Candidate Spotlight: Tim DuBois

Photo courtesy of Tim DuBois

Candidate Spotlight: Tim DuBois

Running for Portland City Commissioner, Position No. 1

Thank you to Tim DuBois 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.

Candidate Answer: I intend to model Portland’s housing plan off the success of Salt Lake City. This three pronged approach begins with Housing First, helping people jumpstart healthier lives by getting them into new homes and a stable living arrangement. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, between 75 and 90 percent of households involved remain housed after a year. Additionally, this has been shown to lead to more job opportunities and better mental health, including decreased drug dependency and reduced rates of domestic abuse. The next step is to implement rigorous case management, to eliminate oversights as much as possible. A case falling through the cracks is a family forgotten and forced back onto the street, and happens far too often when case managers are given more than is reasonable for them to accomplish. Finally, it must all be consolidated beneath a single manager in charge of all homeless resources and housing. Through trauma informed strategies and racial equity approaches already developed nationally by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) and the Racial Equality Network we can begin to correct the wrongs of the past.

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: I have limited expectations for the Residential Infill Project, as similar housing allowed in many parts of the city is not built with any regularity. I do support the eight unit density bonus for unsubsidized deeply affordable housing that has many community organizers approval. 

Expectations for RIP are overblown on both ends of the spectrum. Not building these houses, however, will cause more displacement than building them.

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: Many people live close to streets that are unimproved including me. As much as I believe we should do something about this, right now the city as far more important problems to solve. If we get our streets cleaned up and get our bureaus on sound financial footing we can talk about paving these roads.

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: Speed and red-light cameras are a proven technology to reduce accidents and pedestrian fatalities. The only challenge we have to overcome is eliminating the city-imposed requirement that a police officer review the pictures. PPD is understaffed so if we eliminate that requirement like most jurisdictions in the country we can expand the program.

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: Currently there is a requirement that owners of buildings remove graffiti in a short time period. Enforcing this requirement would likely be inequitable and costly. I believe innovative ideas can help us reduce graffiti. We must be willing as a city to explore ideas that have been modeled elsewhere around the country to great success.  

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: Our police are understaffed and spending a large portion of their day dealing with homeless issues. Incarceration is costly and typically does not help, but worsens the conditions that lead someone down a path of criminal activity. We must continue working to provide opportunities for worthwhile careers and opening up the doors to education. We should work to ensure that every job earns a living wage.

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: Any candidate who tells you they can fix this is lying to you. Trimet works on a hub and spoke model. This means the further away from the city core you get the further one needs to travel to get to a bus or train. In addition, the frequency of busses is limited by the financials of transit. Low density equals low frequency. There are only two real ways to solve this problem. Increase density in these communities by significant amounts or work to open up transit rich communities to people of diverse incomes which would also mean increasing density significantly. At the end of the day transit needs density. Without it transit will always be on life support, which means this community and many others will always struggle to get frequent and reliable transit. 

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

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: I agree that something needs to be done. If responsible for the Police Bureau I would work hard to listen to the different sides, seek expert advice, and be willing to try new things that both protect the right to protest, and be safe, whicle also considering the concerns of the Police Officers. 

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

Candidate Answer: To meet EPA’s strict water quality requirements, utilities need to use certain disinfectants. Both the EPA and CDC provide data supporting the safety of drinking Chloramine below 50 mg/L. I would ensure we stay below those levels. In addition, if there was a better alternative I would support moving to that. Eliminating disinfectants from the water will make Portland noncompliant with federal law and likely increase risk of other issues for Portland residents.

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: One of two things is happening here. One is that a long-time owner of a building did not increase rent with the market over a long period of time, either because they were generous or just not actively managing rents. When that owner decided it was time to retire they sold, as is there right, and a new owner has a new mortgage that far exceeds what existing rents could afford. The new rents reflect both the new mortgage and the existing market conditions.

The other thing that could be happening is that onerous regulations placed on new development increases the cost of delivery so much that new units must be priced at the highest end of the market. This leaves the largest market segment, those between public or non-profit housing and high-end housing with a serious low-vacancy problem. For owners of older buildings just adding “lipstick” to the building can be a quick way to incredibly high returns. It is easy to label that person or business as greedy, and certainly there is a little of that, but would you decline a >100% raise at work? No, and so we need to be smarter about our housing policy so that the temptation of greed cannot be met by the market conditions. 

One of these has a solution one does not. The first one does not because people don’t want to own forever, eventually buildings need to change owners. One option that sort of exists is for the City of Portland to buy those buildings and maintain affordable rents, however that is a band-aid solution while doing nothing to add to the low supply. Those who still live there will no doubt benefit and that is good, the cost however will fall on all other renters, including low-income renters. The second problem can be solved by making it easier to build at the lower ends of the markets. This involves reducing permitting time, eliminate design requirements, reducing or eliminating system development charges, and finally making it easier for technology like modular housing to be built. Our housing crisis has solutions but they need to be made away from the emotions that have been built up over the last decade. The bottom line is Portland has not built as few housing units in a non-recession since WWII.

Will you (make) ask Tri-Met to bring back fareless square in Downtown?

Candidate Answer: After I find out what part of the budget needs to get cut to provide this service I will weigh the pros and cons. If a viable source of money could be found and services did not need to get cut I would then ask can we instead use that money to increase funding for housing vouchers and weight the costs and benefits of that. This is a budget allocation question and a fiscally responsible city will hesitate before giving people a perceived free good when in fact providing that good may deprive another, perhaps more important and equitable, program funding.

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

Candidate Answer: I agree that you have low services, that is a function of the low density of housing and the high cost to serve low density. High tax rates is subjective. Overall, Portland has fairly low property taxes compared with peer cities. The problem is because of our manipulated property tax system older homes in Eastmoreland pay a disproportionally low amount in property taxes compared to newer homes found in East Portland. So now we are trapped in a system where to increase services the city needs a bunch of new housing, but in order to keep property taxes low we need to stop new housing from being built. The incentives are twisted and you and your neighbors are trapped in the middle because you need the density and additional tax revenue to get the services but it will mean you could pay more in taxes. If you want a solution to this problem we should be fighting for the repeal of the state property tax laws to begin with. Then we should make it easier for you to live in neighborhoods with higher levels of service.