As 2015 comes to a close, I’m pleased to share some of the highlights with you.
In January, I was sworn in for a new four-year term as your City Commissioner – thank you for the vote of confidence. In April, we said farewell to my friend Gretchen Kafoury, who taught us about the true meaning of public service.
It was a big year for our family. My daughter Maria graduated from college, and was awarded a Fulbright. My son Chapin is living his dream of playing youth soccer in Spain, and my wife Patty is re-tracing her mother Carmen’s steps in Andalucía and researching a new book during her well-deserved sabbatical.
Our country took an historic step forward on marriage equality. I had the honor of witnessing President Obama award the Medal of Honor posthumously to WWI hero Sgt. Henry Johnson. Portland “banned the box,” and I sponsored legislation to require all-user restrooms in City-owned buildings.
I fulfilled a pledge to bring more transparency to our public utilities: a new Portland Utility Board, a more robust public process for disposing of surplus City property, new Watershed Health Report Cards, and the first annual “State of Our Public Utilities,” published in Street Roots.
My bureaus are doing their part to protect our environment. Environmental Services (BES) invests in cost-effective green infrastructure, like trees and bioswales, and uses methane gas to fuel our generators and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a leader in cleaning up the Willamette River and brownfields. The Water Bureau utilizes the power of water and the sun to generate energy, and now offers a monthly e-bill option. Green solutions are good for our environment and our ratepayers.
Click here to read my full year-end report for our two public utilities.
This year City Council stepped up to address our housing crisis. We declared a state of emergency and committed substantial new resources to shelters, homeless services and affordable homes. We supported new protections for renters, and strengthened our community partnerships. And we are committed to ending veterans’ homelessness, building on the success of Operation 305.
I stood up for older adults, securing a grant to fund Age-Friendly Portland, and by working with our friends at Elders in Action, AARP Oregon, Multnomah County, and Portland State University. And I cried foul when consumers were run over by the so-called “sharing economy.”
I supported East Portland small businesses by securing a $100,000 grant and partnering with Venture Portland. Hacienda CDC opened the Portland Mercado, and the Jade District sponsored a second Night Market. We cheered Grimm on its 100th episode, and for the $250 million it has contributed to Oregon’s economy. And BES and the Bureau of Transportation teamed up to minimize disruption to residents and businesses during large-scale construction projects.
It was a banner year for arts and culture. We celebrated 35 years of our “Percent for Art” program, 20 years of outstanding leadership by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and more arts education for children in our elementary schools.
Click here to read my full Arts & Culture report.
2015 was also marked by senseless violence – in Paris, Beirut, San Bernardino, and closer to home in Roseburg. I witnessed first-hand the toll gun violence is taking when I joined two Portland Police officers on the Gang Enforcement Team for a ride-along.
This year, I shared my thoughts on many local and national issues: preparing for the “Big One,” a level playing field for women’s soccer, challenging developers to step up during our housing crisis, the lessons I learned from my dad and Joe Biden, the steps our utilities are taking to protect our environment, why arts education matters, and the legacy of Barney Frank.
In spite of our progress, we continue to face many big challenges. Poverty. Income inequality and racial disparities. Climate change. Too many hungry children, homeless families, and people falling through the cracks. These challenges are not unique to Portland. But Portland has shown it can lead the nation on difficult issues, and I am confident that we will continue to tackle these challenges head-on.
And here is why I remain optimistic. All year long, I have been inspired by people rising to the occasion. “Spirit of Portland” award recipients Debbie Aiona and Bernie Foster. High school students debating the constitution in the We the People competition. Zenger Farm opening a new Urban Grange in East Portland. Mt. Tabor neighbors working with the Water Bureau to protect our historic reservoirs. A visionary principal and dedicated teachers at Glenfair Elementary School fighting to overcome the odds. Muslim Americans opening a new community center and school in Tigard, and faith leaders condemning religious bigotry. And long-time housing activists insisting that the City keep its promises in South Waterfront.
It is an honor to serve as your City Commissioner – and to lead the hardworking teams at the Portland Water Bureau, Bureau of Environmental Services, and my City Hall office.
Thank you for all you do.