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Commissioner Rubio's Priorities

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Commissioner Rubio tours SW Portland trails
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Priorities

Portland is a special place to me, and many of you have told me it is for you, too. For some, we have called it home our entire lives. For many more, Portland is a chosen home.

Yet, regardless of how long you have lived here, we all share a belief in—and a vision for—a city where every family can live affordably and in safety, regardless of who you are; where community members look out for one another and jobs provide good wages and benefits; where good schools offer all kids the opportunity to succeed; and where everyone feels that they belong.

Getting there requires all of us, and it requires elected leaders to be honest and transparent with community, to listen, and to incorporate community into their decision-making process.

Responding with Urgency to our Housing Crisis

This a challenging time for Portland. In the year prior to the pandemic, city and county governments collectively served 35,000 people with services like emergency shelter, rent assistance, permanent housing, and support services. Folks need these services for a variety of reasons, but the need has only increased due to COVID-19. 

Despite these challenging times, Portlanders have said loud and clear that addressing the housing crisis is a priority. They voted to pass two housing and supportive services ballot measures, providing dedicated funding to support this work. It’s an incredible opportunity to turn our aligned values into aligned action.

While I do not oversee the city’s Housing Bureau or the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services, I will continue to advocate for regional collaboration and investments in what we know works. As often as possible, we need to prevent people from falling into homelessness by providing proactive mental health and addiction programs and rent and energy assistance. For those who are already without housing, we also need pathways to permanent supportive housing. We need data to support our decision-making, and we need to involve all impacted communities—especially our houseless neighbors. Let’s rebuild trust, identify challenges and solutions, and explore partnerships that move us from crisis to thriving, and where everyone has a place to call home.

COVID Response & Economic Recovery

COVID leveled the local economy, to be sure, but it only crystalized the deep economic and racial disparities that already existed. Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color, and working families know that this city’s prosperity has often come at the expense of our communities’ wellbeing. Rampant displacement and gentrification have left behind far too many people.

Our economic recovery must leave all our communities stronger, and that means bringing all communities into the local economy as full and equal partners. We need to increase our strategic investments and opportunities for BIPOC and women-owned businesses and make equitable investments in all parts of our city—especially in East Portland. We need to sustain and grow Portland’s rich history of supporting small businesses. But our city cannot do this alone: we need regional collaboration, and the more we collaborate the stronger our recovery will be. I am committed to working with community, labor, and business leaders to recover from the pandemic and build a local economy where hardworking families, regardless of their income level, can thrive.

Parks & Natural Resources

As a longtime nonprofit executive director, I have seen firsthand how parks programming enriches the lives of Portlanders and makes an important contribution to the health of this community. Especially during COVID, we have seen people turn to our parks and natural spaces for their physical and emotional well-being. Parks and open spaces have provided an opportunity to go outside, get exercise, breathe fresh air, and recharge. For people and families without yards or neighborhood greenspaces, city parks have been a lifeline—but in East Portland 59% of youth do not live within walking distance of a playground.

For these reasons, I want to increase access in park-deficient communities. I’ll build on the pay-as-you-can model developed by Portland Parks and Recreation so that finances are not a barrier for any child trying to access programming. And I’ll work with Parks to rebuild from COVID closures, address the significant maintenance backlog, and lay the foundation for a system-wide sustainable future.

Climate Action

We are living climate change every day: extreme heat and cold endangering our neighbors, record-breaking wildfires, and rain and wind toppling trees. We have a vanishingly small window of opportunity to act.

While it affects all Portlanders, the climate crisis endangers Portland’s vulnerable communities most: the elderly and very young; immigrants and refugees; lower-income and houseless Portlanders; and Black, Indigenous, and other Portlanders of color. I am committed to ensuring that Portland continues community-led efforts to accelerate our shared City and County goal to get 100% of our energy from renewable sources by 2035. To get us there, I support developing community-based energy, hastening the shift to renewable sources, and implementing community-based policies and programs like the Portland Clean Energy Fund. These programs create good-paying jobs and elevate the leadership of the most-impacted Portlanders.

I also support investments that make transit, bicycling, and walking fast and safe alternatives to driving. We also need to recognize that most high-crash corridors are in low-income and BIPOC communities. Efficient transportation options open access to work, school, recreation, and economic opportunities—opportunities which have the power to transform communities.

Reimagining Public Safety

There is no mistaking that 2020 was a call for change. It’s clear that Portlanders are ready to see a new, community-centered way to do public safety. I am committed to working with stakeholders, community advocates, and my colleagues to reimagine a community safety system that is right for Portland. This must go hand-in-hand with action to dismantle the systemic racism that excludes Portlanders from participating fully in our community. Poverty, lack of opportunity, and systemic racism all make us less safe. Overlay COVID—isolation, closed schools, and cancelled recreation activities—and existing challenges get harder.

Safe communities are communities that adequately support all community members and treat them with respect and dignity.

Communities need responses and resources in times of emergency, but we must continue to look for alternatives to responsibilities that have traditionally been carried out by armed officers. That’s why I support innovative new programs like Portland Street Response, and alternative public safety professionals like unarmed public safety support specialists (PS3s). We need a coordinated community safety plan rooted in public health and a broad understanding of public safety.

Building a new system takes time and effort, but we need to work faster without compromising our values and vision. I will continue to work on this as I have worked throughout my career: by centering community, with collaboration and respect, and leading with my values.

Building Belonging Together

We all want to live in a city where we feel we belong, and where we feel safe, heard, and valued by our government. Making this everyone’s reality throughout the City is a huge challenge that ranges across all bureaus, and which covers everything from how we bid out city contracts to how we zone. It’s about how kids enroll in Parks’ programming, who testifies, who is appointed and elected, and where we build pedestrian and bike infrastructure. People must see themselves reflected by their government, and by the decisions their government makes.

I’m honored to be serving on the most diverse council that Portland’s ever had, and I’m proud that all five of us have agreed to center equity and community in everything we do.

As the Commissioner in Charge of the Office of Community Technology (OCT), I’m committed to digital equity. COVID-19 safety measures have made clear: digital access and literacy are the new normal, and without the technology and skills, people will be left behind. I want to build on OCT’s successful work distributing technology kits and internet cards during the pandemic to find longer term solutions. I’m particularly interested in how we bring fast, reliable, affordable, and secure broadband to residents currently impacted by the digital divide. The digital city can reject the historic patterns of the physical city: we have an opportunity to interrupt structural inequity and racism, and to bring benefits to all.

Portlanders are also grappling with how we see, acknowledge, and respect the diverse histories that have shaped our region. I want to see the City maintain an inclusive public art collection that sees, acknowledges, and respects diverse cultural histories, identities, and ideas. As we consider what merits historical preservation, we should recognize and value all community histories—particularly Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color experiences and voices which have, until more recently, been invisible or erased in our community.

And we should remove the systemic barriers that feed that erasure. I support extending the right to vote to all Portlanders, regardless of their national citizenship, and I support district-based elections for City Council. I will continue to push for greater representation for positions we appoint and among the contractors with whom the City does business.