Dear friends and neighbors,
With a half a million additional people expected to move into our region by 2040, we must plan wisely for growth in order to preserve our natural environment, livability, and the quirkiness that makes our area great.
We have to acknowledge that our city is going to change and strive to make sure it does so in a way that we want. At heart is the inherent tension between density vs. suburbanization, and affordability vs. exclusivity.
In the past, we’ve chosen our farmlands and forests over subdivisions and sprawl. We’ve chosen light rail over another freeway bisecting our neighborhoods. We’ve chosen to grow the Portland way, and it’s been the right choice. And the people that are moving here are the fruits of that success.
Today we face similar and yet different challenges. As we grow, people are being priced out. As we grow, people are feeling the strain, stress, and uncertainty of change and their place in it.
So we need to discuss the trade offs and the lessons learned.
First, if you don’t grow up, you grow out, which would mean more sprawl, more traffic, and more pollution. Second, if we don’t invest in transit and multimodal options, we’ll face more expensive freeway projects and similar gridlock. Third, if we don’t embrace density, we’ll be left with high income enclaves.
That’s why I submitted testimony to the Portland City Council in support of the Central City 2035 Plan that will inform development in the City Core for the years to come. I affirmed my support for initiatives that encourage dense residential development near transit corridors. Those developments may ruin the views of a few, but provide housing (and affordable housing!) for many, many more.
I delivered a similar message in my call to action at Metro’s Regional Leadership Forum on transportation earlier this month, which brought together elected officials and community and business leaders. There, I called on us to lead with our values. For me, that means: a commitment to pedestrian safety and transportation options in all of our neighborhoods; making better use of existing transportation infrastructure using tools like value pricing; and building upon our prior investments, such as light rail, to maximize their value and promote transit usage (read more about the event and my speech here).
The only constant is change. Let’s be cognizant of that change and shape it, rather than hopelessly try to stand in it’s way.
Advocating for our community
The 2018 state legislative session wrapped up in early March, and I am pleased to let you know that Multnomah County’s two major legislative priorities passed with bipartisan support. Multnomah County was focused on two issues in this year’s one-month session: ensuring that we can build a seismically-resilient Burnside Bridge that can withstand a major earthquake; and securing additional revenue from the state to keep people safe and sheltered until we can help them obtain more stable housing.
However, I was disappointed to see the legislature fail to take meaningful action to address climate change by passing the Clean Energy Jobs legislation. We know that climate change poses an enormous risk to our communities, and this legislation offered Oregon the chance to become a leader in the global fight against climate change. I am hopeful that we will be able to revisit this issue in the 2019 legislative session, and I remain committed to doing all I can at Multnomah County to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy.
In addition to advocating locally, I also traveled to our nation’s capital to talk to our federal delegation about the needs of our community and the need for partnership. Specifically, we discussed the need for:
- Increased federal investments in affordable housing and homelessness prevention;
- Federal support for the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project;
- A legislative solution that will enable those on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to stay in the U.S., the country they call home; and
- Strong social safety net program for those most vulnerable in our community.
In addition to meeting with members of Congress, I also met with key committee staff and U.S. Department of Transportation officials on value pricing and our Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project.
Fighting for Housing Solutions
The Foster Shelter Steering Committee, of which I am serving as Chair, has held two productive meetings over the last past five weeks. Community members, business owners around the shelter, local non-profit organizations, and County & City staff have come together to discuss a variety of topics involved in the development of this shelter, including: program priorities, the exterior design, and neighborhood concerns. I'm encouraged by the community’s input and desire to address issues thoughtfully, and I look forward to carrying on this conversation over the next several months. You can track other updates regarding the Foster Shelter here.