The recording and transcript of Sarah’s State of #OurPortland address
What's going wrong
In the November Mayoral election, voters have a choice between Ted Wheeler and Sarah Iannarone. Ted Wheeler is collaborating with Donald Trump to gas peaceful protesters, breaking campaign finance laws, and opposing grassroots climate action. Sarah Iannarone deeply respects political protest, stands up to bullies and out-of-touch millionaires, and is committed to ending police violence. Sarah is leading the largest campaign coalition in City History - many thousands of individual donors - in our first ever Open and Accountable Elections race for Mayor. Sarah is a climate smart cities expert, with plans to implement a Green New Deal in Portland. In July, Sarah delivered the State of #OurPortland Address, to talk about the problems our city faces, and present herself as the candidate poised to defeat Ted Wheeler.
State of #OurPortland
State of #OurPortland
My name is Sarah Iannarone, my pronouns are she/her, and with your help I plan to be the next Mayor of Portland, Oregon. And I come before you this evening to give you the State of #OurPortland Address. Because our city is crying out for leadership in these unprecedented times, and because I am ready to lead this city into the future.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a mom, an entrepreneur, and an engaged community member. I’ve spent the last decade at Portland State University studying and teaching urban leaders from around the world what makes a city a great place to live.
I love Portland with every fiber of my being and have dedicated my life to making it the best place it can be. I invested in opening a business here, sent my kid to Portland Public Schools, and I volunteer countless hours in service to my community. I have rolled up my sleeves week after week alongside my you, my neighbors, in the streets, on the ground, hands in the dirt, making this the best place it can be.
But as beautiful as this place is, I love the people who make up this city even more. I love our artists and creatives, our founders and our makers, our cooks and our caregivers, our teachers and advocates, our cyclists and our bus drivers. When I see you in the streets, I usually say, “Hey neighbor,” because it’s you, the entrepreneurs, the musicians, the parents and grandparents that I love about Portland. There’s nowhere else on Earth I would rather be and nothing to which I’m more strongly committed than harnessing our resources and empowering our communities so we can reclaim our status as a world leader in progressive change-making.
I love Portland, and each of you, but let me be honest, I am angry and I’m frustrated and I’m saddened and I’m increasingly horrified by the direction this city is heading and that is why I am running for mayor.
This is not a time for more of the same; this is a time for change.
The dearly departed Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis once wrote, “We are involved now in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of cheap political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and say, ‘My party is the party of principles?’”
It was his contemporary, the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who so astutely observed that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” And our city has seen unprecedented rioting, and sustained, nightly peaceful protests, because for too long the people of this city have been unheard, and have seen their elected leaders make compromises with immoral systems. The Portland Police department was condemned by the Federal government, under the Obama administration, for its unjustifiable use of force. The names of Black Portlanders lost to police killings should be known to every one of you listening tonight. Lloyd 'Tony' Stevenson, Kendra James, Deontae Keller, Quanice Hayes, Patrick Kimmons, Keaton Otis, Terrell Kyreem Johnson, Andre C. Gladen, Aaron M. Campbell, James Jahar Akbar Perez, Christopher Kalonji, Jason Washington, and many more.
Our community is hungry for justice, and so am I. We demand to be heard by an out-of-touch status quo that believes our problems can be solved with teargas and bullets.
Donald Trump and his corrupt, hateful bunch despise what we aspire to here. Equity, inclusivity, and sustainability are poison to them. The alt-right has been trying to turn our Sanctuary City into an ideological battleground and we have come together time and again as a community in joyful resistance. Now, in an election year, a flailing Trump has set his sights on Progressive Portland to score cheap political points. And why wouldn’t he? The current mayor has consistently distinguished between good protesters and bad and insisted that there are good people on both sides.
Portland Police under the current mayor have consistently conspired with and abetted the alt-right while brutalizing antifascist protesters without consequence. What Wheeler lets his police get away with is what Trump thinks he can get away with, and what we let Trump get away with in Portland, he will do anywhere.
The way we show up in resistance, as a community, in unity, is a testament to our values. There is no justification for anyone in Portland, civilian or municipal employee, cooperating with this occupying army, Trump’s secret police. And that’s why I’ve been critical of the Wheeler administration for enabling the conditions of this uprising by opposing police accountability. Throwing good money after bad in his ballooning police budgets. As Police commissioner, he has overseen months of violent police repression of protesters. Not just this last 50 days, but in countless other contexts. The proper response to protests against police brutality is not more police brutality.
And we need a Mayor who gets that, and who has stood with the people and will continue standing with the people against the violence police are inflicting on us. The Department of Homeland Security has no place in our city, and the violent tactics Trump and Wheeler’s police are using have no place in Our Portland.
But before the most recent uprising in our streets, we had this pandemic, COVID-19.
A shock to our collective system. It is hard to comprehend how much our lives have changed in only five short months. I want to give all of Portland’s love and admiration to the amazing frontline and care workers who keep our city safe and healthy. On their behalf, I wear my mask when I’m in public, and everyone else should, too. I stay home, to save lives, and so should everyone who can.
America leads the world in coronavirus deaths because of our delusional President’s insistence that the stock market is more important than human lives, and because some people seem to always refuse to listen to experts, and their ignorance puts everyone at risk. Countless people are out of work, or just coming back after months off. The small business I founded was forced to close because of COVID, which was heartbreaking. And I worked many years in the service sector, so I know that the steady trickle of tips or a few hours of overtime is what pays the bills, and when those dry up you feel it immediately. The state unemployment insurance program has been stretched to its breaking point, and countless Oregonians still haven’t received the money they need. Many others don’t even qualify in the first place.
But beyond loss of income, and that loss is so hard, I know, many of us are feeling disconnected. Our neighborhood cafe or coffee shop, the Moda Center, our branch of the Multnomah County Library, the Zoo, OMSI, our favorite arts venue, they’re more than just jobs or entertainment. They’re what we love about our city, and it feels like we’ve had some part of our city, our home taken from us.
But even before COVID, we had Portland’s housing crisis, which is only made worse by the pandemic, and which has always hit Black, Brown and Indigenous people harder because of systemic racism. This crisis always hit low-income communities harder than those of us with the privilege of homeownership or stable incomes. For many in our community, their homes were already taken from them by skyrocketing rents and evictions. As Americans and as Portlanders we have a long and shameful history to atone for in housing.
Discrimination takes many forms, from those refusing to rent to an immigrant family, to those who have a Black Lives Matter sign in the yard, but who argue against every policy that might bring them more Black and Brown neighbors through construction of affordable housing, or allowing multi-family housing in their neighborhood. We have more people unhoused today than we did when Ted Wheeler took office, despite passage of the Portland Housing Bond by you, the voters and taxpayers. The lack of progress this administration has made on affordable housing is shameful. I have seen their inflated claims of success. Ask any of the people sleeping at Skidmore Fountain tonight if Ted Wheeler has made a difference in their lives. Ask anyone who has been a renter this last few years. Wheeler promised to fix this housing crisis, and not only did he not keep his word, things just keep getting worse.
And I haven't even touched on our urgent need for community-led climate action. But I can’t bear more disappointment today. I’ve depressed even myself talking about all the things going wrong in Portland.
It’s time to focus on optimism. Because that bleak picture of where Portland is today, that is not Our Portland. And it may not always feel like we can turn a ship this big around to effect the change we need within the short timeframe in which we need it, but I believe we can. And what undergirds that belief is necessity. We have no viable moral or practical alternative. we must actively engage optimism as a tool for social change. When we default to despair over hope, cynicism over engagement, confusion over vision in these critical times we cede our power as a community to special interests with centuries of investment in the status quo.
And that status quo is not Our Portland.
Right now Donald Trump is using Portland as a political photo op, gassing peaceful protesters. Our current Mayor is doing nothing to stop it, and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told him in a public letter today: “you are putting our community at risk.” That is not Our Portland.
Coronavirus cases in Oregon are hitting new records statewide and in Multnomah County while we follow Donald Trump’s orders to reopen. That’s not Our Portland. Our Portland listens to experts and evidence, not wealthy business interests concerned about the stock market. Reopening when it could lead to the loss of human life is not Our Portland. And so this week I put out the call that our State should not be reopening. We should be staying at home to keep frontline workers safe. We should be demanding a guaranteed income, as myself and Mayors across the country are demanding. We should issue a statewide rent freeze for residential and commercial properties, saving our small businesses what is their largest cost, and lessening the need to sustain payroll for employees, the next largest expense. These are common-sense policy demands and our current Mayor has failed to represent our city’s best interests, instead compromising with know-nothings in Washington D.C. That is not Our Portland.
Our Portland is a city where everyone who is loving is welcome, no matter who they are or where they’re from. A city where communities of color don’t have to live in fear of racist violence, because in Our Portland we stand up against hate, even when it is dangerous. In Our Portland, when fascists decide to have a rally to bully and pick a fight with us, thousands more of us show up than them, and some of us dress up as bananas and play in a marching band to tell those fascists to go to hell.
Our Portland is a city where we don’t just say Black Lives Matter, we put it into law by making real the demands of Black-led organizations for community well-being that cut police waste and invests in and protects Black Portlanders. Our Portland is a city where we innovate to ensure safety for everyone. Where you can call 911 knowing emergency response will make everyone safer, not just some. Our Portland is a city where we acknowledge that our neighborhoods were carved out along racist lines, literally, and we are willing to work to undo that historic injustice. Because Black Lives Matter, not just in past and present interactions with police, but in modern and historic interactions with landlords, realtors, and banks.
Our Portland is a city where we listen to science, and where we take care of one another in ways big and small. In Our Portland, we know climate change is real, and two out of three Portlanders voted to put real money into Clean Energy by holding major corporations accountable. I’m sorry to tell you that the current Mayor of Portland stood opposed to the Portland Clean Energy Fund on behalf of the Portland Business Alliance. That’s the same PBA who recently got caught blaming Black Lives Matter protesters for their COVID-related losses.
However, I am pleased to inform you that as the next Mayor of Portland, you won’t see me flip-flopping on climate policy with the winds of public opinion. I will unequivocally fight for for a Green New Deal for Our Portland, making climate-smart investments in the future of our city that will power our economic recovery through COVID and beyond. We can and we will address climate change with bold investments in the jobs and infrastructure of the next century, not the fossil fuel infrastructure of the last.
In Our Portland, we take care of our democracy, too, and two out of three Portlanders voted to put real spending limits on political candidates. Because we don’t believe that the person with the most money or the most establishment connections deserves the most votes. We believe that the person with the most grassroots support deserves the most votes. And I am proud to say that this campaign for mayor has more individual donors, thousands and thousands of you, than any campaign for mayor in the history of this City. I’m sorry to tell you the current Mayor of Portland continues to violate our Open and Accountable Elections law, and fought it in court, all while taking huge checks from Trump cronies like Gordon Sondland. I am proud to say that our campaign, after a decade of sustained advocacy by some of you here, was the first to qualify for and participate in the city’s new publicly financed election program to take on the monied interests. And I’m excited to say that we can win this thing because grassroots activists built this campaign finance program to level the playing field for everyday the Portlanders who can afford to write $5 dollar checks, not $5,000 ones.
But it doesn’t stop there. Real democracy means we move away from establishing one more advisory committee that has no power and no purpose. I sit on these committees and attend these meetings, I testify and I watch the public testify and decision-makers ignore us. We need true accountability bodies that we empower to make decisions when our elected, appointed, and employed city officials fail to act ethically. To the employees of the City, I want you to know that I support you and as your Mayor I will work to keep you employed, and keep this City working, even as we face lost revenue due to COVID.
But if a city employee, if a police officer, hurts or kills someone while doing their job, you don’t just work for me, you work for the public who pays your salary, and you need to be able to answer for what you do in the name of this city, personally. I will support holding individuals personally responsible for their conduct. No more hiding behind your office or your station. I expect to be held to the same standard when I’m your Mayor, and I will continue to press to make our city accountable and transparent, while I clean up the corrupting influence of major corporations on our policymaking.
Our Portland is our combined vision of a city that we get to create together, and protect together, every single day. Our Portland is a civically-engaged place, where we all contribute to the solutions that will impact our lives. Our Portland is a thriving city that every one of us has a part in creating. Community activists, neighbors, workers, youth and seniors, students and educators, Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, White, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, African, Slavic, multiracial, able and disabled, queer and trans, citizen, resident, and undocumented, gendered and nonbinary, every last one of us, has an important role to play in making Our Portland the city it deserves to be. The city we all deserve. The city our children deserve and that the future requires.
Our Portland is a city where we take back the streets for the people, for mass transit, for racial, social and environmental justice. Our Portland is one where we strive for excellence, not settle for mediocrity. Our Portland is a city that is weirdly successful, at a time when this nation has been on a years-long decline. I want Our Portland to be a city that people look to and say “Wow, isn’t it weird that Portland is doing so well? Isn’t it weird that people in Portland are so happy with their quality of life? Isn’t it weird that Portland is in a renaissance, while other cities are losing their global competitiveness?”
And as your Mayor, I’ll be able to tell them: it isn’t all that weird. It’s just Our Portland.
I want to ask you for three things.
First of all, I need your vote. If you want details about the policies and plans I’ve alluded to here, they’re on my website at Sarah2020.com. I am ready to go on day one with the community by my side.
Second, we need your enthusiasm. There’s a whole lot of bad going on in the city, and there’s a whole lot of noise because people are fed up with it and demand change. I’m with you, and I’m vocal about it, even when it gets me in trouble. But I need you to step up, too, and tell everyone you know that you’re voting for Sarah Iannarone to take down Ted Wheeler and put a stop to the madness that’s taken over Portland this last few years. This is no time for Portland Polite. It’s time to turn our collective voices up to 11, and demand change.
And finally, as much as I wish campaigns ran on unfettered optimism, in reality they run on people power and money. If you have time, we have an amazing field team ready to plug you into this movement for police accountability, climate justice, and transformative policy that moves Portland ahead. I can’t do this without you.
We’re going to win this campaign the way we do best: powered by a grassroots community, with an unrelenting optimism that this City’s best days are in the future. Let’s make this a city that works for everyone, not just the business interests who want to see this campaign end, and Ted Wheeler re-elected. Portland, this is our chance. Let’s win Our Portland.