2016 Year in Review
As 2016 comes to an end, I want to share some reflections on the past year with you.
The big story, of course, is the surprising election of Donald Trump. The campaign was ugly and divisive. And President-elect Trump’s early moves on the environment, housing, civil rights, and immigration represent a clear threat to Portland values.
Portland continues to experience growing pains. We elected a new mayor and commissioner. The Council and the community responded to the housing crisis with historic new investments in affordable homes. We completed work on a 20-year vision for Portland’s future, and we took bold action to combat climate change. And we adopted a comprehensive plan to reduce traffic fatalities.
I cast some tough votes on high profile issues. I supported a police contract which addressed an acute staffing crisis and eliminated the "48 hour" rule. I opposed a new system of public finance for campaigns because I thought we should first ask taxpayers for their permission. And I disagreed with a proposal to build a mass shelter at Terminal 1 North because it was inconsistent with our long-term goals for growing family-wage jobs.
As always, I listened to people on all sides of the issues, and was guided by my values and principles.
Because of all the headwinds that we face, public service is more important than ever. That’s why I am so grateful for the people in our community who work tirelessly and with little fanfare to make our city a better place. And the best part of my job is that I get to partner with each of you.
Here are some of the highlights from 2016:
We are about to welcome two new members of City Council: Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. And we say thank you to Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick for their many years of public service.
My family spent last year in Europe. When my wife and kids returned home this summer, we sold our house and moved into a rental apartment in Goose Hollow. Now, Patricia and I both walk to work, and our son takes a bus to his middle school.
Delivering Safe Drinking Water
Portlanders are justifiably proud of their drinking water. We continue to work closely with state and federal regulators to protect the quality of our Bull Run water. This fall, Water Bureau director Mike Stuhr and I updated Council and the community about what our team is doing to deliver safe, clean, and reliable water to the region.
My bureaus are working hard to restore salmon habitat in the Willamette River and our urban watersheds. The Crystal Springs Creek Restoration Project is a model public-private partnership. Because of our collective efforts, Portland is now the first certified salmon-safe city in the world.
Preparing for the “Big One”
The Water Bureau is preparing for future earthquakes by replacing and strengthening old pipes and storage tanks. In September, we broke ground on the Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project. The new reservoirs will be buried underground and reinforced to the highest seismic standards. And soon we’ll start construction on the Willamette River Crossing Project, which will ensure uninterrupted water to west side homes and businesses.
Housing for All
While Portland continues to face a housing crisis, we made steady progress.
The Welcome Home Coalition helped pass a historic affordable housing bond. I played a leadership role, raising money and campaigning for it. This important new tool will fund safe, decent, and affordable homes for the most vulnerable people in our community.
I teamed up with Commissioner Dan Saltzman to require that all revenue from short-term rentals (like Airbnb) be dedicated to investments in housing for low-income Portlanders. I pushed for a significant increase in urban renewal funds to build affordable homes. And the Council unanimously adopted a historic inclusionary housing policy.
In 2017, we will focus on strengthening renter protections and expanding housing choice.
Helping Small Businesses Thrive
Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. I’m proud to serve as the liaison to Venture Portland, which supports and advocates for our 50 neighborhood business districts. In our last budget, we invested in local businesses citywide and expanded our commitment to East Portland businesses.
Creating Jobs at Terminal 1
I opposed a plan to turn Terminal 1 North—14 acres of prime industrial land owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services—into a mass shelter. After the deal fell through, we put the property back on the market. We now have an Oregon-based buyer and hope to finalize the sale soon. This sale will be a win-win-win: protecting scarce industrial land, creating family-wage jobs, and returning the proceeds to ratepayers.
More Sunshine at City Hall
Working with public interest groups, I sponsored new ethics reforms to strengthen transparency and accountability. Portland is now the second city in the nation to require “political consultants” to register and disclose their activities. The public has a right to know who’s influencing the decisions of their elected officials.
The Portland Utility Board and Citizens’ Utility Board continue to fulfill their promise of strong, independent oversight of our utilities.
And I supported Auditor Hull Caballero’s proposal to limit the “revolving door.” Now, when bureau directors and Commissioners’ staff leave City service, they must wait two years before returning as a lobbyist.
Arts: The Soul of a City
Portland is known for its vibrant arts community. Art, culture, and heritage are part of the soul of our city. As liaison to the Regional Arts and Culture Council, I issued my year-end report, highlighting the wins we achieved together, like expanding operating support for community-based arts organizations, and the challenges we face going forward.
A Portland for People of All Ages and Abilities
We continued to work with passionate community partners to make Portland a more welcoming place for people of all ages and abilities.
We made all single-stall restrooms in our parks and City buildings all-user. Commissioner Fritz and I hosted a ribbon-cutting at Dawson Park to celebrate the conversion of more than 600 restrooms. They are now accessible to everyone—older adults, parents with young children, people with personal attendants, and transgender individuals.
In October, I traveled to Chicago to speak at the AARP Livable Communities Conference. Along with partners from AARP Oregon, we discussed how Portland is building an age-friendly community and bringing more older adults into important conversations about the future of our city.
Every year, we honor local heroes with Spirit of Portland awards. This year, I selected Rosa Parks Elementary Principal Tamala Newsome and Vanport Mosaic. They represent the very best of our community.
For 25 years, the Lowenstein Trust has recognized outstanding community leaders. This year’s award went to the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. During the Council presentation, I thanked outgoing Board Chair Michelle Harper for her many years of service, and was humbled to be named an Honorary Trustee.
I continue to be inspired by educators in our community (including my wife Patricia!). This year, I spent time with Ms. Dana Absgarten, a 7th and 8th grade teacher at the Metropolitan Learning Center, and with Margaret Calvert, an award-winning Principal at Jefferson High School. I saw, first-hand, how they positively impact our youth.
Standing in Solidarity
I am proud of all the Portlanders who are standing up against misogyny, racism, bigotry, and hatred in our community.
In October, I joined the community at the Muslim Educational Trust as we welcomed Khizr Khan to Oregon. He spoke eloquently about the idea of “equal dignity” under the law. Local business owners continue to display posters in their store windows, demonstrating solidarity with people of all races, religions, national origins, genders, and sexual orientations. And I participated in numerous peaceful vigils and rallies against hate and intolerance.
Happy Birthday, Governor Barbara Roberts
In December, I joined over 600 people at a celebration in honor of Governor Barbara Roberts’ 80th birthday. Over a lifetime of public service, she has been a champion for death with dignity, marriage equality, and reproductive freedom.
In her 1991 inaugural address, during another challenging period in our state’s history, Governor Roberts offered a clear vision and hope. She declared that “[we] will come out on the other side—stronger, better, more healthy, more diverse, more Oregon.”
And she challenged Oregonians to rise to the occasion. “For each generation has but one chance to be judged by future generations. And this is our time.”
Governor Roberts has inspired generations of people to pursue public service, especially young women leaders. I am proud to call her my friend, mentor, and role model.
It is an honor to serve on your City Council, to work with the talented professionals in my City Hall office and my bureaus, and to partner with Venture Portland, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and Elders in Action to make Portland a better place.
Thanks for all you do for our community!