Candidate Spotlight: Carmen Rubio
Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 1
Thank you to Carmen Rubio for attending our March 5th Candidate Conversation for Candidates for Portland City Commissioner.
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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: Housing instability and homelessness are the result of federal disinvestment, a growing income gap, and a destructive presidential administration. As a result of this, today our most pressing issues are housing affordability and the homelessness crisis: every Portlander should be able to live affordably, safely, and with access to our city’s schools and public transit.
This issue is personal to me – by the time I was fourteen my family moved 10 times before having the ability to settle permanently. Because of this, I will bring urgency and focus to this crisis, along with an important racial justice perspective that will center ALL communities. This means directing more resources to the homeless crisis for supportive housing and services for the chronically homeless, and to prevent more families and children from falling into homelessness. Housing instability impacts children’s ability to learn, be nourished physically, and emotionally feel safe. Great work is happening through the Joint Office of Homeless Services and many community-based organizations, but it is still not enough.
The City has a role here in leading a collaborative and regional response. As a City Commissioner I will bring urgency to these issues because we have no time to lose. I’ll make sure our City is doing our part in a regional effort to create paths to stable, affordable homes to meet the needs of our diverse communities.
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: In order to close the housing gap, we are going to have to build more housing that is affordable for our working families and our most vulnerable. We have a shortage of units and are already behind – we are currently building 7 units for every 10 units needed. We need to be building 11 for every 10. We also want to keep our region’s population inside the urban growth boundary.
I will advocate for the City to be more strategic and intentional about where we build and how. We can maintain the unique aspects of our neighborhoods while building affordable units to increase density. I would also hold us accountable to moving toward creating the 20-minute neighborhoods we have said we value through community-centered neighborhood planning and development along our transportation corridors, and expand our transit routes and frequency to better meet the needs of transit-dependent East Portlanders and parts of North Portland.
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: Residents in all parts of our City should be getting services, and I will advocate for more dedicated focus and resources to the corners of our city that have long been forgotten, starting with East Portland. We will have to look for new revenue sources and also prioritize those areas with the highest need and longest neglect to the top of the list, and dig ourselves out of our growing list of neglected streets and sidewalks. I will advocate for large corporations to pay more in taxes in order to support the infrastructure they’re benefitting from, and it will also take all of us understanding the budget we have, using data to prioritize need and understand the tradeoffs, and budgeting to our values.
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: Given tough funding at the City I support using more traffic cameras so we can increase enforcement for lower cost. I’d like to see us look into mobile enforcement units so that we can cover more areas.
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: I am interested in working to increase capacity at the city to support volunteers, enlist businesses, and nonprofits efforts to create localized strategies to improve clean up and graffiti in their neighborhoods. I recently learned that there is limited staffing in this role, and we need to change that. For a city of our size – and growing – we need to demonstrate equitable response for all parts of our city, not just those areas that have more wealth or access to maintenance resources. With support, this could be an opportunity to build job or youth arts programs, or build community with youth, elders, neighbors, and other local residents – but we also need our City to demonstrate this commitment in turn. It will take all of us working together.
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: We need carefully considered asset-based solutions that address root causes, and when possible employ restorative justice practices so we aren’t just perpetuating systems that are a path to nowhere for all involved. Simply arresting and warehousing people into the criminal justice system is not a solution, and it will cause more long-term problems than it will solve.
We need to get to the root causes of why people make these choices. We need police officers who have relationships with restorative justice programs and nonprofit organizations, that put our community at the center, protecting all of us, and investment in diversion programs, re-entry programs.
We need better substance abuse treatment options and mental health services for people who need support. We know what does work if we invest in long term solutions: addressing root causes of poverty, youth providing access to education, workforce training and opportunities, youth programs, summer programs, inclusive neighborhood practices, and places for families and children to play and feel a part of this 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?
Candidate Answer: Our public transit system should serve those who need it the most– seniors and low income and those who have the farthest to travel. Some of the hardest working people in our city – janitors, service workers, childcare workers, social safety net workers, and others – rely on bus services and are unfairly burdened because of where they live. Transit equity is an essential strategy to create denser, non-displaced 20-minute communities that we say we value. I will advocate for increased transit access and frequency in places that transit dependent people live and work. I will also continue to advocate for Youth Pass, and to further explore a free transit system in our region. The data is clear where we are underserving- and I will push for use of data and community and rider engagement to inform any further transportation and transit investment decisions.