Dear Friends & Neighbors,
I hear you. I share the anger raging through our community about another murder of a Black individual at the hands of a police officer. I understand your frustration at the disparate impact COVID-19 is having on Latinx people, Black people, and other Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). After all, these disparities are widespread, not only in our healthcare system, but in our education system, economy, housing policies, and of course our justice system. I am passionate around righting the wrongs of our culture - demilitarizing the police, empowering communities that have long been disempowered, investing in BIPOC communities.
And that’s what our adopted Fiscal Year 2021 budget continues to do. This budget makes strategic cuts in misguided criminal justice programs, and key investments in restorative justice services and supports and upstream maternal health and youth-centered programs. Specifically, this budget:
- Shutters another county jail dorm (this board closed a jail dorm in 2017 as well)
- Cuts the punitive and ineffective fines and fees associated with our criminal justice system, which have too often been used to impede the ability of people to get back on their feet and has continued the extraction of wealth from BIPOC communities;
- Defunds the County’s contribution to the School Resource Officer program;
- Reduces the district attorney’s budget around prosecuting misdemeanor offenses;
- Invests in support systems for Black women who are exiting our criminal justice system;
- Adds a Schools Unifying Neighborhoods site to KairosPDX Elementary School, a culturally responsive school in North Portland;
- Expands our Legal Services program, which provides legal assistance, financial relief, and other key services to those interacting with the justice system;
- Enhances our reentry work by providing employment services along with housing assistance;
- Restores funding for the Health Birth Initiative, which provides maternal health assistance for Black women;
- Grows our community-centered partnerships for families with youth on probation; and
- Funds an additional 54 slots in the county’s Summer Works program, which provides job training and placement for marginalized youth.
This budget is not what anyone planned when the process began several months ago. On March 19th, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to reform the Business Income Tax (and provide tax cuts to smaller businesses) in order to invest tens of millions of dollars in core community programs.
Since then, the economy has been shuttered to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our projected budget has shrunk by tens of millions of dollars at the same time our public health response to deal with the COVID-19 crisis cost nearly $100 million. And the need in our community for assistance and relief because of the pandemic-driven recession keeps growing.
But our response to the pandemic has been centered on public health and racial justice, and it will continue to be. We’ve worked with community partners to try to address the racial disparities of the virus, as well as protect the elderly, and we will continue to do so. We’ve also set aside reserves for the economic slowdown and continued demands on our health system.
Each of the budgets I have worked to pass in my four years in office have been centered on racial equity, our most at risk community members, and upstream investments. But never have these investments been more urgent than they are today.
Yet there is much more to do. This budget doesn’t go far enough - we all recognize that. But it is a commitment to continue the work that needs to be done. And I can’t do this work without you. So thank you to everyone who reached out to share their thoughts on this budget. We had an unprecedented number of people reach out to my office this year.
Together we will tackle the work in front of us and build our society into one centered on racial and social justice.
MultCo Enters Phase I of ReopeningLast week Multnomah County entered into Phase I of the state’s COVID-19 reopening strategy. Restaurants, bars, and personal care facilities are all able to open with new social distancing guidelines in place. Gatherings of up to 25 people at a time will be permitted. You will also see many new measures in place to protect our community as we reopen and rebuild our economy. In order to continue minimizing the spread of COVID-19 we need to continue our best practices: ensuring 6 feet of social distancing; wearing face coverings in public indoor spaces; washing our hands regularly. As we move to open, we want to stay open. So please stay safe and healthy. You can learn more about Multnomah County’s plans for reopening here.
Bringing Transportation Investments to East Portland
For the past two years I have been co-chairing a task force exploring needed transportation investments in our region. Metro is now considering referring to voters the recommendations of that task force, which include comprehensive transportation improvements to address traffic and safety on sixteen of greater Portland’s most dangerous and congested corridors. The proposal also creates dedicated funding for important local programs, such as Safe Routes to School and the YouthPass program. The package of investments would also create tens of thousands of family wage jobs in our region, at a time when our economy is in need of investment. Metro is holding four online listening sessions about the potential investments, including one targeted for east Portland residents on Monday, July 6th at 5:30 pm. You can register for the listening session and learn more about the recommended investments here.
This year I am once again sponsoring the 2020 Pride Proclamation, alongside Commissioner Susheela Jayapal and the PRISM & QTPOC Employee Resource Groups. Pride is an opportunity for us to celebrate the freedom to love and be oneself, and to come together as a community to remember and recognize the rights that have been fought for for so long. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t just a time of celebration, it is also a time for us to recommit to the hard, necessary work needed to ensure our LGBTQ siblings are treated equally. We still have not passed the Equality Act. We still are enduring a crisis of murders of Black Trans women, and our federal government is actively seeking to harm our Trans siblings. But we know that the power of community and love is so much stronger than the power of hate and fear. We must constantly reaffirm our commitment to the hard, slow work of building a more perfect union, for our LGBTQ siblings and for all who call our country home.