Candidate Spotlight: Mark White
Running for Portland City Mayor
Thank you to Mark White for participating in our Candidate Spotlight series! Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association (BDNA) is happy to provide this virtual introduction to your candidates for Portland Mayor. For a full list of candidates, click here.
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.
Candidate Answer: Homelessness and affordable housing are intrinsically linked. My response includes perspectives and actions on both and is what I submitted to The Oregonian in response to a similar question.
In a way, I believe we are reaping what we have sown. For decades, government’s approach to homelessness was to put bars under bridges to prevent camping, dividers on park benches to make it uncomfortable to lie down, and effectively criminalize homelessness. These aren’t solutions. They are blatant admissions of not caring.
Now the problem has been allowed to deepen so much that it can’t be ignored. And people are dying.
The immediate need is clearly safety. We must get people off the street and into a safer environment. Unfortunately, the recent introduction of COVID-19 to this effort makes it much more challenging, but may also offer solutions. For example, temporary shelters, similar to what is being done with field hospitals, could be an option.
Moving as many people as is possible to just a few locations will make it easier to bring services to them instead of forcing people to travel from place to place. It will also be easier and more cost effective to provide medical, hygiene, laundry, and other services, food, as well as security. Assigning a case manager as a single point of contact to each single adult or family to help them thru the process will reduce the amount of time from entry to a move to transitional or permanent housing. Expansion on the Wapato site is a good first location for consideration.
While many individuals can be placed in adult residential care facilities, families and individuals who don’t need assistance with addiction or mental health issues, will need permanent affordable housing.
Our goal should be to get people thru the ‘connecting to services’ process and into permanent affordable housing as quickly as possible. This immediate need requires considering different types of living situations such as incentivizing blending families. For example, single parents with one or two children per family might be offered higher priority if they are willing to share a house or apartment with someone in a similar situation.
Before moving forward, I think it should be said that if the City was serious about affordable housing, it could adjust business taxes on landlords so the level of tax is predicated on the affordability of their housing. For example, higher than market rate housing pays more tax; those who don’t raise rents more than 3% annually pay lower tax, etc. It needs to be more profitable to provide affordable housing than luxury housing. The only reason I can think of that explains why City Council won’t do something like this is because they want rents to be high because it means higher business tax revenue. To keep that revenue stream the way it is, and to appear as if they care about affordable housing, they passed legislation that did effectively nothing to lower rents and then asked Portlanders to approve a $258 million bond that is costing $181,460 per unit based on a total of 1,424 units. We can do much better than this.
Increasing affordable housing stock must be done quickly for any effort to eliminate homelessness to be successful. One way would be to make it easier and less costly for Portland homeowners to install one or more mobile tiny houses on their property. I suspect the City of Portland is dragging its feet on mobile tiny houses because they don’t have a way to tax them like food carts, which pay business tax to the City. My recommendation would be to formally grandfather in all existing mobile tiny houses and require an annual registration of $100. Mobile tiny homes would need to meet minimal standards, specifically, that they are indeed mobile and can be disconnected from utilities just like a food cart. Registration fees should be on a sliding scale with those with the most affordable rents and/or not raising rent or not raising rent more than 3% per year would have their registration fee commensurate with the level of their contribution to affordable housing stock. This could potentially add thousands of small, affordable housing units on single family residential properties that will most likely not see development for many decades and allow us to focus on higher density housing options along major transportation corridors and other appropriate locations.
Discounts should also be given to homeowners who build a permanent accessory dwelling unit/s (ADU) on their property. Portland’s legislative agenda should include exempting homeowners who help increase permanent affordable housing stock with no resetting of their property taxes to current levels.
I would also like to create a mechanism that will allow us to increase density throughout the City on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, any property along a major transportation corridor, regardless of zoning, will be able to petition for denser housing development without cost and without cost for any necessary zoning changes to accommodate the increased density. Property owners will work with the Housing Commission of Portland, who would, in turn, make their recommendations directly to City Council. Emphasis should be placed on multi-storied structures with intentional planning for, or at least the potential for businesses on the ground level, in order to contribute to the effort of keeping job creation as close as possible on a parallel path with population growth.
In addition, we should be incentivizing minimalist living by reducing fees or providing options to reduce any owed business tax on a scale commensurate with the affordability of units and number of individuals housed. For example, a building with 100 units, with each unit no more than 250 square feet and 200 individual residents living as dorm style roommates would get more of a tax credit than a building with 50 units with each unit no more than 500 square feet and only 70 residents.
Over the years, I’ve met lots of folks who place a higher value on how they live as opposed to where they live. More specifically, there are lots of folks who are more than happy to share space or live in a very small space at a reduced cost in exchange for things like being able to eat healthier, have a wider range of available entertainment options, the ability to pursue a variety of personal hobbies or interests, and/or have the ability to travel more. Encouraging options for these types of lifestyle choices will be very helpful in efforts to dramatically increase the amount of affordable housing stock, but it also provides Portlanders with an additional option of affordable housing.
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 would offer that the Residential Infill Project is a vague repackaging of the Outer Southeast Community Plan. And those of us who have lived in SE and East Portland for a few decades know how well that turned out.
If elected, I will encourage affordable housing development more along the lines of what I’ve described in question one and save the more significant infill for when it is one of our last options. There are thousands of opportunities for adding affordable housing stock throughout the City without having to force it on areas that are still struggling with the mess created by the City as a result of the Outer Southeast Community Plan. Housing development along 82nd Avenue can provide thousands of units by itself over time and it already has frequent bus service, connects to the airport in the north and Clackamas Town Center in the South and MAX in between. Reducing vehicle emissions should be a priority along the route and reduction efforts should begin before development takes place and then continued in concert with development.
As for displacement and gentrification, I have a paper on a City-level Reparations Program from my campaign site pasted below. I also have a paper on an economic development project I created several years ago while president of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association. One of the project’s stated goals is to reduce or eliminate gentrification. It is probably close to a decade old, so much will need to be adjusted from the original document pasted below, but the core concepts of community-based ownership will remain intact.
Portland Reparations Project
The Portland Reparations Project (PRP) is an attempt to address the economic and social inequity of Black Portlanders as a result of racist policies such as redlining and segregation.
The major goal of the PRP will be to replace generational poverty with generational wealth building. Owning a home or a business is one of the most reliable ways to create wealth via equity in a home and profit from a business. Providing everything necessary dramatically increases the likelihood of success in developing long term wealth that can be passed down from generation to generation.
The model consists of two components: primary home ownership and business development and ownership.
The two core components will be a City-level effort to address the economic and social results stemming from redlining in the past, to, and including, the current segregation of Black Portlanders out of their historic neighborhoods to areas east, most notably East Portland (generally described as the neighborhoods supported by the East Portland Neighborhood Office) and/or out of the City altogether. The City will contribute a substantial amount of money with a goal of $20 million to launch the project and aggressively pursue funding from the state and federal government as well as philanthropic organizations and crowdfunding platforms.
The current Preference Policy will wrap up committed projects and all remaining funds will be used to support the PRP.
Baseline data will be collected and results provided to funders and the public showing the outcomes from increased housing and employment security and the justification for additional financial support.
Qualifications for applicants will be decided by a community advisory board comprised exclusively of Black Portlanders who will determine the structure of the program (type of housing options, how often outcomes data is released, etc.), qualifications necessary to pursue the purchase of a home or buy-in into a group effort, the process to bring those who currently don’t qualify to a point they do, the support necessary to ensure the ongoing success of participants, and the viability of the program overall. Participation will be available to any Black Portlander and/or their descendants who have been impacted by Portland’s racist past and present, meet the parameters for participation set forth by the advisory board, and have lived in Portland for a length of time also to be determined by the advisory board
Qualified applicants will go thru an educational program delivered by volunteer professionals that will provide them with all the tools necessary to purchase a primary home or buy-in to a group effort. The fund will cover all expenses, including down payment. All monies provided will be repaid with 0% interest over 30 to 40 years. As more applicants are approved and begin to pay back their 0% loan, money will be returned to the program fund allowing more applicants to participate in addition to making the program self-perpetuating.
Another possible mechanism to support efforts might be to reduce or eliminate property taxes on any property purchased by a program participant/s for as long as they and/or their descendants own that property.
Participants will also have access to ongoing education and support that can help them budget as well as how to maintain and repair their property investment.
The business model will follow the same path as the home ownership component, but will help applicants to identify and launch a business as well as all the various components of running a business, including, but not limited to: advertising and promotion, budgeting, employee hiring and management, cost cutting tools, accounting, etc.
If elected, I will also proclaim June to be Freedom Month and give it the same level of importance as Rose Festival and Pride, which also take place in June.
Currently, Portland’s Juneteenth celebration is minuscule in comparison to Rose Festival and Pride despite the profound event in American history it celebrates.
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former Confederate States of America, outside Native American lands. Texas was the most remote of the slave states, and the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, was not enforced there until after the Confederacy collapsed. The name of the observance is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”, the date of its celebration. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 46 of the 50 states — Wikipedia
I will use my position as Mayor to help make Portland’s Juneteenth celebration as commensurate as possible to the importance of the event it commemorates. Efforts will also celebrate the contributions of Black Portlanders to our City as well as those at the state and national level.
Project Description: Mixed-use development with veteran (or senior) housing above retail and business spaces.
Tentative Project Name: Gilbert Place
Developer: Human Solutions
Project Details: Five to ten ground floor businesses (direct-to-consumer retail and services and other business); dual purpose international marketplace (small business incubator and dense retail opportunities in area with almost no retail options). Outdoor and indoor seating options, commercial kitchen(s), and community meeting space. Veteran (or senior) housing units above previously mentioned components.
Proposed Location: SE 122nd Avenue (east side), just north of SE Steele Street (property is currently for sale).
Unique Features: Community-driven development via a custom-designed community IPO.
Funding Leverage Point: Direct financial benefit from the installation of 125’ of sidewalks in front of the entire property that is part of the Clean and Green Street project currently underway along SE 122nd Avenue between SE Ramona Street and SE Holgate Boulevard.
Potential Opportunities: Permanent location for proposed East Portland Multicultural Center.
Sustainability: Extensive area for solar array; opportunities for unique water salvage and mitigation and multi-purpose rooftop gardens (food production, outdoor gathering space, and dining area).
Gilbert Place will create a catalytic development that will not only provide much needed retail opportunities for residents, it will also provide a vigorous economic incubator for small businesses owned and operated by local residents with a targeted effort toward the numerous cultural groups now represented in the area.
The current economic situation in the Powellhurst-Gilbert area is quite dire and in need of intervention in order to stabilize and enhance the economic viability of the community and surrounding area. A few examples of the situation.
Leander Court is just a few blocks away from the proposed site for Gilbert Place. It is a 37 unit affordable housing complex with 190 residents (120 of them children) and has an unemployment/underemployment rate of 65%.
The David Douglas School District has 6 schools physically located within the boundaries of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood. The neighborhood also feeds 4 other David Douglas schools, including the high school, which has the highest enrollment in the state of Oregon. The school district now has an average free or reduced lunch rate of just over 80%.
The average Real Market Value (RMV) loss of property from the recent housing collapse in the immediate area surrounding the proposed site for Gilbert Place averages 40%.
These examples as well as numerous other indicators clearly show a need for economic development.
The proposed property identified for this development is currently for sale and has an initial list price of $275,000. It is ideally situated on SE 122nd Avenue and will serve both the Powellhurst-Gilbert and Pleasant Valley Neighborhoods, both of which are very much in need of easily accessible retail opportunities. The property is also located within an urban renewal area.
The site has excellent transit connections — both north and south as well as east and west bus lines — via the #71 on SE 122nd and the #10 on SE Harold.
Project components will complement each other and create a new community designed and driven anchor public space at the southern end of 122nd Avenue.
The Community IPO would be the core component for engaging and integrating public involvement into the development and ongoing support of the project. There will be public meetings to define the final configuration of the Community IPO, but it will be designed to promote community wealth and prosperity by giving ownership of the project to the widest possible segment of the community. Another goal will be to try and prevent displacement gentrification by ensuring that historically marginalized and lower income wage earners are able to directly and personally benefit from the success of the project and subsequently prevent them from being forced out when housing and other prices increase with the increased prosperity of the area.
One of the first steps will be to apply for an Americorps position to provide oversight management and support for the project along the lines of what has been so successfully done in the Centennial Neighborhood with the Rosewood Initiative.
A community oversight group will be created that will collectively make decisions on project design and content, community owned and managed component/s, and day to day management of the property through construction, occupancy, and beyond.
Gilbert Place would create a natural venue for collaboration and increased efforts toward creating employment and business development opportunities.
Two elements are proposed for Gilbert Place’s commercial uses: ground floor commercial and retail space; an international marketplace is targeted for the second floor of the building.
Business ideas for ground floor retail and commercial have been generated that will be backed up with market research to identify the most promising directions. These include, but are not limited to: small international food and handmade craft vendors, co-op, theatre pub, full service restaurant, bakery and delicatessen, a small grocery, and a community bank.
The international marketplace will emphasize food and handmade craft work, though one person businesses such as a barber or stylist would also be strongly encouraged. It will provide space configured for small vendors. Our goal is to showcase and capitalize on the incredible diversity and sheer number of different cultural groups that now make up the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood and surrounding area.
The developer, Human Solutions, operates micro-enterprise/economic development programs. It is also engaged in the Project Advisory Committee for PDC’s Neighborhood Economic Development Action Plan and the East Portland Action Plan Economic Development and Housing Subcommittees.
Veterans will be the target population for housing. There is strong support for an internal structure within the housing component that would place a high value on community involvement by veteran residents. This would include participating in community activities, including but not limited to: acting as crossing guards, taking a leadership or active role in neighborhood bike patrol or watches, litter clean-ups, graffiti removal, invasive species removal, mentoring and working with adult residential care residents and local students, and volunteering for other neighborhood activities.
The Gilbert Place community oversight group will work closely with the developer of the internal structure of the housing component to maximize benefit for both parties.
Potential Opportunity — Multicultural Center
The East Portland Arts Committee is currently conducting research on the needs of participants to help determine the necessary size for an East Portland Multicultural Center. Once all the parameters are established, and if one or two floors of Gilbert Place will be able to house the effort in its entirety, the group will be approached for consideration of Gilbert Place as a permanent location for the East Portland Multicultural Center within Gilbert Place.
The East Portland Multicultural Center and the International Marketplace would complement each other very well and create client/participant traffic between the two that would also potentially support other businesses within Gilbert Place.
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’m quite familiar with this issue. My neighborhood has the most unpaved roadways in City of Portland — 4.5 miles, a mere single tenth of a mile more than Brentwood-Darlington at 4.4. I’ve pasted below my model for sidewalk installation from my campaign site. It can easily be expanded to include roadway paving.
New Sidewalk Installation
There are miles and miles of Portland roads that lack basic safety infrastructure of curb and sidewalk. This is most notable in East Portland where a huge percentage of residential streets do not have curb and sidewalk. SW Portland also has a large amount of missing curb and sidewalk, though the population density is much less than in East Portland.
Contributing to this already significant safety issue is that a disproportionate amount of vulnerable and marginalized populations who rely on that basic safety infrastructure to keep them safe such as elderly, disabled, and mentally ill, now live in East Portland. In addition, approximately 75% of the City’s adult residential care facilities are located in East Portland. It should also be noted that East Portland has a super majority of the City’s most dangerous intersections/high crash corridors.
The City has a policy of not installing sidewalks with a few exceptions — mostly for major streets — and relies on new construction for curb and sidewalk to be installed in areas without them. There are many things wrong with this approach, most notably that it barely scratches the surface of ensuring basic safety infrastructure for all Portlanders. Furthermore, the vast majority of residential properties without curb and sidewalk will not see any new construction for decades if ever and the cost is prohibitive for most of these property owners.
If elected, I will help facilitate the creation of a nonprofit organization that focuses on the installation of curb and sidewalk utilizing an approach similar to Friends of Trees — a heavy emphasis on reduced cost in exchange for participation with installation, when possible; community volunteer participation; and volunteer, financial, and/or in-kind donation support from business. The effort could easily be expanded to include sidewalk repairs and street paving of gravel roads.
The City could support this effort by waiving permit and/or other fees; contributing annual funding for an engineer for the organization; funding through general transportation grants and/or transportation grants specifically targeted to further reduce the cost in historically marginalized areas; areas with a disproportionate amount of low income residents; and areas with a disproportionate amount of vulnerable groups, such as adult residential care facilities, children, elderly, and Portlanders with mobility challenges.
IMPORTANT — If the installation of sidewalks causes a reset of property taxes to current levels, I will add to our legislative agenda that any sidewalk installation (or major repair) by a homeowner, thru the nonprofit organization or any for-profit company, is exempt from this automatic reset. Portlanders should not be punished financially for making our streets safer for everyone.
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: It’s a tough question. To be honest, I don’t know. I would have to look at what calls are like for police, how much overtime is being put in, and if it is possible to restructure scheduling to reduce overtime and use that savings for more officers dedicated to traffic enforcement.
I think there are other things we can also do to help improve the overall situation. For example, I plan on tasking the Bureau of Transportation with creating a repair grid that covers the entire City and maps out the repair of potholes and fissures on all major roadways to extend the life of our roads, but also to reduce damage to vehicles. I would like to have this set up so that this preventive repair work is done year round.
I also think that in some locations, potholes contribute to accidents. The location on SE Division where two or three people have been killed in the last few years had a number of deep potholes around the location where the accidents occurred. They have since been repaired, but my recollection is that they were deep enough and there were enough of them that drivers could easily be distracted long enough upon hitting them for an accident to occur, especially in the evening when visibility is significantly reduced.
I would also like us to look into increasing lighting to make it easier for drivers to see longer distances better and everything that is on the roadway.
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 have three models that can assist with this issue. All three involve substantially adding to our community volunteer base. I have pasted the text of each from my campaign site following the summary of the three models immediately below.
The first is the Portland Youth Corps, which is a tuition-free two year online college degree in exchange for community service. It has the potential of adding thousands of young people to our volunteer force.
The second is a model that helps to integrate residents of adult residential care facilities into our volunteer efforts. The model pasted below is for the can and bottle drive that was created during my time as president of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, but can easily be used for graffiti abatement and garbage collection. The model for this is located on my campaign site in the paper titled, Revenue Generation.
The third is a model to help veterans with integrating back into civilian life. It was mentioned briefly in the Gilbert Place concept paper in question two. The model is on the campaign site and is titled, Veterans As Community Heroes.
Portland Youth Corps
A strong academic education, especially one that includes a college education, can be a great equalizer and, in many instances, put an end to generational poverty, reduce crime, and contribute to a higher quality of life for all. Unfortunately, it is unattainable for tens of thousands of Portland youth because of the high cost of college-related expenses and/or the long term burden of college loan debt. The Portland Youth Corps (PYC) would be a collaboration between the City of Portland, Mt. Hood Community College, Portland Community College, and potentially Portland State University. It will provide Portland youth aged 18-21 with an approved online college curriculum for a 2 year AA or AS degree in exchange for two years of community service. If possible, vocational training might also be an option with nursing and IT as top contenders for this alternative academic pathway.
The best case scenario for this effort would be for youth participants to have numerous types of community service experiences spread throughout the City to provide them with exposure to various types of people and activities that will give them a better understanding of the hopes and dreams as well as the obstacles faced by Portlanders of various socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. In other words, a real world learning experience to supplement their academic education. The hope being that this combined education experience will provide them with a better understanding of the life experience of others they might not otherwise come in contact with and subsequently inform their decision-making for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, it will also help them critically think thru their decisions, including when voting, on how their choices and decisions affect others.
The types of volunteer work participants could do is endless and only limited by the needs of our community. Imagine every K-12 school in the City with a pool of teacher aides. Every street cleared of garbage and graffiti. Every elderly or disabled Portland homeowner not having to worry about yard and home maintenance they are unable to do or can’t afford. The City with a large pool of volunteers to remove invasive species; plant trees and bushes; remove debris from street gutters and drains; assist with park and public space maintenance; provide volunteer support at City community events, such as Sunday Parkways, Movies in the Park, and other Parks and Recreation activities.
We can also use the program to address important issues, such as food insecurity. There are literally tons of fresh food being wasted because someone is unable to pick the fruit or other produce on their property. There are also countless properties that have the capacity to add food-related plants. With permission and engagement with property owners, PYC participants could plant food producing trees and bushes as well as pick excess fruit from property owners’ trees and bushes and deliver it to food banks, schools, adult residential care facilities, and other groups with a need for fresh food. The remainder could go to local grocery stores and Farmers Markets. Any proceeds from local grocery stores could be used to help support the program, other community programs, or added to the budget of historically underfunded City Bureaus and Offices.
The volunteer component might also include providing volunteer support to other City programs or efforts such as the Portland Reparations Project, Movies in the Park, or City revenue generating activities. Working with K-5 schools on street art projects or providing volunteer support for local nonprofits. Picking up cigarette butts, which are among the most littered items in the world and the single greatest source of ocean trash. And with a little luck maybe prevent some young people from smoking. The potential is vast and only limited by our support of such an effort.
A brief list of some of the development activities include:
- establishing clear safety protocols at all levels — from no participant may enter a private residence without prior approval and never without at least one other program participant or volunteer mentor, to using gloves and observing established hazardous material protocols when clearing street gutters and drains.
- determining categories and volunteer opportunities within each category
- determining the number of credit hours of work needed to satisfy the volunteer requirement and how many credit hours each activity represents from each category option
- developing pathways that allow participants to have exposure to a wide variety of experiences — from outdoor activities to introductions to different cultures to in-person exposure to the obstacles faced by the elderly and disabled
- developing oversight protocols for all volunteer levels
- developing academic component and oversight protocols.
Can and Bottle Drive
During my time as president of my neighborhood association we started conducting can and bottle drives to generate additional income to support community projects such as our annual neighborhood night out. I was very lucky to have awesome and dedicated volunteers who managed this. However, if there was a chance to do it again, I would want to try and structure it differently based on what I learned during my involvement with our neighborhood association and with my food cart.
During my time with the neighborhood association I learned a lot about my neighborhood thru the collection of demographic information and data about it. A nursing student from the neighborhood came to us for suggestions for a healthcare related research project she needed to do for her nursing program. We recommended identifying all of the adult residential care (ARC) facilities in the neighborhood. I knew there were a lot because there is one on my street and several near where I live. Yet, I was shocked to learn there were 50 at that time.
After I resigned as president of the neighborhood association I opened a food cart on my property. Several of the residents from the ARC facility on my street came to the food cart. One of the residents shared with me that the management of the facility encouraged residents to not only get out into the neighborhood, but to also support local businesses when possible.
This reminded me that a major goal for many of those who manage ARC facilities is to help residents successfully transition back into society to the highest degree possible. One of the things I hope to do as Mayor is to collaborate with ARC facilities to create a way for ARC residents to participate in community activities as part of that effort.
The can and bottle drive was pretty simple and a City model would be an excellent starting point for many facility residents. Cans, plastic bottles, and glass bottles were separated and lids removed for disposal. Then the bags of sorted containers were taken to the Bottle Drop facility. The separation of bottles and cans is a pretty simple task and can be done by most people, even some who have mobility issues. In efforts like this, the speed in which the separation is done is not as important as the sense of active participation. And just as important is the opportunity for participants who do not reside at an ARC facility, such as youth participating in the Portland Youth Corps project, to get an up close and personal introduction to what life is like for someone struggling with personal, social, and/or physical obstacles.
Veterans As Community Heroes
Many veterans have difficulty transitioning back into civilian life or have side effects from service that eventually derails their stability and causes them to become homeless or suicidal. This can be for any number of reasons. One thing is certain, we must find a way to end suicide, homelessness, and alcoholism and drug addiction as the final destination for so many of our veterans.
While it won’t seem relevant at first how it might help vets better reintegrate back into civilian life, a brief description of my neighborhood is necessary.
Over the years I’ve watched my neighborhood change rapidly. One of those changes has been the massive influx of vulnerable and marginalized populations into the neighborhood as they are segregated away from ‘nice’ neighborhoods. This includes people of color, immigrants and refugees, disabled, low income families, and elderly, among others. My neighborhood has two federally identified food deserts, more unpaved roadways than any other in the City of Portland, numerous intersections on the City’s list of most dangerous intersections, including the most dangerous in the state of Oregon according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the vast majority of residential streets with no curb or sidewalk. My neighborhood also has over 50 adult residential care facilities. The one on my street houses folks working on mental health issues, but these facilities serve folks with a wide range of issues and needs specific to them.
My neighborhood is like several in Portland and far too many in the United States — in desperate need of heroes. And this is where our veterans come in.
Leaving a highly structured environment like active military duty for one with no structure at all can make re-entering civilian life a challenge. To provide a more gradual transition into civilian life, veteran participants would be housed in an area of the City identified as needing focused attention by the City to increase livability and social and economic equity. Participating veterans would live in an environment structured very similar to active duty with the exception of personal quarters instead of a barracks set-up like boot camp.
Daily life could include structured group exercise; instruction on meal preparation in a community kitchen with emphasis on healthy eating choices; mental health check-ins with a military trained and certified therapist; job search support and employment skill-building; and community involvement activities.
Community involvement activities could include: taking a leadership or active role in neighborhood bike patrol or watches; litter clean-ups; graffiti removal; invasive species removal; projects at schools and public places; mentoring and working with adult residential care residents and local students; infrastructure support such as filling potholes, installing and/or repairing sidewalks, or cleaning out street drains; staffing community fundraising events, such as bottle and can drives; acting as crossing guards; providing safety support at public events; teaching safety skills to elderly, school children, residential care facility residents, and other groups.
My personal hope would be that most or all of the veterans would stay in the neighborhood they were based once they graduate from the 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?
Candidate Answer: This is a difficult question to answer with the outcomes of coronavirus still unknown. In addition, there are mass releases of prisoners happening to help reduce the spread of the virus.
I’m afraid the only answer I can provide at this time is that I will have to review the situation upon taking office and determine a course of action based on the situation at that time.
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: One of my biggest gripes with the City of Portland is the seemingly continuous addition of redundant transportation in and around downtown. I believe I have made it clear to the bicycle and street advocates that my focus with regard to transportation will be on areas of the City that need it, not those that already have too much.
That being said, the way this question is presented, my interpretation is that the problem seems to be more about access and convenience, than transportation specifically. Food access is a good example. There are 11 federally identified food deserts in Portland. Six of them are in SE and East Portland, plus parts of two more. This means a huge part of our area has no nearby access to food. While increasing bus service will help, it does nothing about the devaluing of our time. This is especially the case for those low income families who live in the area because time is a precious commodity for them. If you are dependent on public transportation to get around, a trip to the store takes hours. For a working single parent, every second has value. I would offer that working to get easier, preferably walking distance access to food and other basic necessities needs to be improved in concert with transportation options.