For a better Portland through and beyond the COVID crisis
“Resilience is about making people, communities and systems better prepared to withstand catastrophic events—both natural and manmade—and able to bounce back more quickly and emerge stronger from these shocks and stresses.” Wellington, NZ, Community Resilience Strategy
“No matter how aware and ready we may be, things still go wrong and disruptions often confound all our plans and preparations. Social cohesion is the First Responder.” Judith Rodin, Rockefeller Foundation
When we launched this campaign in July 2019, we did not predict that we’d find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic on the eve of the May 2020 primary. Yet today, the COVID-19 virus has spread around the globe infecting hundreds of thousands of people with devastating effects on families, businesses, communities, organizations, and systems which just three months ago felt unbreakable. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives at a scale that few people alive today have ever witnessed.
Let’s walk back in a time a bit (for those of you old enough to remember) to December 31, 1999. On the eve of Y2K, many Americans were stocking up on food, water and guns in anticipation of a computer bug induced apocalypse. Not me. As the new Millennium rang in across the Pacific, I was in a delivery room at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center giving birth. While the chaos many feared from a computer glitch never ensued (in part because our government had addressed the problem well in advance through intensive coordination and investment), becoming a parent for the first time in that moment of anxiety instilled in me an unwavering commitment to engage with uncertainty not from a position of fear, but as an opportunity for growth.
I had no other choice but to forge ahead boldly into the unknown.
I share this deeply personal anecdote with you because I want you to feel confident that I possess the temperament, knowledge, networks, and real-life experience to lead our city in chaotic, volatile, complex, and ambiguous times. At each turn in my life, I’ve had to adapt my personal goals, my parenting, my business model, my finances, and my career plans to increasingly chaotic conditions.
In the wake of COVID-19, the policies I’ve proposed throughout this campaign are more relevant than ever.
The policies and plans my campaign team and I proposed even before the pandemic struck -- My Green New Deal for Our Portland, Rethinking Public Safety, Housing for All, and Good Government -- reflect my deep understanding that uncertainty and instability are the new normal; progressive cities like Portland can play an important role modeling how to stabilize communities in the the midst of global economic and political upheaval.
Fear and anxiety can undermine our resilience and limit our ability to make critical decisions that will affect our city for generations to come. At this critical time in Portland’s history, we must transform fear into action and come together not simply to navigate the uncertainty and survive the chaos but to carve out a better future in a period of intense transformation.
Let’s be honest, the “normal” we’re leaving behind wasn’t working for most Portlanders anyway. Increasing homelessness, rising housing costs, stagnant wages, traffic congestion, air and water pollution, systemic racism, rising greenhouse gas emissions, big money in politics, and neighborhoods divided over growth was our everyday reality.
We must seize this opportunity to craft a future that makes ours a city that truly works for all Portlanders. Do I have all the answers? Not even close. But at this critical time, we need leadership with the courage to admit ignorance when necessary and a passion for tapping into the collective knowledge of community daily; leadership with the nimbleness and flexibility to forge creative new partnerships; leadership with the ground-level intelligence and robust networks to tackle challenges day-to-day while planning for the long game; leadership with a crystal clear vision of the big picture so that as we gather new information and data from unconventional sources we can adapt quickly and succeed without losing sight of our goals.
We need leadership that can look at the world as it is and still maintain hope that a better future is possible.
I’ve said it from day one and my faith in this city is stronger than ever: we have everything we need to solve our most pressing problems today by empowering our people and organizing our communities into a formidable force for change.
With that in mind, I have proposed a series of policies to rebuild our community for resilience on the other side of this crisis.
We’ve got this, Portland.
Progress through the Pandemic
- Foremost, the City must adopt a coordinated rapid response team approach to deal with the level of uncertainty and rapid pace of development as this crisis unfolds. This will ensure our policies, resource allocation, and communication models are effective and efficient.
- The City must keep the public informed and be transparent about why certain measures are being implemented. This includes providing individuals and businesses with information that is reliable, accessible, and frequent.
- The City must ensure rapid emergency support for small business owners, their employees, and other vulnerable low- and moderate-wage hourly workers (especially in the service industry) affected by social distancing policies. Help may come from a variety of sources (including zero-interest peer-to-peer lending) but the coordinating effort should be resourced by the City and led by the small business community, organized labor unions and other worker organizations.
- Maintain a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions. Many Portlanders will become financially burdened because of the economic impacts of COVID-19. Evictions will place more people outside of their self-quarantine and make the entire community more susceptible to contraction. Affected Portlanders would be required to notify their landlords of their inability to pay before their rent is due.
- Maintain a moratorium on involuntary displacement and criminalization of unhoused Portlanders (aka “sweeps”). Mass shelters could be a death sentence in an epidemic and displacing people from location to location makes life difficult for the people experiencing homelessness and their service providers. Access to clean, fresh air for people experiencing this respiratory illness can actually be beneficial. As neighbors, we should welcome people without housing to situate themselves in highly treed areas off transit corridors, out from beneath freeways, and away from polluted industrial areas when possible.
- Deploy emergency community health measures to assist people without access to housing surviving outdoors. This includes hand-washing stations, personal latrines with pick-up service, wellness checks, food delivery, first-aid, medicine delivery, and other personal safety assistance as needed. This effort can be undertaken in partnership with Multnomah County as well as through direct funding and other institutional support to a diverse network of grassroots and peer support organizations already operating on our streets who are deeply familiar with the locations and needs of our neighbors without housing.
- Every vulnerable person who can self-care in a hotel room should have that opportunity. We must support our frontline workers (from healthcare, public sector, and service sector), people escaping domestic violence, and our unhoused population by providing adequate safe personal quarantine space. We must move beyond mass shelter models for the homeless which subject vulnerable populations to greater risks of contracting the coronavirus than if they had their own hotel room.
- Ensure that Portlanders in quarantine (in housing and unhoused) are having their daily needs met. At this critical time, we must intentionally mobilize the City’s civic capacity, formal and informal, including Neighborhood Emergency Teams and Neighborhood Association networks, to conduct outreach, provide training and information, help with wellness checks, and assist with distributing food and supplies. [If you would like to order “Hello, Neighbor!” cards to distribute in your neighborhood, please write to us at [email protected]]
- Fully and actively enforce hate crimes legislation and Sanctuary City policies. Reports of heightened stigmatization and discrimination in response to the outbreak of coronavirus require that we actively safeguard Portlanders of Asian descent as well as our immigrant and refugee community members. Further, we must instruct all City officials and employees to speak out against negative behaviors (including negative statements on social media) about groups of people, and prevent the exclusion of people from healthcare, information, housing, or financial assistance.
- Address hunger with urgency, coordination, and creativity. During the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Portlanders are going hungry, and agencies are struggling to feed them. Broken supply chains and strained funding sources are hurting them now more than ever. This is a crucial time to invest in local food sources, including: growing food on all available lands, encouraging roof gardens, strengthening partnerships between local businesses and organizations to divert surplus inventory, and collaborate with non-local partners to minimize waste from food production, transport, distribution, and farming industries. While fresh food is always in shortage, we need to encourage our food secure residents to minimize their impacts on the system by minimizing waste and growing fresh foods on their own land, including making space available for residents of multifamily dwellings, such as container gardens on surface parking lots.
Office of Community Resilience
In December of 2016, I submitted to then mayor-elect Ted Wheeler a policy proposal titled, “Sustainable Governance for the 21st Century: City of Portland Office of Community Resilience.” He ignored it out of hand and in doing so passed up an opportunity for a $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to help fund the effort.
If I had been elected mayor in 2016, we would be better prepared today for the COVID-19 crisis as well as the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that could still happen any day now. Disaster readiness will be most efficiently, effectively, and equitably achieved through the merger of several existing city bureaus and civic functions under an Office of Community Resilience. If elected mayor, I am committed to bringing this idea to fruition within my first 100 days in office.
As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the next best is today. Below is the exact wording of my proposal to Mayor Wheeler four years ago. It’s never too late to get started doing the right thing!
“Resilient cities are well prepared with the empowered, connected communities necessary to face the challenges of increasing uncertainty. Portland is not adequately prepared for a natural, economic, or (as the recent presidential election protests demonstrated) political upheaval. Despite a robust culture of community planning, a recently released city audit revealed that existing programs to ensure community cohesion and public participation in planning and governance processes are disorganized, outdated, and lacking accountability. Meanwhile, the Auditor's “Community Survey” for 2016 revealed significantly decreased approval ratings among Portlanders about the livability, affordability, and accessibility of their city. National news stories pointing to an earthquake “any day now” in the Cascadia Subduction Zone as possibly the worst natural disaster in US history have spurred many Portlanders to readiness, yet there is much yet to be done.
Here is a sampling of the obstacles to preparedness Portland faces:
- Aging Infrastructure: Bridges, schools and community center upgrades, unreinforced masonry buildings/costly retrofits, unreinforced bulk fossil fuel storage and transfer infrastructure (i.e. bomb trains), degrading levees, repeated flooding
- Unprepared Households: Majority lack adequate emergency and evacuation plans and supplies for a disaster; reuniting families (especially with children) will be difficult
- Overburdened Emergency Communications: Understaffed 911 is hemorrhaging overtime costs; city audits have determined a lack of coordinated ICT citywide leaves Portland vulnerable
- Neglect of East Portland: Politically underrepresented, financially underserved and disproportionately affected by interruptions to service provision; in the event of “the big one” urban core neighborhoods at greatest risk of liquefaction while a relatively intact East Portland remains underprepared for relocation of central command functions
- Discriminatory Neighborhood Associations: The locus of civic engagement in Portland; de facto homeowner associations privilege middle- and upper-class whites at the discrimination of renters, communities of color, and outer East residents; perpetuate and reinforce dangerous divides citywide; city resources service NIMBY organizing capacity in lieu of diverse community building programs with long term plans for engagement
- Migration & Population Growth: Influx of newcomers stresses an already constrained housing market and erodes social cohesion within neighborhoods and communities
How can Portland address these problems while improving livability and ensuring equitable prosperity for its residents? New leadership in City Hall offers a prime opportunity to reframe several of the city’s most vexing challenges as opportunities within a framework of community-driven disaster preparedness and emergency management. With creativity, commitment to equity, and empirically-driven decision-making, we can address this diverse yet intersecting set of problems by:
- Assessing areas of greatest vulnerability and shoring up infrastructure—both built environment and civic—accordingly;
- Marrying the urgent need for disaster preparedness with the long-standing need to improve livability and remediate social inequities; and
- Increasing capacity and benefits of sustainable growth despite ongoing disruption.”
Rebuilding our Economy & Workforce
Portland has a long history of striving toward economic resiliency. Our recent comprehensive plan update, adopted by Portland City Council in June of 2016, commits us to “a low-carbon economy [that] foster[s] employment growth, competitiveness, and equitably distributed household prosperity.” Yet according to economist Mohamed El-Erian, president-elect of Queens College, “no one knows” how long the current economic crisis will last and that restarting the economy is a lot more than just “flicking on a switch.”
A return to economic “normalcy” is neither possible nor desirable. The current crisis is an opportunity for us to transcend the hypocrisy that for too long has defined the abyss between Portland’s words (“equity,” “sustainability” etc.) and our outcomes (increasing inequality, rising GHG emissions, etc.) and begin realistically transitioning away from our growth-at-all-costs, fossil fuel dependent economy.
This is going to take a comprehensive economic strategy like that proposed in Sarah’s Green New Deal for Portland (audio summary). The ongoing economic crisis has already resulted in record low interest rates and the Federal Reserve Bank taking the unprecedented step of securing municipal bond investments, meaning (perhaps counterintuitively) that it may be one of the best possible times to make large municipal investments in a more sustainable future.
We can put people to work with good union jobs building the public infrastructure we need to reduce carbon emissions and seismic vulnerability while improving accessibility, equity, and resilience. Similarly, the city has a role to play in securing the economic viability of the small business sector by ensuring low or capped commercial rents, making small business grants and loans available during the crisis, and assisting entrepreneurs in starting new small businesses once the COVID crisis has subsided.
Let’s take this opportunity to develop new economic indicators to drive policies that spur equitable growth in wellbeing while reducing our reliance on natural resources. In contrast to the spirit of austerity that has undermined government effectiveness and our social safety net for the last half century, we need a vigorous expansion of the public sector with spending on the things that improve our collective existence and make us safer and more resilient in future crises.
In times of chaos and uncertainty, we need economic policy driven by principles and desired outcomes for average Portlanders; not the interests of transnational corporations and lobbyists for big business.
Small Business and Entrepreneurship
- Portland needs a “Small Business Mayor” who’s actually taken entrepreneurial risk, invested sweat equity, navigated the city bureaucracy, and successfully operated a business in Portland. The restaurant Sarah founded in 2006 operated right up until it was shuttered due to COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020. On her watch, rebuilding trust between small business owners, entrepreneurs, and The City will be a priority.
- Director of Small Business & Entrepreneurship will be located in the Portland Mayor’s Office to evaluate Portland’s small business and entrepreneurship ecosystem, better align strategic partnerships and investments, and liaison between city hall and various business organizations and advocacy groups (across sectors) citywide to deliver a clear set of deliverables based in our equity goals. They will also lead on streamlining Small Business Administration support for small businesses as well as investments in data collection systems of underrepresented entrepreneurs and employers to scale up their share of the economy.
- Create a community-based small business center. This storefront (outside of downtown in a neighborhood commercial corridor) will assist founders and entrepreneurs start and grow companies.There are too many roadblocks and red tape making it hard to get a business off the ground. This will be a one-stop-shop to help small businesses navigate and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, providing technical assistance and outreach.
- Tax revenue from the marijuana industry will go back into the communities that have been decimated by marijuana prohibition, not into increased policing of those same communities. We will prioritize with policy, purse, and partnership— righting these wrongs and removing barriers that more equitable and sensible practices would have never put there in the first place.
Thriving Cultural and Creative Economy
- Portland’s artists and creatives are powerhouses at the center of our economy and we must fight to protect, grow, and diversify the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in annual economic impact undergirding Portland’s vibrancy. In the past decade, Portland has taken our human arts and cultural capital for granted. If we want artists and creatives and makers to thrive in our city, we must ensure them a living wage, housing they can afford, and the other protections they need to survive and thrive here. In particular, we must robustly fund capacity building for culturally specific organizations.
- It’s time to get rid of the Arts Tax once and for all. We must replace Portland’s broken, regressive head tax with a progressive, fair-share approach to funding arts, culture, education, programming, and creative, maker, and art spaces.
- Innovate ways to support Portland Parks & Recreation through investments in arts and culture infrastructure and programming. We need to break down silos that undermine our ability to maintain our crumbling municipal infrastructure. By bundling municipal activities across bureaus, we can support our perennially threatened parks budget through arts and education funding and as well as through investments in neighborhood-scale amenities like Community Safety Hubs and childcare centers. (Sarah has endorsed the Universal Preschool Now effort.)
- Support a Freelancers Bill of Rights. Organized labor and unions’ collective bargaining power protect workers rights. However, too many Portland workers are not protected as unionized full-time employees; they function as part- and full-time workers in the gig economy, creative services, arts and culture, media and entertainment, etc.. I will stand behind these workers organizing and work to realize material gains for Portland’s workers in the gig economy.
- Rethink city zoning and development processes for more affordable housing, creative and makerspaces. You can read more about Sarah’s ideas for affordable housing and mixed-use zones here.
“What you measure is what you’ll get.”
- Portlanders must explore and implement alternative measures to assess progress, e.g. “Happiness Index,” “General Progress Indicators” etc. that reflect our values and goals as a community.
- We need progressive taxation. Large companies and the wealthy will need to pay their “fair share,” period.
- Accelerate renewable energy goals using all available legal, policy, and economic tools to push utilities toward 100% renewable energy.
- We must implement a climate action test for all policy; reset citywide climate targets in line with the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and all subsequent IPCC Reports; and strategically align our siloed bureaus and budgets to meet existing City of Portland Climate Action, Vision Zero, and Racial Justice and Equity policies.
- We must do more than talk about “equity” or identify “inequity;” we must make progress reducing inequity and leveling the playing field for all Portlanders. The legacy of slavery and centuries of structural racism have concentrated discrimination and lack of opportunity in Black communities; for a more resilient economy, Portlanders must reduce the Black-white wealth gap. The way we will measure progress on this is not at some abstract point down the road, but in the near term through a commitment to reducing income inequality by 30% by 2030 for Black Portlanders by the time they turn 30, also known as the “30/30/30 Racial Equity Plan”
- Embrace holistic, systems-thinking in tandem with “green collar jobs” toward restorative justice. Frontline communities know best where injustices will emerge and how they should be tackled as we head down the path of innovation; their leadership is essential.
- Align strategic partnerships for training, retraining, educational opportunities, and resources to prepare local residents to work for sustainable wages in “green collar jobs.”
- Defend and expand Portland Clean Energy Fund by making sure that corporations aren’t exempt from the Clean Energy Surcharge; steward the longevity and legitimacy of the funding; empower frontline organizations to leverage the funds for community benefit.
- Integrate the needs of workers into all climate action and focus on transitioning frontline workers including those working in the fossil fuel and fossil fuel-related industries— to jobs in clean energy and materials efficiency, renewable energy, and creating climate-resilient communities. The tension between workers and environmental protections is untenable.
- Expand access to public transit and Low Impact Transportation (LIT). Establish universal access to fareless transit for Portlanders; invest in increased bus service coverage and frequency, particularly in East Portland; launch e-bike ownership incentive programs for low-income and households of Color; intensify investments in transit-only lanes (bus and rail), bicycle and LIT lanes, and low-income LIT subsidies (e-scooter, e-bike, cargobike and bikeshare programs) across the city.
Public Works and Infrastructure Investments
- A publicly-owned municipal bank will keep our hard-earned money circulating locally, decrease borrowing costs, increase community control of capital through impact investing and ensure that profits reaped from our sustainability investments at home aren’t negated by fossil fuel investments abroad. We can’t be financing our future by sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the same big Wall Street banks who have long opposed and undermined our values.
- Municipal broadband. As an international urban policy expert, Sarah is acutely aware that the internet in the United States is too expensive and too slow to have the democratizing effects that it has in other parts of the world. The small cartel of private internet utilities that service the Portland metro area are estimated to extract tens of millions of dollars per year in profits while being some of the most unpopular companies. The benefits to the city of a fast, reliable, and resilient publicly-owned network are enormous. With a public internet utility, the residents of Portland can be sure that their data isn’t being sold, their content isn’t being filtered, and that their money is staying local to recirculate in their community.
- Focus on equity in public works investments to build capacity for marginalized community members and minority-owned businesses via projects including unreinforced masonry seismic retrofits; commercial and residential green building and weatherization retrofits; waste management and recycling operations; habitat restoration and tree-planting; regenerative and sustainable food systems and associated industries.
Sustainable Urban Development
- Align city bureaus, investments, zoning, and development processes to streamline development of compact, walkable neighborhoods connected by efficient transit and Low Impact Transportation (LIT) infrastructure.
- Establish zero emission “thrive zones” in critical areas citywide including pedestrian streets, transit corridors and town centers, around parks and schools, and the central city.
- Rethink city streets (including parking policy) so public transit and electric mobility options are reliable, affordable, safe, efficient, and accessible to all residents. No Portlander should be stranded more than a single transit ride away from work, school or play.
- Retrofit urban golf courses and other environmentally degrading land uses (e.g. former fossil fuel terminals) to ecologically sound, mixed-income, intergenerational, transit-oriented neighborhoods as well as habitat restoration and reclamation projects.
- Community energy planning to promote prosperity, reduce household utility costs, and prevent displacement through investments in conservation and renewable energy.
- Revive Portland’s green building ambition and actualization including emissions caps for buildings, increasing green roofs, and encouraging the use of renewable energy, while retrofitting for seismic sustainability.
- Food Action Plan 2030 for food systems action, supplement to existing efforts including City of Portland Climate Action and Comprehensive Plans. This will be a stand-alone framework incorporating additional food systems data and community input to develop recommended goals, strategies, tactics and measurable indicators for policy and investment with a focus on local farmers, markets, small vendors, and restaurants (including fair wages and working conditions for workers). Will advocate restoration of the Portland Food Policy Council to foster productive public engagement and advance the action plan.
Restoring Our Public Safety
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare that as it exists today, Portland is not a safe place for all. Public safety encompasses everything from ending illegal police stops to creating spaces where residents can safely walk or play. For our unhoused neighbors, public safety means having clean water to drink, access to hygiene facilities, and a warm, dry, secure place to sleep at night.
We must put forth policies that respect that all who live, work, or play in our city have an inherent right to safety. Living under any threat of harm takes a measurable toll on Portlanders’ health outcomes, behavior, and quality of life. Ensuring physical and mental safety frees our citizens to focus on thriving in their individual lives and building up their communities. Protecting the wellbeing of our city’s most marginalized means that those who are struggling won’t be further burdened—and will, in fact, have a better chance of success—through the choices and priorities we establish in City Hall.
As we are learning the hard way through this crisis, public safety is much more than an individual dilemma: we are facing a number of overlapping public health crises. Now is the time for us to radically redefine “safety” to serve all of our residents. The disparities highlighted by COVID-19 have been here all along for communities of color, people without housing, undocumented individuals, children, and seniors.
Sarah understands that Portlanders are safer when their basic needs are met. We cannot begin to tackle these issues without an explicit focus on historical oppression, class struggle, and intersectionality. Through lived experience and in conversation with Portlanders from all walks of life, Sarah has developed a comprehensive Rethinking Public Safety plan to holistically reshape public safety in our city. As mayor, Sarah will remain committed to moving beyond the City’s equity rhetoric to defining and achieving quantifiable metrics and deploying targeted investments to reduce key disparities across Portland’s communities.
The General Fund discretionary budgets in the public safety service area comprise over 60% of the City’s total available discretionary resources. Unlike the incumbent, who has proposed a 2% cut to the public safety budget in coming years, Sarah will not decrease the public safety budget but will instead focus on reforms to use the existing funding levels more wisely to ensure the safety of all Portlanders, including:
- Community Health & Safety Hubs equitably distributed across neighborhoods will provide rest stops, hygiene and health facilities, and critical services for Portlanders in need. Portlanders experiencing the trauma of extreme poverty are further victimized by local government inaction; instead we should be providing relief for our neighbors who have fallen on hard times. Sarah will support community-led investments for these hubs across neighborhoods because no Portlander should be far from a safe space where they can rest— free from harm, warm, dry, and with access to basic human needs. Investment in these hubs will direct critical infrastructure dollars from over-policing towards schools, libraries, and community centers to help us meet existing demand. This will also increase services for people struggling with our current housing and health crises, as well as those seeking shelter during heat waves, storms, power outages and recovering from natural and economic disasters.
- Expand and enhance the Portland Street Response and other street level peer-to-peer services. The Portland Street Response is a program that deserves long term support. Portland should expand this initiative to increase efficiencies across agencies and bureaus while reducing wasteful and dangerous police responses to incidents involving people experiencing homelessness or mental health crises. Far too many tax dollars are being spent policing unhoused individuals. Instead of dispatching armed officers, many “unwanted person” calls could instead be handled by social workers, mental health professionals, or other services. Currently, we ask Portland police officers to function as counselors, mental health professionals, and social workers. They are not adequately trained in any of these fields. The dispatch of armed officers should be reserved for incidents that require such an immediate response. Our city has a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and as mayor, Sarah will work with organizations that serve the unhoused such as Street Roots to increase safety rather than stand in the way of this crucial innovation.
- Establish public restroom access throughout Portland to promote sanitation, accessibility, and vibrant public life, including tourism. There is no good reason why there should be stagnant urine or feces in the streets of Portland. All Portlanders, housed and unhoused alike, will benefit from greater access to public bathrooms. No one, regardless of housing status, prefers unsanitary streets. This can be accomplished through public infrastructure and partnerships with local businesses.
- Fully-fund community clean-ups to keep our neighborhoods healthy and tidy. Portland should be a city that all Portlanders are proud of. For this to happen, we want Portland to be clean. Unsanitary conditions are not preferred by any social class. However, some of our neighbors are less equipped to contribute to our goal of clean streets, thus, the City shall fund community clean-ups to increase livability and sanitation but also civic engagement and volunteerism.
- Maintain CDC recommendations for a moratorium on involuntary displacement (“sweeps”) of houseless individuals; ending the practice of sending armed officers to engage with houseless individuals simply existing in public; directing officers not to enforce low-level victimless crimes, or crimes of poverty. The Portland Police Bureau shall not use any funds or other resources for arresting or citing houseless people for offenses related to their poverty and houselessness, or for engaging in actions that a houseless person might reasonably need to do outside. Further, complaints of violence against people experiencing houselessness should be taken seriously and addressed regardless of who reports such crimes.
- Decriminalize sex work. We must end the criminalization of consensual adult sex and focus instead on sex traffickers and abusers, not workers and associated acts. Specifically, Portland should issue a directive to end the enforcement of ORS 167.007. While this is not a long term solution, it will provide immediate relief and free up resources to focus on crimes of victimhood. As we have seen during the current crisis, when catastrophe hits, those who are engaging in what is perceived as more unconventional work are left behind in most aspects of the recovery process which can decimate their industries.
- Portlanders should be invested and involved in their police force. Compared with other City bureaus, Portland Police police are uniquely insulated from scrutiny and consequences. Where other agencies give the public an opportunity to weigh in on policy changes before they go into effect, PPB operates relatively free from public comment and oversight. Sarah proposes we devolve current community oversight from overarching, detached advisory groups to multiple specialized oversight boards created for different stakeholders and frontline communities based on their needs, experiences, and relationships with the police.
- Leadership that shows up in times of conflict and crisis alongside our people, rather than deploying policies from on high. Sarah has unwaveringly demonstrated her willingness to stand in the streets in solidarity with everyday antifascists and movements for social justice and greater equality.
- Promote civil unity by encouraging participation in civic action and mutual aid efforts. When the city leadership fails to pick a side, they are leaving the door open for hostility to thrive. Instead, Portland’s government and leadership should always choose to reflect Portland’s values of respect, inclusion, and diversity of thought.
Secure Housing for All
For too long, we have allowed the whims of the market and the drive for corporate profits to outweigh the public’s interest in promoting diversity, equity, and opportunity in our city. We’ve had our heads in the sand about what housing is “affordable” to whom. This has left us with watered-down tenant protections and a shortage of the housing that our people actually need. At the root of our housing crisis are the same set of policy decisions that cause poverty, segregation, displacement, inadequate infrastructure, unsafe living conditions, and insecurity for renters. We need to rethink our priorities as a community to focus on raising household incomes, reducing racial and economic segregation, and ending rampant speculation without benefit to local residents.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Portland’s housing status quo was unsustainable. It’s more apparent now than ever that the housing solutions Sarah is proposing aren’t radical; they’re essential. Our answers to this crisis shouldn’t be driven by corporate lobbyists from the real estate and business sectors, but through a collaborative, community-based approach to housing all Portlanders.
Ending the Housing State of Emergency
Sarah knows we need to treat an emergency with urgency. Her Five-Year Strategic Plan for Ending Portland’s Housing State of Emergency (2021-2025) led by the Progressive Task Force for Housing All Portlanders is a multi-stakeholder, cross-sector, cross-bureau task force that will to assess housing inventory and needs of Portlanders across the income spectrum; evaluate existing and explore new revenue streams; and propose a coordinated plan to close Portland’s housing gap by 2025 through a combination of good governance, political courage, and fiscal clarity.
This task force will oversee three deliverables concurrently in the first year of Sarah's administration (2021):
- Community-led strategic planning. Following a lengthy, state-mandated comprehensive plan update, Portland’s world-class planning bureau is in need of re-orientation toward neighborhood-sensitive, community-led planning processes to identify opportunities to house people experiencing homelessness and keep people emplaced while integrating economic development, job creation, quality of life, and larger land-use patterns into our housing strategy.
- Strategic governance re-alignment. We need better communication and coordination among City bureaus, private-sector and community-based partners. Agencies that prevent displacement and connect residents to affordable and supportive housing are essential to a successful housing strategy.
- Progressive revenue evaluation. There is a significant amount of money available across the spectrum of housing options flowing into the city from various pipelines, but these monies are not being strategically coordinated nor leveraged for better outcomes. There is significant tax inequity between property owners in East Portland and the rest of the city that needs to be evaluated and corrected through assessment recalibration and possible implementation of a land value tax (LVT). We are also leaving revenue on the table that we could be capturing for public investments in shelters and permanent housing.
Sarah was the first local candidate to recognize the potential impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on our most vulnerable Portlanders. Back on March 10, 2020 she called for a comprehensive, proactive community response. In the meantime, policymakers have made some progress, including a temporary ban on evictions for non-payment of rent due to lost income associated with the COVID-19 pandemic for residential and commercial tenants.
While social distancing measures may have reduced the spread of the virus, many Portlanders have lost significant income and even their jobs in addition to all of the other immediate costs of coping with the outbreak. The widespread impacts of the epidemic are making clear to the majority what so many vulnerable renters have long known: too many Portlanders are just one crisis away from losing their housing and ending up on the streets. That’s why we need policies and investments to protect tenants-- rain or shine.
Renters rights are consumer protections and our last line of defense against homelessness. Nearly half (47%) of Portland households are occupied by renters. Even as our economy expands, people at the lowest end of the economic spectrum are facing rising rents alongside stagnant wages; many continue to move out of Portland to more affordable rental housing in East Multnomah County, increasing commute times counter to our climate action goals. We must foreground the fight for increased stability and protections for renters as a matter of local prosperity and resilience. Portland Housing Bureau's Rental Services Office (RSO) and Rental Services Commissions (RSC) are first steps, but we must do more to ensure these protections are robust, transparent, accountable, and fully-funded.
In the near-term, Sarah supports the COVID 19 — State of Emergency Housing Security Package proposed by Portland Tenants United to stabilize vulnerable Portlanders.
Sarah will also commit to the following renter protections if she is elected mayor:
- Ongoing commitment to a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” which Sarah has consistently backed as a member of the local tenants union and supporter of local tenants advocacy non-profits.
- Ensure the rental registration platform currently being explored by the Portland Housing Bureau is open, effective, accountable, and fully funded.
- Support tenants’ right to organize. Housing insecurity can breed fear and anxiety. Tenants who share an address or landlord can organize to protect themselves while cultivating a greater sense of community and security in the face of uncertainty. The City of Portland should bring the necessary resources to bear to ensure that HUD regulations on this front are enforced.
- Prevent evictions whenever possible. Portland’s Mandatory Renter Relocation Assistance policy (also known as RELO) was a good start but we must do more. Eviction fuels expensive problems, such as homelessness, truancy, and poverty. We must actively track and reduce the number of evictions in public and subsidized housing as well as in the private rental market. In addition, we should explore funding mechanisms to provide low-income people the right to counsel in housing disputes.
- Strict Short Term Rental (Airbnb) Regulation and Enforcement with a focus on liability accruing to the company rather than local hosts.
- Create a Rental Subsidy Reserve Fund. In addition to stricter short-term rental (e.g. AirBnB) regulation enforcement, City of Portland will increase the tax on short term rentals with proceeds to this fund. Keeping rent (move-in and monthly) within reach for eligible families without a waitlist helps people evade homelessness and keeps our city in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
For Sarah’s complete Housing for All policy, please visit sarah2020.com/housing.
Restoring Trust in Government
Sarah is running for mayor because she understands that city government is one of the most important levels for problem-solving, not the lowest on the food chain below federal, state, and county. It’s a time-worn saying that holds more true now than ever: we must think globally but act locally. As a city, we have the power to improve outcomes in our residents’ everyday lives while leading on solutions to global crises like the rise of authoritarianism, climate chaos, and staggering inequality.
For Portland to achieve our goals we must ensure we have a healthy democracy no longer powered by big money and special interests but by community-based politics. Sarah firmly believes that we have everything we need to make radical progress on our most pressing issues today, but our 19th and 20th Century governance models aren’t equipped to handle the increasing chaos of the 21st Century. This election, we have the opportunity to dismantle outdated institutions and begin building new government models based on the values of resiliency, inclusivity, and community prosperity that we all share.
- Intentionally shift power from city government and mainstream organizations to frontline communities. As soon as logistically possible after taking office, Sarah will convene an Intergenerational Climate Summit to develop a community-led plan to tackle climate change while addressing the pressing challenges of transit access, gentrification and displacement, as well as Portland’s housing affordability crisis.
- Value local knowledge by convening communities to shape policies rather than asking them to sign off on them through “outreach. This means less policy is established by city government per se with more funding going straight to community organizations for research and development, planning, programming, and project evaluation.
- Establish robust participatory budgeting processes to align community priorities with spending. This means consulting with Portlanders for their expertise, leadership, and skillsets in a more equitable funding framework. It also educates and builds community while increasing trust in government. Participatory budgeting. Community members know best what their community needs. The participatory budgeting model has worked in many municipalities to bring otherwise under represented groups into the active development of their city. Participatory budgeting builds the next cohort of city leaders by giving people an opportunity to learn the city’s civic ecosystem and see tangible effects of their participation.
- Support local news media through an established framework of ongoing citywide procurement including media planning, buying and associated services. Plummeting advertising revenue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the precarious conditions in which local news outlets operate, threatening their existence in the middle of a public health crisis when we needed them most. As Senator Ron Wyden highlighted in his call for federal support of local journalism and media in COVID-19 relief packages, “Local news plays an indispensable role in American civic life as a trusted source for critical information, a watchdog for government and corporate accountability, and a building block of social cohesion.”
- Get big money out of Portland politics. Historically the city’s wealthiest individuals and organizations have contributed the large amounts of money needed to mount a viable citywide campaign. These elite few have also been more likely to enlist the services of professional lobbyists to advance their agenda within City Hall regardless of who is elected. The cumulative effect is that wealthy special interests drown out the voices of everyday Portlanders. In 2018, Sarah was one of the 87.4% of Portland voters who supported an update to the City Charter outlawing contributions larger than $500. Those limits are being reviewed currently by the Oregon Supreme Court, but Sarah is going a step further: in the May election, she is capping donations at $250, making sure that her campaign has a broad, grassroots base of support. If elected, Sarah will not only abide by the will of Portland voters and follow the legal contribution limits, but also will work to enhance them by automating auditing of today’s exclusively complaint-initiated process.
- Reforming the “weak mayor” commission through a robust charter review process. Our city works best when those making decisions reflect the experiences of the people whose lives they’re affecting. Our current system of citywide at-large elections has meant that only a small fraction of Portlanders are able to run for City Council. As a result our elected officials on City Council have historically been whiter, wealthier, more likely to be a man, and to live west of the Willamette River than the average Portlander. Sarah believes Portlanders should use the upcoming mandated charter review process in 2021 (led by a mayor with an unwavering commitment to spatial and social justice, equity, and inclusion) to think carefully about how we will govern ourselves and meet our goals in the future.
- Digital rights and sovereignty. Digital technology can be used in service of democracy or lead our society into authoritarian repression. The rapid pace of innovation represents an unprecedented challenge for communities, especially marginalized and Communities of Color for whom the deployment of emerging technologies can exacerbate economic and racial inequities. As Portlanders, we must come together in a robust dialogue about the risks and opportunities of technology for our democratic institutions and for equity and inclusion, as well as privacy and data ownership for our residents. In 2016, the City of Portland applied for but did not win a federal challenge grant which propelled us into the global policy network of “Smart Cities.” Despite a well-intentioned focus on equity (an all too familiar refrain in Portland) in our Smart Cities investments, Sarah fears we are falling short of our mandate to implement a human and civil rights centric framework which protects the rights of Portlanders above profit-seeking from industry.
- Civic software for community engagement. In the COVID crisis, getting unified, reliable messaging to and feedback from city residents has been a significant challenge. We should learn from this experience and deploy open source software to communicate more effectively with the public and engage the expertise and lived experience of Portland’s residents. When there are more people than can fit in one location to converse with each other, a digital forum allows us to discuss issues, communicate directly with government, propose ideas, and even vote on them with the most discussed proposals being brought before city council for consideration. If participation has meaningful feedback from staff as to why a proposal isn't possible, then people see a purpose in contributing their time, intelligence, and creativity to a public forum directly integrated to municipal government. Participatory models that could be adapted for our city have been deployed in Reykjavík, Madrid, Barcelona, and Taiwan.
- Startup culture of innovation can transform government services. Usually, a city agency drafts a Request for Proposals (RFP) that spells out exactly what the agency is looking for from vendors; then, the lowest bidder usually gets the contract. An innovation mindset encourages city bureaus and agencies to focus on problem-solving rather than business as usual. Following the model of Scotland’s CivTech, Portland can partner emerging entrepreneurs with government agencies to solve problems faster and more effectively while ensuring local contracting dollars go to emerging local startups.