I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I appreciate my colleagues. Last fall, the Council committed to identify three priorities for this budget process and in January, the current Council confirmed our priorities—Houselessness, Economic Stability, and Community Safety. Over the course of the last six months we all stayed disciplined and focused. And while identifying our priorities was the right place to start, I am most attached to the actions that directly reflect and advance our shared priorities. This shared dedication to action is an important step to move away from the protective silo stance that has haunted our form of City government for years.
First, I want to highlight our action on houselessness. This Council unanimously approved the Shelter to Housing Continuum this spring—a vital step that allows us to collaborate with the Office of Management & Finance to create six Safe Rest/Managed Restorative Villages for unhoused neighbors by the end of this year. My team leads this work through a weekly Streets to Stability Task Force with policy staff from five Council offices, members of the Impact Reduction Team, and leadership from the Joint Office of Homeless Services. Together they share ideas, accountability, opportunities—and credit for results and impact. Currently they are finalizing a Safe Rest ordinance which will I’ll bring to Council later this month. I can’t overstate what a huge step in the right direction these six Safe Rest Villages will be for our community—and we truly need to take steps! We need to meet our unhoused neighbors where they are, providing safe places to rest with full access to services that every human being needs—food, laundry, toilets, and showers. With sustained partnership from our partners at the County, we will provide access and services for the many complex challenges that each of our houseless residents face. The end goal is and will always be permanent housing for all Portlanders, and this initiative will make Portland safer, healthier, and better prepared to lead our community out of the houselessness crisis. I want to thank my colleagues for supporting my amendment for the Project Director position to move this work and to get the results that Portlanders deserve. And thank you to the community in advance for your support of Safe Rest Villages—so many Portlanders have called for this action for so long—and I look forward to working with neighborhoods as we build—I see this as both a shared challenge and groundbreaking opportunity for our River City.
Second, our action on economic stability. This Council offered enthusiastic support for the assembly of a Permit Improvement Task Force—convened by my team in partnership with Commissioner Mapps. Thank you, Commissioner Mapps. While the Bureau of Development Services is the face of permitting in Portland, there are 7 bureaus involved in development review—count them, 7. It’s far past time to acknowledge that development review and permitting are not one office’s responsibility, and I appreciate my colleagues’ sharing that view. The Permit Improvement Task Force includes Directors and staff from every bureau involved with development review, and their goal is to improve efficiency and quality in our permit processes. The Task Force is currently building out a work plan for our first objective to improve quality of submittals. This just in—the customer is not always wrong. This, like most improvement, begins with acceptance and humility. I want to appreciate the task force members for their dialogue on this topic—all improvement begins with culture change and we are moving this from a transactional stance to a relational stance. Again, I want to thank my colleagues for supporting my amendment to hire a Project Manager who will lead this work so we can truly implement and get results.
While I know permitting isn’t always the most exciting topic, it is vital to make these processes more accessible as our economy recovers and thrives. This work will make it easier to build affordable housing, create shelters for our houseless neighbors, improve sidewalks, repair your home, launch your small business, build an ADU in your backyard, or build a full block development that will hire hundreds of employees. Permitting impacts every Portlander, and it is time to make these processes work for every Portlander—not just those with the most access.
I’m also so pleased that this budget includes Portland Housing Bureau funding for the N/NE Preference Policy—this investment will give priority for affordable housing investments to Black Portlanders with generational ties to the area who have been displaced, are at risk of displacement now, or who are descendants of households displaced from North or Northeast Portland. As we work to correct past harms and provide restorative economic justice that benefits our entire community, I expect to see the N/NE Preference Policy create meaningful progress for more Portlanders. Thank you for the amendment to hire two staff to move the work and achieve tangible results that operationalize racial equity.
I also want to highlight PHB funding for an inclusionary housing market study—we need data and analysis to advance ongoing refinements to our early implementation of the inclusionary housing program. Like all early implementation, it is time to improve the incentives and requirements, it seems both parties want improvement. This study will give us the tools we need to realize truly inclusionary housing in Portland. I want to thank our partners on the ground who will be at the table with us. We have no time for Portland Nice—we need robust, positive tension. If there isn’t creative tension at these meetings, I don’t think we’ll create anything new and different and better. I’d like to thank my colleagues once more for supporting my amendments that move this work forward next fiscal year.
And third, our action related to Community Safety. At a critical time for our city, this Council unanimously passed a gun violence ordinance and invested in Portlanders to build trust in culturally specific communities—on the ground community organizations are best positioned to lead this work, and our investment reflects our commitment to proven solutions. We need to track data on clearance rates, we need an uptick on cases closed and solved. Communities that have high clearance rates have healthy communication between impacted communities and Police. When clearance rates go up, gun violence goes down. Relationships improve and move at the speed of trust.
And—despite our differing views on the timeline for expansion—all 5 Council members expressed full support of the Portland Street Response program. We all agree on the need for a first responder program that meets people where they are when they are experiencing behavioral health crises—Portland Street Response reflects that approach, and I look forward to learning more as the objective data comes in from the recently launched pilot. Thank you to the team of Portland Street Responders who are doing this work every day as part of the pilot—I recognize how challenging your roles are, and I appreciate your service. Our next critical action is to follow the lead of newly hired Community Safety Director Mike Myers: we need at least one work session—probably more—that include potential mental health partners who can help identify scalable solutions. Oregon’s last-in-the-nation behavioral health practices are an embarrassment, and this antiquated system directly contributes to our houselessness crisis and to overall community safety. While the City doesn’t have authority over our statewide system or County services, I believe we can find creative solutions through collaboration while we work to address this damaging gap and move Oregon’s behavioral health practices into the 21st century. And, we can join Eugene with a best practice first responder system and build an improved system from the ground up.
I’d like to ask every Portlander to stay focused on our shared priorities and our shared actions. This last year and a half has challenged each of us in so many ways, and we are all on a path of emotional and spiritual recovery. Portland, we can do this. We can share our resources in a way that reflects our values, we can continue to learn from one another, and we can move Portland forward—together.
Again, I would like to thank my Council colleagues, my County colleagues, and your incredible staff—I value your perspectives and commitment to this work, and I appreciate how collaborative your teams have been through this process. I would also like to thank Tom Rinehart for his leadership, and for housing and managing the positions that will advance pivotal initiatives going forward. Thank you to Jessica Kinard and her team—this budget process was a first for the most of us, and your stewardship and patience was so appreciated. And finally, thank you to my team for your hard work and dedication. Lead by Chief of Staff, Kellie Torres—she is in charge, not me, and you are all better off for this. All things Housing and BDS are led by Chariti Montez, all things houselessness are led by Mark Bond, all front line constituent work and council prep is driven by Yesenia Carrillo, all operational functions are led by Elizabeth Gadberry and finally, communication is a strategic program that moves work and I am grateful Margaux Weeke joined the team. They all patiently manage me, and I am so grateful.
2021 and 2022 is about action—as a member of this team, this highly functional City Council, I’m excited to take Portland in a new direction with all of you. I love this city, and I know you do to. Let’s do this!