved by voters in May of 1913, the same year the Natives Land Act was passed. In order to heal from trauma and move forward, we must first acknowledge our City’s failings and take action in our government to heal our community. As an indigenous woman and your prospective commissioner I would push for restoration to our City.

7. How will you improve housing stability and opportunities and prevent instability, especially for people of color and the elderly?

I will always push for more inclusive housing options in our City. Everyone should have access to affordable housing and property owners have a unique opportunity to help our community to address this problem. We are in a housing crisis and action is needed now. One of the proposals that has been offered to the to City is The Residential Infill project. This project will re-legalize duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes in single family zones. As of now 40% of Portland’s land area is currently zoned for single family housing and is expected to absorb twenty percent of Portland’s population growth. I have given public testimony in front of the Council on 1/15/2020 (Agenda Item 50) to express my support in this project. I will always support the community and programs that will help Portlanders have access to affordable housing.

8. What are your plans for fiscal responsibility and the endless fees driving small businesses to Clackamas and Vancouver?

This more than a “one-note” answer, I believe that the first step in addressing this issue would be working directly with the small businesses who are being affected by these fees. I want to understand where these fees are coming from and how paying these fees impacts small businesses.