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Our Global Leadership Responsibility w/ Mike Schneider

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About this Episode

May 15, 2020

Sarah joined Mike Schneider / @blcksmth on Instagram Live to discuss Portland’s role as a global leader.

Find your nearest ballot drop box at sarah2020.com/dropboxes.

Here's how you can help get Sarah elected Portland's next mayor on May 19th:

Have a question for Sarah? Email it to ourportland@sarah2020.com.

Transcript

Announcer
Welcome to Our Portland with Sarah Iannarone, made possible by contributors to Friends of Sarah for Portland. Portlanders have everything we need to make radical progress today on emergencies like climate chaos, housing affordability, and staggering inequality. Each episode we'll hear how Sarah plans to be the mayor to lead the city of Portland to a more equitable and sustainable future. And now, here's Sarah.

Sarah
Hi Portland. My name is Sarah Iannarone and I am running for Portland mayor. My pronouns are she and her. Election day is coming right up. It's Tuesday, May 19th and the last day to safely mail in your ballot is Thursday, May 14th. If you're listening to this after Thursday, do not mail your ballot. Just walk it to a drop site, which you can find online and we'll put it in the episode notes. This is a very important election. We know that the incumbent is going to be the mayor through the end of 2020 but who becomes mayor on the first day of 2021 could shape outcomes for future generations, as we spend critical public dollars investing in our COVID recovery.

Sarah
Now, this is a special episode of a conversation I had on Instagram live with Michael James Schneider, who as I understand it, is quite Instagram famous for his balloon art, one of which he did for me and I'm so grateful. I thought it was delightful. So listen to our conversations about urban infill police reform, what we do about protests and how we make sure Portland is an equitable place for future generations. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Mike
There she is. Hi.

Sarah
Hey, can you hear me okay?

Mike
It's so great to see you.

Sarah
Thanks for having me be here.

Mike
It's, it's an honor. How are you doing?

Sarah
I'm great. You know, just doing that Portland gray thing this morning like we do.

Mike
I saw that. I know that whenever it's a gray, rainy day that it's going to be a writing day for me and not a, not a, not a creative outside or anything like that day,

Sarah
You know, my daughter was born here and when we have too many sunny days in a row, I see her starting to get jittery. It's like gray is her native habitat, right? Like

Mike
Nice. She's acclimated to.

Sarah
She is. Well, thank you for hosting me and thank you for the beautiful art that you did on my behalf.

Mike
Oh, it's my pleasure. It's my pleasure. Uh, you can, uh, see yourself, uh, behind me over there. Uh, Kelly Campbell is a really talented, uh, local puppeteer and she's been making all the dolls for, uh, for a new video series I had. So I was, it seemed like a natural fit. So, uh, hopefully we'll, we'll use that doll again for future photos.

Sarah
I hope so. I hope so. Well, you know, it's made me so inspired to see everyone make art around this campaign. When was the last time we had a political campaign in Portland? I think it was probably Commissioner Eudaly's first, uh, run when she was doing zines around rental housing and things like that that we've seen the public engaged. To me that's like what Portland's all about is when we engage in arts and creativity to kind of drive our values.

Mike
Yeah, yeah, exactly. That's a great way to put it. Yeah.

Sarah
So talk to me. What do we want to talk about?

Mike
Okay. So, um, I wanted to give a little, uh, background, I'd love for you to introduce yourself to my viewers who don't know. Um, and I hope that viewers who aren't necessarily living in Portland stick around as well. Uh, because I think your campaign has been really, uh, inspiring and hopefully would inspire other people to, uh, enact change in their local cities too. So, so tell us, uh, tell us a little, little bit about yourself.

Sarah
Yes. And thank you for hosting me internationally. I was just on yesterday with a typography, um, collective who was doing work internationally too. And I'm so excited. I actually announced my campaign in Germany in Die Zeit, uh, before we even announced here in the US. I figured I could get away with that. Um, but you know, for the last 10 years, my work has been hosting visiting leaders from around the world who came to study sustainable urban development, best practices with our leaders. So I have this amazing global network that I miss. So thank you so much for bringing me back into that realm where I get to talk about what I love, which is really this fact that cities, right, are the locus of so much positive change around attacking some of our biggest issues. We know that as we as urban dwellers, think about housing, transportation, uh, recycling.

Sarah
We can create global change just by how we as humans live together in cities. And so when I see Portland as a leader on that and the people from around the world looking to Portland for leadership, not because we're some mega city, right? Like Hong Kong or London, but because we're this small place where people come together to do things like plant trees and work in community gardens. That's what cities all around the world. There are only a handful of mega cities, but what there are is many cities like Portland. So when we're not doing our very best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, close the loop on our consumption and our waste and making sure that every single person has a roof over their head and a hearty meal everyday and clean drinking water. And access to mobility. If we're dropping the ball on that, then we're actually not doing the best by our people, but we're not doing the best by the world either.

Sarah
And so we as Portlanders have a responsibility, I believe this election cycle, to put someone in place who brings that mindset, that doing best by Portlanders is important, but that we actually are a role model around the world for sustainable living. And if we're not doing our very best there, then people are not going to be, um, making the progress that we need because our network is global. It's not just Oregon, right? Some of Portland's best friends aren't Bend Oregon or Astoria Oregon or Le Grande Oregon, right? Our best friends are in places like Australia and Japan. And I know that we have friends even in, uh, Kenya, right? Where there we're doing direct knowledge exchanges around how we can improve livability for our people.

Mike
Yeah, that's, and it's, it's exciting. I think people can get easily discouraged, uh, you know, in the past four years into under the administration, uh, nationally. Um, and so it's really exciting to be able to affect change locally and sort of be inspiring. Uh, I did have a lot of, uh, people come up with questions if you're, if you're open for a few of them. I wrote a few of them down.

Sarah
Love it. I love questions.

Mike
Very good. Um, so a lot of people in Portland are really concerned about housing affordability, um, and also about the houseless population. And I just wanted to hear your, your views on that. I was really inspired in one of the recent debates when you said clearly, uh, your opinion on sweeps.

Sarah
Yes. You know, and this is where in some ways the crisis is not, um, worsening things. It's revealing to people who haven't been paying close enough attention. When the CDC during the pandemic announced that we, no one should be displacing people without housing, uh, AKA sweeping them. Everyone I know who has either been experiencing homelessness or advocating on behalf of people who are was like, hello. We've been telling you that that displacement of people without housing, unless you have an adequate place for them to go, is a human rights violation. And it's actually a public health crisis because we know that when you're displacing people, uh, whether it's evicting people from public housing, which is also going on at very high rates in the city of Portland, I think many Portlanders would be surprised how many people get evicted from public housing in publicly subsidized housing.

Sarah
That we're not taking good care to keep people as in placed as possible in the middle of a housing crisis. Then that's actually to what we're trying to accomplish, especially when you think of the amount of resources, the millions of dollars that are going into those sweeps. So the way that we've actually tried to rethink our approach is by to, by separating the problem onto two fronts. One is rethinking public safety and our very bloated police budget right now, which criminalizes people for being black and Brown skin. It criminalizes people for being poor and it wastes a lot of money. And what we need to do is if we're going to call a budget, public safety, then we need to be looking at health impacts and outcomes in terms of the fact that we had 51 traffic deaths on Portland streets last year. That's unacceptable.

Sarah
In 2017 we saw over half of the arrests made by Portland police Bureau of people who identified as without housing in their status. So what we need to look at is say that money is not keeping people safe in a militarized police force that's brutalizing anti-fascist protesters and other things that we're spending our money on is not keeping Portlanders safe. So we've looked at it on one frame through public safety. Now the other frame that you have to approach this from is housing access, affordability, and making sure that we're not displacing people. Making sure that we understand that renter protections are consumer protections, and that every single person who tips out of housing into homelessness, the costs go up exponentially. Not just of getting them back into housing, but their own financial wellbeing in terms of can they work or not. Um, are they able to get access to healthcare?

Sarah
Can they even do things like vote? Right? So for us, keeping people housed should be a priority at all costs. It's much cheaper to subsidize emergency rental assistance than it is to re-house people once they've been displaced. I also think it's important then to start looking at the spectrum of affordability. And we declared a housing state of emergency back in 2015 in Portland, but there's never been a clear plan of how much supply for each range on the income spectrum we're going to try to provide and where in the city. So it's been very ad hoc and I think that's where a lot of the fights and controversies come from because it's been a question of what are you going to put affordable housing here? And some neighbors say no and some neighbors say yes. And my answer is, you know, we need to put affordable housing in every neighborhood in this.

Sarah
Places that have made themselves exempt from multifamily housing, that have made themselves exempt from affordable housing. It's reverse redlining. They're protecting what's essentially racist zoning. Right? And so we, if we're gonna attack this, we need to come at it honestly and we need to come at it aggressively and we need to come at it. Um, with clarity. And I see a question here from one of your, uh, uh, viewers that I want to address, which has to do with we're concerned about design, preservation and inequitable engagement. I'm not here to be an arbiter of good taste or good architecture or good urban design. We need to understand that if we're in the middle of a housing crisis, then we're going to have baselines that focus on our primary goals, which are climate change. Are the things that we're doing in our communities helping us be more prepared to adapt and mitigate climate change? Are the things that we're doing in our communities, helping us make sure that Portland is an affordable place so that this doesn't become a playground for wealthy people, but that the everyday working class folks can still enjoy the city and make a good living here and make a good life here. And finally, does it help us ameliorate inequality? If there are places that are, have bad racial inequality, that have had gendered inequality, that had had abled inequality so that only able bodied people can live there. Think about East Portland with the lack of sidewalks and the lack of transportation infrastructure, then those are our priorities. And it's not for me to say, yes, this needs a balcony or no this doesn't, but can we make sure that we're investing in things that will help Portland prosper and be equitable for the long term.

Mike
That's great. Thank you. That's a really, really, lovely and all encompassing answer. And you're right, it's not a, it's not just one, one puzzle piece. Everything is sort of interconnected with each other. Uh, you mentioned in that, um, uh, you know, police brutalization of, of, uh, antifascists and you first, uh, were on my radar, um, as somebody who was not, uh, not, not afraid to, uh, state that you were anti-fascist. Will you talk to me a little bit about, um, uh, how you would address, uh, police reform in Portland?

Sarah
First of all, I just want to point out how far we've been pulled by this absolutely sociopathic administration and movement that we even have to have a conversation that opposing fascism is good or bad.

Mike
Yeah. Yeah. That should be a no brainer.

Sarah
This is 2020 United States where we have fought multiple Wars, right? Where we at least we profess to oppose authoritarian totalitarian regimes and fascism and I do not think that someone, you know, whether you're a school teacher or a small business owner or a stay at home caregiver that you shouldn't have to be embarrassed to say I oppose fascism and I am proud. We put it on a bumper sticker and I also want to acknowledge that we have to look at, um,

Sarah
what it means for policing in the US today when we see the rise of white nationalism and white supremacy undergirding that entire practice and how we're going to actively dismantle that through an agenda of anti-racism, urban policymaking that focuses on anti-racism and then say that what we're going to do in the meantime between when we've been able to, I imagine it will take us almost a generation to reform policing in that way, that we are going to empower our communities to lead on this, that we're going to educate our community so that they understand this and that we have the capacity in our communities to keep people safe. Because what we've witnessed with the Portland police Bureau is millions of dollars in overtime where the police show up at protests and actually police the anti-fascist and not the white nationalists who have come here from out of state to incite riots and commit hateful activity and to spew hate speech in our streets.

Sarah
This is criminal behavior, right? It is not me saying I don't like that you're doing this. This is not free speech. This is hateful, bigoted behavior that's not acceptable here. And so the fact that the Portland police sympathize with those folks and are more aligned with them and that we're seeing brutality against people who are opposing that, then we need to make sure that what we're doing with our police budget is moving away from militarized policing and investments and militarization to things like deescalation and anti-biased training. This is where as I'm city mayor, you get to say dollar for dollar. I'm not going to spend money on this and I am going to spend money on that. Um, another thing we have to think about is if we're going to be a sanctuary city and we're going to say that immigrants and refugees are welcome here, then what are we going to do in terms of partnering with the feds?

Sarah
You know, I see a lot of equivocation from some city council members and especially our mayor in terms of, Oh, well we're going to partner with the feds on this and we're not going to partner with them on that. As long as that administration is oppressing our immigrant and refugee communities, our LGBTQ community members, um, black Portlanders, Portlanders of color, indigenous Portlanders, then we're not going to partner with them. Even if it means we don't get their money. Because I don't want to do what they say we have to do in terms of partnering with immigration, the joint task force on terrorism, Homeland security, because we need to be as Portlanders living our values regardless of what the Trump administration is telling us to do.

Mike
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about about, uh, ICE as well. Uh, because it's alarming, uh, to see, uh, ICE activity in, in Portland. It feels totally, uh, disconnected from who we are.

Sarah
Yeah. Commissioner Eudaly kind of started down that fight. You know, they have, uh, uh, a site here in Portland that I think we should be pulling their, their permit on. Our current administration is very risk averse about lawsuits in the short term, but it seems to me like they're very happy to assume the liability in the longterm. Right. So right now we're getting sued by people who got, you know, tear gas canisters in their head in a protest. And so there's, there's a legal liability that as a city, we're assuming meanwhile we're not willing to revoke ICE permit because we're afraid of what some kind of lawsuit from the fed saying ICE has to have this. Like what, what are we willing to assume liability for? Same with the fossil fuel infrastructure. Right. And how we're saying we should be forcing the fossil fuel companies to shore up their infrastructure in our city to protect Portlanders against threats down the road if we have a seismic incident here and those fuel tanks along the Columbia topple where we're on the hook as Portlanders for billions of dollars and cleanup in addition to our Superfund site.

Sarah
So why on earth would we be assuming that liability in the short term? It's the same with police brutality. It's the same with homelessness. We allow ourselves to be strapped with liability in the short term fearing reprisal as opposed to making sure that we're protecting ourselves for the long term.

Sarah
I've seen some, some questions scroll a scroll across the field. I see them too cause my, my engineer's putting them in here. Oversimplifying and minimizing real issues about design makes better [inaudible] and economic disparity. I don't know that that's what I was doing. I've served on a lot of committees in the city. My background is in planning sustainable cities, um, the history and theory of urban planning and even a focus on sustainable design. So I'm not minimizing the need for good design and I actually think it's a tool that we can use. What I don't think we should allow is the notion of neighborhood character and what some people prefer as a bludgeon for our, um, interest in terms of urban infill and density and ameliorating disparities. That's what I'm opposed to. I think that through good design we can actually lower housing costs.

Sarah
Things like passive house design where we don't maybe in a temperate climate like Portland have to have air conditioning in every unit, let's say, where we can have passive heating and cooling and eco roofs. And even think about parking. I've been huge on parking reform. When you think about the cost of every single parking space in a new development being between 40 and $60,000, or the fact that we give up so much of our city to on street parking, that's essentially free when that could be housing for humans, not cars. So that's what I'm talking about, is when neighborhoods, um, kind of for this false argument about neighborhood character and design and wanting to preserve that versus what is truly good design and how we can take all the tools that are important in the toolkit, uh, from everything from urban design, architecture, um, even how communities have input into these and change outcomes for Portlanders.

Sarah
So I didn't mean to minimize that, but I do want it to be about how do we come together to shape outcomes as Portlanders. And that leads to the next question about redirecting funds from police Bureau, um, leveraging the needs of black, native and Brown communities. And I'll pull that out because I think this goes to the notion not only of policing, but how all of the city budget goes. And we have had a lot of conversation even just this past week in terms of the fact that there's very little public input that's meaningful into the city budget. The fact that we don't really fund communities to be the agents in their own future making, if I can put it that way. And so what I have talked about in my good government plan, which folks can find at sarah2020.com/goodgov Is this rethinking of of the civic fabric of our place being the basis of all of our necessary reforms.

Sarah
So do we need to look not only at how we elect people to make sure that our representation is more equitable? Do we need to look at things like how we even vote so that it's ranked and not, um, first past the post? Do we look at participatory budgeting? So that communities can have a say in how things are allocated because really we can put something into policy. But unless you fund it, um, what does it matter? So that notion of participatory budgeting and even talking about then you move into the housing plan and what I've talked about is really rethinking how city planning works from this technocratic, um, basically telling cities how things are going to get done and then trying to mitigate the blow back to putting the capacity into local government so that local government provides the technical capacity for communities to shape outcomes in their neighborhoods and especially prevent displacement.

Sarah
So important. And you have examples of living Cully or the Jade district and Apano and where you have existing community members organizing for political outcomes. Well our planning Bureau and our city resources should be actually going behind those community organizations so that as they're looking at a geography to which they're connected, they can say, we'd like this kind of transportation infrastructure. We'd like this amount of affordable housing. We would like this expertise so that we can pull this off in a way that helps us increase the tree canopy and mitigate heat Island impacts and make sure that we have good jobs and affordable commercial real estate for our people. Okay, planning bureau, now help us shape this. Okay Transportation Bureau, now help us shape this. It's a complete 180 to how city government interacts with the people, but when you look at the problems that we're facing for the future, if we don't engage all of our residents in this future, we're sunk. We're not going to beat climate change. We're not going to end racism. We're not going to make progress on these problems. We need every single Portlander in this game. And I just don't know how we do that unless we put the power of the government behind the people so that they are driving this.

Mike
That's smart. And something you touched on as well is just sort of the difficulty of, um, things becoming mired in bureaucracy. And I know that Portland has a unique relationship of the city council to the mayor. Uh, do you want to talk a little bit about that? And especially for people who may not, uh, may not know that.

Sarah
Well, we have this very antiquated commission form of government and it often takes the hits on the reasons that Portland doesn't work. Because what it means is in a weak mayor commission, you basically have one big mayor and four baby mayors and they all oversee bureaus of which they may or may not have any professional background or training. So we have one who's a registered nurse or formerly registered nurse who was overseeing parks. We have a former bookseller who oversees transportation, right? And so there's a lot of things about that system that are a little janky. But what we need to think about is as we move forward from that, how do we craft urban systems and urban representation and how do we invest in a healthy democracy? So again, that we're tapping into the potential of every Portlander this is about how do you imagine a future in which we are climate adaptive in which we are equitable in which representation is, is fair.

Sarah
And just and now as we look at our charter and try to get past this commission form of government, that's the X that you solve for. Not because we hate this old outdated system, but can we come up and use our civic imagination to innovate something that's going to then— this goes back to global leadership. If a city like Portland with our modest scale and ambition can do something like create a whole government to administer an urban growth boundary and constrain sprawl, we can't start to think of systems of governance that we can come together and be adaptive and equitable and representative to address the problems of the 21st century? I don't think that's beyond us. I think what's keeping us back is status quo, that's been financing campaigns and mine is breakout from that cause we're using this whole new public financing model, which is amazing.

Sarah
We're on track to set city elections history for the most donors ever in an election. Well, but congratulations to the people of Portland because what that means is we now have a chance to say we don't appreciate the status quo. We're in this for the innovation and got your back as a policymaker, Sarah, cause this isn't about you. This is about us and we're going to do this together. And yes, the green new deal—and you can see my poster behind me— is a great example of that. We're looking at this budget process right now and they're trying to head us down this path of austerity, of budget cuts. Meanwhile, the feds are basically giving away free money to cities right now in terms of bond acquisition for cities of over 250,000 residents of which Portland qualifies. Why are you making not intensified investments in things like municipal broadband, active transportation infrastructure, um, energy systems that would help, uh, people with low income household incomes reduce their utility costs. These could be things that we're investing in, in this crisis as opposed to saying we're going to cut budgets and cut jobs. And it's just two different ways of thinking about the future. And my feedback, especially from young people has been, is that the one that I'm proposing is the one that they would like to get behind as opposed to this outdated 50 year old mindset of austerity and just letting corporate interests run a right or runaway with the shop, you know?

Mike
Yeah. Um, I think we have time for one. Uh, one more question if you have time. Um, you can certainly, if you feel free to pull it from the feed, uh, if you like as well. Um, no, we're not going to do that. When somebody asks, will you make balloon art illegal? Um, I know that, uh, you know, right now a lot of people are armchair quarterbacking, but what, what would you have done differently or what would you do differently about how the city is reacting to the current COVID-19 crisis?

Sarah
Well with everything I always dive straight into community for my answer. So that's why as soon as I had a briefing on what the impact of this would be, I actually reached out to people that I knew who were experts in this realm, both at the community level who are direct service providers, epidemiologists, virologists and said, what does a municipality have to do? Not how do we respond to the noise that's coming at us. Right? But what do we as a city with our parameters, our power, our resources need to do as the community responds to COVID. And I laid out a community action plan to COVID where we were setting up, the first thing that I talked about was a unified communication system from the city for information. Because when you talk about those silos in our city and information comes in every direction, I still don't know if we have a unified communications hub in the city and how it's working.

Sarah
Have you seen one? I don't think most Portlanders are getting their daily update from city of Portland. Two, you shore up for the most vulnerable. So all of those things about making sure that we have hygiene stations and hydration stations and emergency shelter. We have people all over the city who are putting out garden hoses and water buckets to get people water in a crisis. Why are there not like there should be water trucks and hygiene? I mean, you treat this like the crisis that it is. Um, hunger. We need to be getting in front of hunger because of the, there's a lot of glitches in our supply chain right now. So why did we not at the beginning of this say, Hey, every Portlander with a yard, we need you to mitigate your impacts on the system. Start growing fruits and vegetables this summer.

Sarah
Like you're the ones who can help us take some pressure off. Also, here's what we're going to need in the food banks. Here's where we're going to need to make sure that our children are getting fed while school is out and the parks are closed. Thinking about what's going to happen on the other side of this eviction moratorium terrifies me. We're going to have so many Portlanders, whether they're renters or people with a mortgage or people with commercial leases who are going to look up and that huge sum of money is going to be coming due. What is going to happen? Are we going to allow those people to be evicted? We should be fighting up the chain to the state, to the feds, to wall street to say, you're not touching Portlanders. No one is getting displaced in this crisis. And if that means me deploying my police Bureau to keep Portland in their house and in their place of residence or in their place of business, then that's what we're going to do.

Sarah
And we're going to fight for Portlanders to stay in place because what you're going to see happening on main streets all across America, and I know this firsthand because the business that I founded back in 2006 closed permanently last week because of the lack of assistance and that can never come back now. And that was a gem for this neighborhood. It was an absolute gem in terms of a community space with a quality product in which it sustained people who lived in my zip code with good jobs. Why did we not fight to say, stay, stay in there for now. We'll figure this out in the future. It's because again, that risk aversion in the short term of we don't know. Well, when you don't have the answer, you fight for the vulnerable people. And I think that's what Portland is missing in a mayor, and a lot of cities are missing in a mayor because I'm not here to make Portland, um, desirable to the Amazon's of the world. Amazon is getting a free pass right now while our small businesses go under. My job as a Portland mayor is to protect those small businesses and those family businesses and those families in Portland and those workers of Portland who need my help. And so I just take a different approach, I guess, when it comes to how we're going to focus with urgency on protecting the things that we value and that we want to hold dear and take care of. Big mom vibes.

Mike
I love that. Um, Sarah, thank you so much for being here. Um, what's the website again for people who missed it the first time to

Sarah
sarah2020.com. And that's Sarah with an H. And for anybody here in Portland, just a reminder that your ballot— and for those of you around the world listening, we have vote by mail and Oregon and it is amazing. Do not resist it, embrace it. And ours even has postage paid. So if you're going to vote in Portland, you have to drop that in a mailbox no later than Thursday. And if you don't mail it by Thursday, you have to drop it off at a ballot location, which includes libraries this year, um, no later than Tuesday, but vote by mail. Vote any way you can just stay engaged wherever you are because every single person can make a difference in their city shaping outcomes that will help make their place the best that it can be. I believe that or I wouldn't be doing it.

Mike
Perfect. Thank you so much for being here. My ballots in the mail already. So thank you so much for having me. I hope you have a wonderful day. Likewise. Thanks. Bye. Bye. Bye bye.

Announcer
This has been a production of friends of Sarah for Portland.