Thank you, City Club.
It is a great privilege to serve as your Mayor. This is my fourth and final State of the City speech, but I plan to again formally report back to Portlanders at the end of this year.
Thanks to my wonderful family — my wife, Nancy, our daughter Carolyn — thank you for all of your support.
In a moment I’m going to ask all the elected officials here to stand, but first I want to thank my colleagues on the City Council — Commissioner Steve Novick, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Commissioner Nick Fish, Auditor Mary Hull Caballero — and all our partners in public service. We are achieving great things in this city, and that’s driven by your hard work and dedication.
Special thanks to our city employees for their hard work. They go above and beyond every day. Last weekend, the world came to Portland for the World Indoor Track and Field Championships — 600 athletes, thousands of visitors from over 140 countries. And Portland nailed it! The organizers of the told me that Portland was amazing, and we provided the best experience they’ve ever had. Our city earned its own gold medal.
I don’t get enough opportunities to acknowledge what Portlanders do. You give so much to the city I love, in all sorts of different ways. Let me try something here.
- All of the elected officials here, who have provided leadership at the local, state and federal level, please stand and stay standing. Thank you for your service!
- Everyone who is helping to keep police reform and police-community relationships on track. Please join them standing.
- Everyone who is one of our Community Centers Initiative partners, or who’s working to provide access and opportunity to the next generation — through programs, mentorships, internships, all of those efforts: Please stand.
- Everyone who is an advocate, part of a service organization, and part of a business that has generously helped address our crisis in homelessness and housing: Please stand.
- Everyone who’s worked on planning or land use; everyone who’s served on a committee or submitted a comment on a plan; all the interested individuals who are helping to shape and manage Portland’s growth: Please stand.
- Everyone who’s a climate champion, who has pushed to keep Portland a leader in climate action: Please stand.
- Everyone who’s contributed to making Portland a better place to live, please stand.
If you’re not standing, you must be new. Welcome to Portland!
As mayor, I so appreciate the efforts from Portlanders like you — your time, your money, and your hearts. You show that, as different as our experiences are, we are bound together by the profound and powerful fact that we are all Portlanders.
We are 600,000 Portlanders with 600,000 stories of Portland.
My story is that twice in my life, my love for this city has impelled me to do something that’s kind of a stretch for me — to run for public office. Nancy’s actually the extrovert in our house. But the chance to make a great place better has called me to this. I have been busy in that work, using all the tools at hand to put the city into good repair. We have done a lot:
- We have reformed the city’s finances from top to bottom, including rightsizing urban renewal and putting $800 million of value back on the tax rolls, now providing more funding for schools, libraries, parks and all of the other local services.
- We have made good on my pledge to focus on basic services, opening new parks in East Portland, building sidewalks, and tripling our annual re-paving effort to over a hundred miles of streets each year.
- We have recruited excellent public administrators to lead important city agencies. We have simply the best in the business.
- And we are changing the culture and practices of the Portland Police Bureau.
But today, I don’t want to just talk about the progress we are making and the work of the next year. I also want you to look over the horizon with me to how we will shape Portland into our future — for the 600,000 of us, and quite a few more.
As commissioner, in the private sector, and as mayor, I know how Portlanders can come together in common cause to shape the city we love. A Portland where teenage immigrant basketball players can set in motion a plan of action that makes a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of kids. A Portland in which smarts and creativity can take someone from the streets to a successful tech start-up. A Portland whose landlords held units in a red-hot housing market so that we could house homeless veterans. A Portland where neighborhood activists can speak at length about the difference between R1 and R2.5 zoning. A Portland in which a group of women calling themselves the “Raging Grannies” serenade City Council to demand climate action.
A Portland we love.
I’ve had the privilege, in my career, to help mold that Portland — reforming the Fire Bureau; building the country’s first modern streetcar; launching the Pearl District; bringing community centers to underserved neighborhoods. Those were intentional efforts to address pressing challenges.
Today we face more, real challenges. Youth violence reaching record highs. Institutional racism blocking opportunity. An affordability crisis forcing people out of their homes. Climate change causing extreme weather that hits our most vulnerable neighbors hardest.
We as Portlanders must seize five big opportunities we have right now in order to shape the city we love, and make its future bright.
First, we have the opportunity to cement our ambitious police reform efforts and build the diverse, community-oriented police force of our future.
Second, to provide equitable access to our city’s resources and economic opportunities, so that every Portlander, no matter their race, class or ability, knows this is their city, and experiences its blessings.
Third, to carry out our housing agenda so we have enough affordable housing and homeless shelters for everyone, so sleeping outside won’t be a terrifying reality for anyone.
Fourth, to manage growth with intentionality, making sure Portland will be a livable city for all 800,000 of us twenty years from now.
And fifth, we have the opportunity to continue to lead the world in innovative climate action, making Portland healthier while we share responsibility for the global challenge.
For each of these challenges, we have an expectation of how life in Portland will be.
We expect our Police Bureau to work in partnership with all 600,000 Portlanders, de-escalating crisis and solving problems.
We expect Portland to be a city of opportunity for everyone.
We expect that our city will remain a place where housing is in reach for all of us.
We expect Portland to be a leader in the world.
And we expect that we will grow, and that we will make Portland even more wonderful with that growth, while carefully preserving our heritage.
I’ll start with what I think are probably the two most under-reported stories in Portland: Gang violence and big changes at the Portland Police Bureau.
Last May, at the East Portland Community Center, a 16-year-old fired three shots from a revolver into a crowd of teens leaving a Sweet 16 birthday party. Miraculously, no one was hit. He was charged with two Measure 11 crimes. I was there that night. As Police Commissioner, I was glad the young man was arrested without harm. But as a dad, I was devastated: Kids were put at deadly risk; and a young man is headed to prison, not to college.
That was but one incident among the grim records our city set last year in youth and gang violence: 193 gang violence-related incidents; 185 shootings; 1,186 bullet casings found at scenes; 73 people shot; 15 of them killed.
Two weekends ago, a similar incident happened at the Rosewood Community Center, but this time, four young people were wounded.
To me, this is an example of a broken system. A system in which a 16-year-old can get a hold of a gun. A system in which teenagers are out being recruited by gangs because they can’t afford admission to a community center to play sports or get homework help. A system in which Portland as a whole isn’t outraged when a young, black man is killed in a gang shooting.
We as a community can do more, and we must do more, to counteract this terrible trend. We are 600,000 neighbors and each and every story counts. That means that young man is our shared responsibility.
I have hope in the face of this crisis when I see people of great courage working for change. Enough Is Enough is a community-led campaign by mothers and fathers who have lost children to gang violence. Lucy Mashia is a passionate advocate, calling on witnesses to come forward with information about crimes. She is fueled by the grief she feels over the unsolved murder of her son, L-J. She calls on all of us to support Enough Is Enough. We all should.
I have hope when I see people turn toward each other as neighbors, as family. The Community Peace Collaborative meets every-other Friday at North Precinct. It’s led by Antoinette Edwards, our community mother. These agencies and nonprofits take a holistic approach to youth violence. They’re at the table as partners, or rather, as family.
Shortly after the East Portland Community Center incident that could have resulted in tragedy, that 16-year-old’s father came to a CPC meeting. He thanked the officers involved for the restraint they showed; for arresting his son safely. Because of that, after the 16-year-old serves his sentence, he’ll have the opportunity to start a new life after incarceration.
Antoinette knows, Lucy knows, we all know that we need to do more than react. We must get upstream in the lives of kids, reach them, one by one, and help them, one by one, over the hurdles that block their success. And it’s not all about police, and victims’ advocates and gang outreach workers; they’re downstream. We need to get upstream.
That’s why my single largest new program in last year’s budget was the $2 million Mayor’s Community Centers Initiative. It didn’t receive a lot of media coverage or fanfare, but it has provided free admission to community centers and free access to teen programing for more than 20,000 Portland youth. Thanks to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Portland Parks & Recreation staff, and all of our diverse partners for making it a success.
What happened at Matt Dishman Community Center last summer should happen every summer! That’s why this year my proposed budget will institutionalize the Community Centers Initiative so that someday, all of our teens will have free access to all of our community centers, so no child will ever be turned away from a community center because they can’t pay admission.
And that’s why we doubled the City’s investment in SummerWorks. Last summer we sponsored 150 at-risk youth in paid internships with the City. We’re going to do the same this year! This is how we break the cycle of youth and gang violence in our community. Mentor. Hire an intern. Support an outreach program. For anyone out there who has hiring power, I’m asking you to sponsor a SummerWorks intern, and help the program achieve 1,000 placements this year. It will be meaningful for the intern, and powerful for you.
Our SummerWorks intern, Stephon Hartley, has grown up in our office; has found purpose and inspiration. You should have seen him run a big community meeting when we began planning our Community Centers Initiative. He was shaking, but he pulled it off. As an employer, it just doesn’t get any better. Try it. Join us.
Now I want to talk to you about the second most under-reported story in Portland: The big, positive changes at the Portland Police Bureau.
This month United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Portland. She didn’t come to enforce the city’s Department of Justice Settlement Agreement. She didn’t come because of a tragic police shooting. She didn’t come to Portland for the myriad issues that are roiling police forces across the country. Attorney General Lynch came to Portland to praise our city’s progress as one of six cities that are models of community-oriented policing.
Under the excellent leadership of Chief Larry O’Dea, whom I appointed a year-and-a-half ago, the Portland Police Bureau has worked to avoid national trends of increasing tension and hostility. Relationship-based police work is not a vague notion for Larry O’Dea; he is making it real in PPB. The very evening after the Attorney General was here, Chief O’Dea had his first meeting with his newly formed Muslim Advisory Council. Modeled after the African-American, LGBTQ, and Slavic advisory councils he already works with. A photo from that meeting of Portland Muslims made it into an Arab-world newspaper. The photographer’s comment: “This is the most diverse gathering of Muslims outside of Mecca.” Nicely done, Chief!
Another reason Attorney General Lynch came to Portland was to praise our great progress in dealing with people experiencing mental illness. Police officers are the first responders for mental health crises, as I talked about last year’s State of the City, in the case of DeNorris McClendon. Through new and continually evolving improvements in training, our officers are saving the lives of some of our most vulnerable Portlanders.
This is a constant challenge — we lose friends and neighbors to suicide every week. We lost a Portlander Monday. But there is hope.
On one December day last year, police responded to four separate attempted suicides. Our officers used their Enhanced Crisis Intervention training and were able to and talk them out of harming themselves. One day. Four lives saved.
Last summer, Officer Dave Arnold responded to a man parked in his vehicle with a loaded rifle in the front seat. He used his training to recognize that the man was in crisis. Officer Arnold responded with compassion, understanding, training — and without force. As a result, a man who was suicidal and armed was safely taken to get help. He lived to see the birth of his child. In a letter to Officer Arnold, the man’s partner wrote: “One would imagine that you see the worst in humanity doing the work you do. But we need you to know that because of your humanity, you saved our family, and we have another chance now.”
In last year’s State of the City, I said I wanted to come back this year and say we’ve got a psychiatric emergency center. Through unprecedented partnerships with private hospitals and the county, we do! The Unity Center opens in October.
We need to keep working on how we police, and on who are police officers are.
We know we can make progress. When I was first made Commissioner-In-Charge of Portland Fire & Rescue, there were six African-American and three women firefighters. Getting the bureau to better reflect the city took aggressive reform. And now, a decade later, about 20 percent of firefighters are women and people of color. We have more to do. But we have laid the groundwork so that our public safety bureaus in the future will be fully representative of the communities they serve. A shining example of that progress: our first-ever female fire chief, who I’m sorry to see go as she retires next month. Thank you, Chief Erin Janssens, for your 28 years of service!
So, with police staffing, we have a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, because we now have 45 vacant officer positions and 28 non-sworn positions that we need to fill. Officers have been working huge amounts of overtime to keep our city safe while we’re understaffed. An opportunity, because we are determined to fill vacancies with quality men and women from Portland’s diverse communities, and who believe in relationship-based policing.
That’s why we’ve accelerated the hiring process so instead of taking more than a year to hire a new officer, it’ll take six months. And I am proposing incentives — similar to the ones the private sector uses — to attract and retain quality officers:
- One, raise the starting pay.
- Two, a signing bonus for new hires.
- Three, an award for employees who recruit new hires.
Under Oregon law, we have to negotiate with the union to pay our officers more money. But that shouldn’t take long, should it Portland Police Association?
In five years, almost 80 percent of our patrol officers will be new to the police bureau. Do you know someone who is community-oriented and wants to help people? I am asking you today to have them to visit JoinPortlandPolice.com. Last year we hired our first Somali-born police officer, Khalid Ibrahim, and Portland’s Somali community came out to celebrate. Your family can be there for the next celebration!
I’m also looking ahead to the future: We’re going to continue to need good officers from diverse backgrounds.
And we want Portland youth to be equipped with the right knowledge to get good-paying jobs.
But a career in public safety may not be the first path our kids think of.
So today I’m announcing an exciting venture with Portland Public Schools and Portland Community College. These incredible partners are joining with the City to create a Public Safety Academy that will train Portland youth for careers at the police, fire and emergency communications bureaus.
This idea originated in a conversation I had with Portland School Board member Paul Anthony, when we were celebrating news that Jefferson High School achieved an 80 percent graduation rate — 14 percent higher than the year before! We want those educated young people to be our future generations of police officers, shaping our public safety bureaus so they better reflect all Portlanders’ stories. Thank you, Carole Smith, PPS and everyone at PCC for your partnership in Paul’s great idea!
We need to provide that kind of equitable access to our city’s resources and economic opportunities, so that every Portlander, no matter their race, class or ability, knows that this is their city, and can experience its blessings.
What does that access and opportunity look like?
It looks like Lamar Winston Jr., who is breaking the cycle of gang involvement in his family. He’s going to study Sports Medicine on a full-ride scholarship to University of Oregon.
It looks like Areale Hammond, who was inspired by public service during her SummerWorks internship in my office, and now works for the Office of Equity and Human Rights.
It looks like Corinne Phillips, who took small business classes at Native American Youth and Family Center and opened her own flower shop, and now has the chance to scale up with a boost from a PDC program.
It looks like Marsha Hayes, who left incarceration worried she wouldn’t be able to get a job, but will be able to start a new life because she’ll be judged by her skills, not her past.
It looks like the Al Baradan family, Syrian refugees who escaped a war zone. I’m proud that Portland was eager to welcome refugees with open arms. Nancy and I were in the group that met them at the airport as they arrived to make a new home in Oregon. It was inspiring. Mr. Trump: You should try it, and you’ll see that these aren’t dangerous people, they’re New Portlanders, New Americans.
Opportunity for all 600,000 Portlanders and their individual stories starts with economic opportunity. And Portland is now on the rise with new opportunities.
- Under Armor moved here from Baltimore; I’m proud that my stealth visit to their HQ paid off!
- Lattice Semiconductor moved from the suburbs to downtown Portland.
- Zoom+ health care is also making the move; they announced this morning they’re bringing 300 employees from Hillsboro to the Pearl!
- Tech companies like inDinero are moving up from Silicon Valley.
- The Portland Mercado will celebrate its one-year anniversary in April.
- And a new Asian Health and Service Center location will soon rise in Lents.
- Somali cab drivers just formed their own cab company, PDX Yellow Cab.
- Claylin, an earthen floors business, is growing after Sukita Crimmel received PDC technical and expansion assistance.
- Ecotrust’s Redd on Salmon will be an amazing new makerspace for food.
And we’re seeing new business leadership, with new ideas about how business and government can work together, becoming a voice for the new economy. We should celebrate and support Mara Zepeda, the CEO of Switchboard, who has a new business group: the Portland Independent Chamber of Commerce. Now, that’s an idea whose time has come!
Progressive businesses like these support — and rely on — progressive public policy. That’s why Portland is third in the world for number of benefit corporations; we’re aiming to be first! It’s who we are.
At last year’s State of the City, I called on us to “ban the box.” As Commissioner Novick said, we banned the hell out of the box!
Now, employers must wait until the conditional offer phase to ask a candidate about their criminal record. This is the best chance for people who have served time to be considered for their skills and abilities, rather than dismissed for their past mistakes. To stop the cycle of imprisonment, we need to give people the opportunity not to return to crime. There’s no better opportunity than a job. This is good public policy. In a city with a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, there is no excuse to exclude returning citizens who have done their time.
A job that pays enough to keep hard-working employees above the poverty line provides even more opportunity. In last year’s State of the City, I announced that we would raise the minimum wage for full-time City workers and contractors to $15 an hour — a fair wage so that our workers are able to live outside of poverty. With Commissioner Saltzman’s partnership, we did!
And progressive Portland businesses — like Ruby Receptionists, Grand Central Bakery, ¿Por Que No?, New Seasons — increased their employees’ wages to well above the state minimum, and helped us lobby the Legislature to increase everyone’s minimum wage. Thank you!
And now, thanks to Governor Kate Brown’s leadership, the rest of the city and state will see an increase in wages, as well. Thank you, Gov. Brown, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, and our Portland legislative delegation for real progressive leadership.
We’ve passed additional policies to hold the City accountable for equitable hiring. Diversity brings new ideas and broad representation to government. The new Charles Jordan Standard — Portland’s version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule — requires that a diverse field of candidates be interviewed for key city positions. We get to exercise this new policy right now, as we recruit new leaders for the Portland Development Commission and the Portland Fire Bureau.
Opportunity needs to be the norm, not the exception.
And we are taking access to opportunity into the future. But City government is rarely on the cutting edge of technology. So we are partnering with Deena Pierott and iUrban Teen to have a team of eight teenagers build a cellphone app for youth to easily access information about Community Center Initiative programs and public transit to take them there. And we’re creating a program at Montavilla Teen Center where other teens will continue to learn coding and keep our app updated! Thanks to Deena for creatively connecting youth of color to science and technology.
With that program, we can help other young people accomplish what Tyrone Pool did. Tyrone is a graduate of the 2014 Start-Up PDX Challenge. After suffering an injury while training to be a Portland Fire Fighter, he had no income and eventually exhausted his resources. He became homeless. Out of this tragedy, and with his smarts and drive, he’s created a program to match renters with available units at the touch of a button, and with no application fee. That’s the kind of idea, the kind of solution that is most likely to come from someone who has faced the problem of searching for housing and getting turned down.
With courage, community and collaboration, we are building a future that ensures the most accessible community centers; the most opportunity for young people and ex-offenders; the most diverse workforce; the best Portland we can be.
We need Tyrone and other creative leaders as we grapple with two of our most challenging issues: housing affordability and homelessness. No problem has erupted more forcefully in my administration.
Let me tell you about Carl. Carl is a high school student.
Carl’s dad has been in jail since Carl was six. His stepfather, a gang member, ended up in jail, too. Carl has a lot of anger. He’s already been in trouble with the law and on probation.
Now, his stepdad is out of jail. Because of his record, he and Carl can’t live together. So, Carl is homeless. He’s couch surfing or sometimes sleeping in a car; he’s not getting a shower; he’s getting very little sleep; he’s showing up at class as best he can.
One day, his principal was observing a science class. The teacher posed an arcane question about chemistry, and asked, ‘Who’s got a theory about what reaction will take place when we mix these substances?’ Carl raised his hand and laid out this really brilliant and accurate analysis of how the acids and solids would react and combine. His principal Dawn Joella-Jackson, was in the back of the classroom, listening. She took him aside at lunch and said, ‘How’d you know that? I know you’re sleeping in a car. I know you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I know you’re coming to school hungry. How did you do that?’ His eyes lit up and he said, ‘I love science. I want to be a scientist.’
If Carl is going to be a scientist, he’s got to have a home.
That’s why housing and homelessness are our third big challenge, our third big opportunity.
Let me be clear: Carl shouldn’t be living in a car, a tent, or a shelter.
I don’t believe anyone should be living in a car, a tent, or a shelter.
And, Carl is not a criminal for having to live in a car, a tent, or a shelter.
No one is.
Our City Council declared a State of Emergency in Housing and Homelessness in October. What does that mean? Three things.
- First: Rapid action
- Second: Deliberate experimentation
- Third: Real money
My driving principle is that the best way to improve life on the streets for everybody in Portland is for our police officers to be able to say, “You can’t sleep here, but you can sleep there.”
First, rapid action. Our goal under the State of Emergency was to open 650 shelter beds. In the first five months, we’ve already created 575!
Partnership with the federal government opened 170 beds for women and couples at the Jerome Sears Armory, and the Multnomah Village neighbors have generously donated food, clothes and kindness there.
Barry and Jordan Menashe responded to Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s call to use vacant building space as temporary shelters. Thank you, Commissioner Saltzman, for your passion and commitment to this issue. And thank you, Barry and Jordan, for your incredible generosity to the 100 homeless men who are able to sleep out of the rain and cold each night.
Multnomah County, under Chair Deborah Kafoury’s leadership, converted a former strip club into a family shelter with as many as 175 beds occupied on a given night. I want to give a special thank you to Chair Kafoury for her partnership in this work.
First Congregational Church, through the State of Emergency’s expedited permit process, partnered with Do Good Multnomah to use their chapel to create 13 shelter beds for veterans and their pets. It helps people like Geoff, who was a homeless veteran until the shelter opened. There, he had a place to put his things, shower, and access the Internet. Within days he got a job. Thanks to First Congregational and other faith leaders who have responded to our need for parking lots for car camping, providing day space for our unhoused residents. Because of A Home for Everyone’s success with the Veterans Challenge, 690 vets have their own apartments now.
Want to help on this challenge? Don’t buy a billboard. Donate or volunteer for one of our great local nonprofits like Blanchet House, Outside In, or Central City Concern. Buy a Street Roots newspaper every week. Have some real estate? Follow the Menashe family’s lead and make some space available for a temporary shelter. Be a YIMBY — YES in my backyard — like Anne Bocci, who organized her Multnomah Village neighbors into a Sandwich Brigade to help feed the people at the Sears Shelter!
Getting people in shelters is just a short-term fix as we work toward a long-term solution, but it’s an important one. When I visited the Sears shelter — thanks to George Devendorf, Stacy Borke, and everyone at Transition Projects — when I visited a couple of weeks ago, a woman, Shelley, told me that it was her first time being homeless. She said she was really fearful, sleeping out on the street. She said, “But now I’m inside, I’m safe, and I can make plans.”
Now, the second piece of our State of Emergency: deliberate experimentation. Today I am proud to announce a new partnership that will help people like Carl and Shelley and Geoff: The City is partnering with Portland Public Schools to use a now-empty building for a Portland Homeless Navigation Center — an innovation in how shelters operate in a way that builds on people’s inherent dignity. During the West Coast Mayors Summit in December, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee talked about the incredible benefits such a center provides people working to transition off of life on the street. Commissioner Saltzman, Chair Kafoury and I toured the Center a month later. We were impressed with the humanity it provided people, and the data show this innovation really works: 46 percent of clients come from homeless camps, and nearly 60 percent have left to permanent housing in the San Francisco area or back in their home towns. A Navigation Center will help us provide people a path away from trauma, off the streets, and into a successful life.
The third piece: real money. During the first few months of the State of Emergency, the City and the County have allocated many millions more dollars to new affordable housing projects. We now have more than $350 million — that’s more than a third of a billion dollars — dedicated to creating thousands of affordable housing units over the next 10 years. And we passed renter protections, to prevent unexpected rent hikes and eviction notices that force people out of their homes. Now renters get 90 days’ notice to plan their next move.
We also had a successful legislative session, with renter protections now at the state level, and landmark legislation that lifted the state pre-emption on inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning allows the City to require that new development include some affordable units. Thanks to Sen. Michael Dembrow, Speaker Tina Kotek and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer for making history!
These are all critical tools for reclaiming housing affordability in Portland.
But our reality is that we are in a true state of housing emergency. This affordability crisis is forcing people out of their homes and pushing Portland to the brink of becoming San Francisco. We fear that, but what does it really mean? What would Portland be?
A city where only 10 percent of homes are affordable by the middle class.
A city where only people with six-figure incomes can afford to live in the city.
A city where people have to travel 50 miles and 90 minutes to get to work.
For too many Portlanders, in too many stories, this is already a reality. That’s why managing growth is so important.
We must use all those new tools for housing affordability. We must also broaden our housing supply as we seize the opportunity to grow, but grow on our terms.
We have one chance to get this right — to make Portland a sustainable, livable and equitable city of 800,000 people. The Portland we love now may be here in 20 years, but it’s not going to happen by accident.
As commissioner, I served during another big wave of growth. I was proud to help create the great urban neighborhoods we now know as the Pearl District and South Waterfront. With the first parks bond measure in 50 years, we expanded our parks system, and built the Southwest Community Center, the East Portland Community Center and the Mount Scott Pool. We launched the Portland Streetcar, the first modern streetcar project in the U.S., and created the MAX Red and Yellow lines.
This planning and smart growth built the foundation for the booming Portland we love today.
Now, we need to choose our future in the face of major, sustained growth.
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is the map for Portland’s growth for the next 20 years, and it’s critical that we get it right. What does that look like?
- One: It doubles down on making our now transit-rich central city as walkable and bikable as possible, supporting it as the economic powerhouse of our city.
- Two: It protects great, old, historic buildings. We need to remove the incentive for developers to buy up large lots in neighborhoods with beautiful old houses; demolish them; and cram a couple of unaffordable houses on the lot. It’s a bad bargain, and we need to take it off the table.
- Three: It brings more great mixed-use places to more parts of our city, especially in East Portland. This is the chance to deliver on our promise of bringing the complete neighborhood package most of the city enjoys to East Portland with mixed-use development, safer streets and sidewalks, and better transit.
There are some other steps your City and your City Council is taking to steer Portland toward the future we want.
We’ve been talking for decades about getting the Post Office out of the urban core and out to the airport. It’s been in the wrong place since mail stopped arriving there by train! I’m excited that 13 acres in the Pearl District will be now transformed to 4,000 jobs and 2,400 new households — 30 percent of them affordable units. Thank you, Tom Kelly, PDC Board members and Patrick Quinton for making this long-awaited deal happen!
With Commissioner Novick’s leadership, and City Club’s advocacy, we’ll see a gas tax measure on the May ballot. I urge all Portlanders to vote for it. We need additional revenue to maintain our streets and improve our safety infrastructure. Thank you, Commissioner Novick, for your unfaltering dedication to tackling this issue.
To help preserve our city’s heritage, the City Council approved my deconstruction resolution, making Portland the first city in the country to require deconstruction of old homes. This will reduce the health and pollution risks that come with demolition, as well as reduce waste that goes to landfills. And, each deconstruction creates a handful of jobs. Good for our health. Good for our environment. Good for our economy.
Infill can be positive, smart growth, or negative erosion of neighborhood character. That’s why I launched the Residential Infill Project to address the scale and design of new houses and home additions. This year Council will consider recommendations for better design and a better toolkit for infill development.
City planning done right will prevent us from becoming San Francisco.
It will keep space for economic innovation and opportunity.
It will make our neighborhoods more walkable and connected, while saving great old buildings from shortsighted greed.
It will provide for more development capacity — creating more housing, more economic opportunity, more space to absorb growth.
We are 600,000 Portlanders. Soon we’ll be 800,000. With intentional planning and careful placemaking, we can keep the Portland we love as we welcome more Portlanders and more stories to our great city.
Just as the challenges of growth require intentionality and creativity, so too does the mandate of climate change. That leads me to the last of these five opportunities we must seize: Portland and other cities must lead the world in innovative climate action.
If you aren’t convinced of the importance of this issue, you should listen to our kids. You should listen to what students from Metropolitan Learning Center and Sunnyside Environmental School had to say about the need for Portland to be bold.
One MLC student, Isabel said, “If we don’t take action now, we will never grasp the opportunity to stop climate change. This is our future. We’re the ones who have to fix climate change in a way that never has been done before. This is our future. And our voices should count.”
A Sunnyside student, Lailanie, said, “Every time I look at my baby sister, I wonder what the world will be like in 12 years when she’s my age, or 20 years when she’s grown up. Please don’t let future generations look at a dying earth and say that we’re the generation that killed it. Let them look back and say that we’re the generation that saved it.”
They are right to call on us for local leadership in this global challenge. Cities have long been laboratories of innovation and the locus of action on climate. Cities are engaged in a virtuous competition for who gets to a green future faster. But despite our ambitious climate goals and impressive action items, for a long time it felt like we cities were banging on the doors of our national governments, trying to be heard.
Then last summer, Pope Francis invited 60 mayors to the Vatican for a climate summit. Not national environment ministers — mayors. The pope told us that addressing climate change is a moral imperative for humanity, and that change must come from the periphery to the center.
Now the global commitment to climate action has been reinvigorated. Since the Vatican summit, world leaders in Paris struck an historic agreement; President Obama advanced a Clean Power plan; the state Legislature passed a landmark Coal Free Oregon bill; and the Portland City Council approved the fossil fuel resolution — the strongest in the country — and Pembina got the message!
We have heeded the call, and are helping build an international movement to leave it in the ground!
Now, Portland is engaged in another virtuous competition: Two weeks ago, US Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx told us that we are one of seven Smart Cities Challenge finalists, vying for $50 million to implement an innovative, tech-connected transportation system. We are in it to win it.
Portland will continue to be an environmental trailblazer for other cities across America and the world. I’ve got proof: Today I’m proud to announce important progress. Portland’s efforts to grow sustainably have resulted in a 21 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels — even as our population and jobs have grown substantially. Twenty-one percent reduction in carbon emissions!
To build on our remarkably quick progress over the last three years, today I’m announcing three more initiatives that will keep Portland carbon emissions on the decline.
First, we will expand the competitive marketplace for energy efficiency that we created for commercial buildings to include homes. Energy reporting for commercial buildings creates an incentive to be energy efficient, saves them money and reduces carbon emissions. It’s the same with home energy scores: It will encourage homeowners and developers to make houses energy efficient.
Second, we will nearly reach my goal of doubling the amount of solar on City-owned facilities with new solar panels on the Southwest Community Center, the Ground Water Pump Station, and the Ash Street Fire Station. Along with the new solar panels being installed on Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct, we’ll produce solar energy at 16 facilities. We are choosing to invest in the future, rather than a dirty, dying industry of the past.
Third, now that the Oregon Legislature has set us free to do so, we plan to launch our first community solar project at a site near the Bull Run Reservoir. With community solar, people whose houses aren’t conducive to solar panels or who live in apartments will be able to pay into a solar project, and receive that clean energy to power their homes. When our proposed 2-megawatt site comes online, we will more than triple the amount of solar on City-owned facilities. Thank you, Commissioner Fish, for helping all Portlanders to have access to that inexpensive, renewable energy.
With these actions, we can reduce Portland’s carbon emissions by another 7 percentage points, putting us well on our way to meeting our goal of reducing emissions total by 80 percent by 2050.
In 1993, I was on the City Council that passed the first Climate Action Plan in the country. We were trailblazing then, and we are now. With solar investments; green bonds and divestment; with the innovations we will share with the nation in the Smart Cities Challenge, and our firm stand against expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, Portland will remain in the lead.
We are 600,000 Portlanders, and each and every one of us can be bold and conscientious, and lead on climate action like our earth depends on it.
We as Portlanders face real challenges. Youth violence. Institutional racism. An affordability crisis. Climate change.
I’ve asked you to look over the horizon and into Portland’s future. There are both perils and opportunities there. I know that we will creatively tackle those problems, and we will seize the opportunities that will keep the Portland the place we love.
Because we are bound together by the fact that we are all Portlanders, and we love this place.
We are Portlanders like Officer Arnold, who saw a loaded gun, but recognized crisis, and saved a suicidal man so he could be there for the birth of his child.
We are Portlanders like Lamar Winston Jr., who defied his circumstances to become an inspiration and a success.
We are Portlanders like the Menashe family, who donated space in a prime downtown location so homeless men can sleep out of the rain.
We are Portlanders like Sukita and Tyrone — small-business entrepreneurs whose creativity and innovation are part of our city’s DNA.
We are Portlanders like Isabel and Lailanie — students who are lobbying to save their future, pushing us to be the generation that saves the earth.
We can keep the Portland we love into the future, but it won’t happen by accident. I am confident that the state of our city is strong, and we will make our future bright.
Because we know how to come together in stewardship of this great place.
Because we still feel like we live in a big small town and actually care about our neighbors — all of them.
Because we are Portlanders.