Dear friends and neighbors,
This year the Oregon Legislature passed landmark bills that will move Oregon off coal and raise our minimum wage. And Multnomah County helped pass major legislation on housing and infrastructure finance.
House Bill 4093 will allow Multnomah County -- and other counties throughout Oregon -- to raise funds for county courthouse construction projects through a surcharge on parking tickets and moving violations. This is an important part of our overall plan to replace our seismically unsound central courthouse.
On the housing front, Senate Bill 1533 lifts the ban on inclusionary zoning, letting cities require up to 20 percent of units in new developments be affordable, and gives local governments the ability to raise new revenue for housing through a construction excise tax. House Bill 4143 provides tenants statewide 90 days of notice for rent increases. Lawmakers also dedicated an additional $12.5 million for support services and affordable housing preservation.
Locally, we continue to streamline housing services, aligning city and county resources. The next step in that alignment is determining the feasibility of combining City of Portland and Multnomah County homeless services in one office - a Joint Office of Homeless Services - hosted at Multnomah County. This Joint Office would further cement our commitment to working smarter to address the crisis of homelessness in our community.
There is also a new website for A Home For Everyone, the partnership between Multnomah County, Portland and Gresham, business and non-profits to fight homelessness.
Finally, an invitation: This Friday I will be visiting with the Portland City Club and presenting an overview of the state of Multnomah County and what we can look forward to in the year ahead. Tickets are on sale now -- I hope you’ll join me.
Sellwood Bridge Opening Ceremony draws thousands
On Saturday, Feb. 27 thousands of community members came together to celebrate the new Sellwood Bridge opening.
The gathering, which featured performers, retailers and food vendors, also included on-stage appearances from several local leaders: Multnomah County Commissioners Jules Bailey, Loretta Smith, Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel, United States Senator Jeff Merkley, and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick.
Chair Kafoury was among them.
“When cracks were found in the old bridge in 2003, Multnomah County faced a critical challenge: how to take on a major regional project with no money, no plan and no partners,” she said. “Working together, we found that money. We developed that plan. And because of the people on this stage, their colleagues before them, and you in the community, we found those partners.”
Following the celebration, the bridge closed briefly before opening to traffic on Feb. 29 at 8 p.m., marking a major milestone for the project. But work will continue throughout the year.
For more information on work to come, visit the Sellwood Bridge website.
Chair Kafoury, panel host former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
On Feb. 19, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords urged Oregon leaders to find “common sense solutions” to gun violence in a roundtable discussion moderated by Chair Deborah Kafoury.
The panel discussion coincided with Giffords’ launching of the Oregon Coalition for Common Sense. The roundtable, which took place at the YWCA of Greater Portland, addressed how the state can reduce gun violence.
Giffords served as a U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 to 2012. She resigned following a 2011 incident in which she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents.
From that point forward, Giffords chose to dedicate her career to raising awareness about gun violence. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization dedicated to promoting remedies to gun violence.
The Feb. 19 panel meeting featured a handful of experts, including Ron Louie, retired Chief of the Hillsboro Police Department; Keri Moran-Kuhn, associate director of theOregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Jessica Nischik-Long, executive director of the Oregon Public Health Association; Michael Reese, retired Chief of the Portland Police Bureau; Dr. Jim Scott, past president of the National Physicians Alliance; Susan Stoltenberg, executive director of Impact NW; Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill; U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy Williams; and Robert Yuille, a veteran and member of the board of Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership.
For Kafoury, the takeaway was simple: Oregon leaders have a chance to make an impact.
“We know that this is an issue that affects everyone,” Kafoury said. “We look forward to taking some of the lessons that we’ve learned today about how we can make some common sense changes to our legislators in Salem.
Chair Kafoury appears on KGW's "Straight Talk"
Chair Kafoury joined host Laural Porter on KGW’s “Straight Talk” on Feb. 29.
The two-part interview covered a range of topics, including growing concern over Portland’s air quality, important developments in the county’s fight against homelessness, and the Sellwood Bridge opening.