02-06-2023  6:05 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Pictured are the top candidates for Portland City Council. Candidates for Commissioner Position 2: L to R, Dan Ryan (incumbant) and Alanna Joy McCreary. Candidates for Commissioner Position 3: top row R: Jo Ann Hardesty (incumbent), bottom row L to R, Vadim Mozyrsky and Rene Gonzalez.
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 07 April 2022

As Portland City commissioners Dan Ryan and Jo Ann Hardesty run for reelection this year, they face a smaller field of candidates than in years past.

Both must campaign city-wide for the May 17 primary as Portland remains the only major U.S. city to still operate on a commission style of local government.

Eight other candidates are listed on the ballot for Ryan’s seat, although only one, Alanna Joy McCreary, has registered a campaign committee and reported any substantial fundraising. Only two candidates among 10 challenging Hardesty – Vadim Mozyrsky and Rene Gonzalez – have done the same.

The Skanner spoke with the top candidates for each position. Interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

COMMISSIONER POSITION 2

Dan Ryan and Alanna Joy McCreary participated in a debate hosted by the City Club of Portland on Tuesday.

Dan Ryan (incumbent) 

 

What do you hope to accomplish with a second term? 

Deliver more resources and focus on homelessness and community safety to provide for  economic recovery. We have to keep working to house people and increase our pace. People living in parks and public spaces is simply unacceptable, both as a humanitarian crisis and because these are spaces for everyone.

This means rustling feathers, but tough love always  does.

We’ve begun construction on six Safe Rest Villages, which are on-ramps to successful housing. The transition from chronic homelessness to housing is a big leap for many and these on-ramps are needed to ensure more long-term success.  

 

What would you do to increase racial and socioeconomic equity in Portland? 

We need on-ramps for first-time homeowners. Land banking is required to accomplish this.  Increasing home ownership among communities of color is long-term economic justice. 

 

What would you do to prevent further displacement in Portland? 

Portland must become a city where a broad spectrum of people with varied incomes can afford  to live.

We must increase the amount of affordable housing. 

I support increased density along transit corridors, and would like to see us flip the affordability requirements for multi-family housing until we restore balance, including incentives for  developers to meet these goals. That means 80% of units must meet an affordability measure,  including units sized for families. 

 

How would your policy toward homelessness change in a second term, if at all? 

In my short time in office, I have led the effort to move the homeless solutions narrative from  housing first to services first. We’ve begun construction on six Safe Rest Villages which are on-ramps to successful housing. The transition from chronic homelessness to housing is a big leap  for many and these on-ramps are needed to ensure more long-term success.  

We have to keep working to house people and increase our pace. People living in parks and  public spaces is simply unacceptable, both as a humanitarian crisis and because these are  spaces for everyone. This means rustling feathers, but tough love always does. 

I will fight to move people off the streets as fast as possible (with) faster progress building safe, clean living spaces;  (by) clearing roadblocks to building more affordable housing, and by increasing addiction and mental health treatment access.

Alanna Joy McCreary

Alanna Joy McCreary is a community organizer specializing n racial and economic justice, and also works as an educator and political consultant. Two years ago she co-founded the nonprofit Equitable Giving Circle, an organization she describes as "focused on reparations through food, housing and a community wellness program.” McCreary serves as a board member for Steps PDX and Race Talks, and also co-founded the mutual aid group Mxm Bloc.

Why did you feel called to run?

The simple answer is the community asked and I said yes. Longer answer: We need new energy in City Hall, we need the values of Portlanders to be represented at City Hall.

Our city is a Millennial city and yet we don't have Millennials in leadership – let's change that.

I believe in this city and I know that I can be a steward of change. I have a track record of that and would like to do that same type of work on a larger stage.

What is unique about your background and lived experience that you can bring to the council?

I am from Portland and have been doing community work for decades. I am a light-skinned Black woman, a single parent, a renter, a non-driver. I intersect with a lot of our concerns our city is experiencing and I am a hard worker with direct experience doing large-scale projects and implementing change. I am a fresh energy with a track record of bringing folks together and that is the type of person we need in City Hall.

What would you do to increase racial and socioeconomic equity in Portland?

Resources. We can't keep talking about racism and socioeconomic disparities.

We need to start addressing root issues and putting resources in the community to help lift up our most marginalized folks.

What this looks like is really helping folks get into housing, going upstream and seeing why folks are falling into houselessness and stopping that. We need to create many robust paths to home ownership prioritizing Black and Brown folks as well as millenials. We need to make sure that we are addressing wage disparities and how police are targeting our Black and Brown communities. We need to do the work and stop talking about making reports or waiting for data that we have had for decades. Really, resources will uplift our communities living at the margins.

What would you do to prevent further displacement in Portland?

A rent moratorium needs to be reinstated while we are blooming out of this pandemic. We need to address income inequalities. We need to support homeownership for Black, Brown, immigrants, queer folks, and millenials. Homeownership changes the ways folks are rooted and involved in the community. It is empowering and good for the community. We need to invest in the people and not corporations or the wealthy and when we make that shift folks will want to stay in Portland and be part of the healing process we so desperately need.

 

How would you address homelessness in Portland?

“Address” is a really triggering word when someone is in crisis, so how I would like to support our most vulnerable community members is to stop sweeps, which are inhumane and cruel. Sweeps are a massive waste in resources and just shuffle the issue from neighborhood to neighborhood. It also villianizes the folks who have been forgotten and failed by our government and social services.

I would like to immediately start trash services for our houseless community members and really invest in community-based organizations that can provide immediate support and wraparound services for our houseless neighbors. I would like to shift this obsession with shelters, which is a fancy version of being housed outside, and get folks on track to be supported with full housing in the ways that they as individuals or families need and want. I would like to utilize some of the 8,000 empty units for folks that need the least amount of rehabilitation and then get a wide range of safety nets and supports rolling throughout the community for folks that need more in-depth services. To really support folks in this crisis we can't work through change by having a monolith in our solution narratives. We need to have a multi-prong approach that supports the community long-term.

COMMISSIONER POSITION 3

Jo Ann Hardesty (incumbent)

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty won the seat in 2018 after serving as Oregon state representative of the 19th district from 1995 to 2001. During her time in office, she has strongly voiced calls to defund the police. In 2020 she founded ReThink Portland to bring attention to community safety while at the same time launching a successful measure to create a new police oversight board with disciplinary and subpoena powers. Hardesty also created Portland Street Response as an alternative to police involvement when an individual is suffering a mental health crisis, sending mental and behavioral health professionals out on calls. 

 

What do you hope to accomplish with a second term?

I hope to continue to move Portland Street Response so that it becomes a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation that all Portlanders can rely on. I want to make sure that as we are addressing the housing affordability crisis, that we continue to remember that working people can no longer afford to live in the city of Portland.

We have to do something really big. I’d like to see us land bank all the land the city currently owns, rather than selling it to private investors and begging for a public benefit. I’d like to see us land bank it and restrict the development to 60% of median family income for both commercial and residential. 

Not only are renters being pushed out, so are small businesses, which I define as 20 employees or less, which are the lifeblood of the city of Portland. 

 

What is unique about your background and lived experience that you can bring to the council?

I am the only former legislator, so I actually understand how public policy is made. I am the only one that’s actually had to review state budgets, so city budgets are a piece of cake as compared to state budgets. I will also say I am uniquely qualified because I have always been someone who has had to work for a living, so bringing working class standards and perspectives to a council that traditionally has either people who are very wealthy or people who have access to wealth. Having someone on the council who is uniquely and has always been a working class individual makes a huge difference. 

I will say being the first Black woman also brings a wealth of knowledge that was absent prior to my joining the city council. 

 

What would you do to increase racial and socioeconomic equity in Portland?

What I can tell you is that we talk a lot about equity, but we don’t actually put equity into practice in most of the decisions we make. As a city council member, every time there is a contract that comes in front of us for anything, I want to know who gets the public dollars – and I want to know how many African Americans, how many Native Americans, how many women.

When I first got to the city of Portland it was clear that people did not ask that question, and when I first started asking in January of 2019, even my colleagues were like, you can’t ask that. But these are public dollars, and the public asked me, and I’m here to ask those questions. And so in my time here at city hall, all city bureaus have learned that if they come into council I will ask those questions and expect to have that detail.

I will tell you, the city today has 12 failed programs that were supposed to benefit minority, women-owned construction firms. 

 

In this position, you oversee the city’s Office of Community & Civic Life. What do you see as the most urgent issues impacting general quality of life in the city, and how would you address them? 

Clearly, the biggest issue concerning everyone is the houseless population. And the growing houseless population, because we have a wave of evictions coming starting this month that no one’s talking about, and no one’s talking about the fact that most working people don’t have 5 to $7,000 to move into an apartment. 

Having said that, the Office of Civic & Community Life, their job is to work with community members whether that’s through neighborhood associations or other community-based groups, so they’ve been working very closely with community members trying to help them solve community livability issues. 

I feel that in the time Civic Life has been in my portfolio we’ve been able to stabilize it, and get them really focused on working well with community members. That’s where Civic Life is at the moment.

It’s also the fact that the help that came from the feds only addressed people who made $35,000 or less. What happens if you made $36,000? There’s so many people who fell through the cracks because of the really horrible way that those relief funds actually had made it into the hands of people. The legislature didn’t trust individuals to have money, so what did they do? Create a fund for landlords. 

We also are not addressing the fact that most poor people, when they understand they can’t pay rent, they move. And we have nothing in place to help people who moved out because they couldn’t afford to pay the rent, and meanwhile they have those evictions on their record, which means the chance of them getting another place without exorbitant resources to move in are slim to none.

We’re not addressing the fact that the median income today, for a family of four in the Portland Metro area, is $96,900. No one who cleans our hotels, who works in our restaurants, our music venues, our sports venues, can afford to live in the city where they work, play and worship.

And very soon we’re going to become a city where we’re going to have to bus in poor people to service the rich people who come here to play. 

There’s an organized effort to pretend the people on our streets are somehow bad people, not acknowledging that most workers who lost everything in March of 2020 have not started the road to recovery. What I know is nobody is talking about the workers who lost their two or three $15-an-hour jobs at the beginning of COVID, and have not been able to recover at all.

We’re not going to have a handle on this explosion of houseless community members. And concentration camps are not the answer to our lack of housing people can afford to live in. 

The emergency congregate shelters that we do today are so inhumane. All you have to do is spend a night in one of them, and what you will learn is the professionals leave at five, and then the volunteers are the ones left dealing with people with severe mental and emotional health issues. Anyone who thinks that congregate shelters are a humane approach to people who are houseless has never spent a moment in one. 

I’ve been on the board of Human Solutions for 14 years now, and we’ve actually rejected every time the city or county wanted us to do a congregate shelter. But we will do a shelter where people can live there, they can keep their stuff there, where people, when they leave, they’re moving into permanent housing where they can afford to live, with employment and other supports that they need.

I think the whole idea about the mass shelters is there are people in our community that want houseless people to be out of sight because they make rich people uncomfortable, but what we’re seeing on our streets is decades of neglect and lack of investment, and COVID just exacerbated the inequities that already were built in.

Vadim Mozyrsky

Vadim Mozyrsky is an administrative law judge who serves on the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing and the Citizen Review Committee. He sits on the boards of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and the Public Safety Action Coalition, and was a member of the city's charter commission.

He is also a union representative for International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) and for AFL-CIO & CLC.

 

Why did you feel called to run?

I’m participating in several civic organizations here in Portland, and I felt the call to run because of the conversations I’ve had with hundreds of Portlanders across a broad swath of our city. It was palpable that people felt that the city government was failing to maintain basic services, but also mismanaging larger crises impacting the city. 

I kept hearing that we’re at an inflection point, that people felt their municipal government wasn’t able to do simple things like pick up trash from public spaces or remove graffiti from our streets. I heard from people that our schools were not educating our children for the rigors of college and the workforce. And then we kept hitting these staggering records: the most homicides in the history of Portland, the most shootings in the history of Portland, historic 911 wait times. We had the most, I believe, car thefts in 30 years, the most fatalities due to traffic incidents in 30 years. 

I feel that Portlanders expect certain basic services from our government. We want our trash to be picked up and the streets to be cleaned, we want good schools, we want safe neighborhoods our kids can walk around and play in. And then if crisis falls upon us, we want to be able to call 911 and get a quick response. In exchange, people are working and they’re paying their taxes and they’re doing their civic duties.

I think the people are doing their part, but the city government is not. 

 

What is unique about your background and lived experience that you can bring to the council?

Foremost, I and my family came here as (Jewish) refugees from the Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union. We fled prejudice over there and we were stateless because when we left we had to renounce our citizenship. We could only take a few belongings with us, and we had to travel through Europe for a bit before we got permission to come to the United States. 

We sold off our belongings, my father sold off his camera – he was a camera enthusiast – in order to pay for our ability to live in Italy at the time. We finally came to the United States when I was seven; none of us spoke English. My father, who’s an engineer, took a job as a coatchecker. My mother eventually went back to school to become a nurse. I started school without knowing any English. The point is that we’ve lived through hardships. I’ve known job insecurity, I’ve known food insecurity. We really came here with very little belongings, and due to organizations like (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization), we were able to get some loans in order to pay for day-to-day-type stuff until we were able to get on our feet. 

And I think that brings a very important voice to city council. As a product of public schools, public universities, public law school, when I became a lawyer and later on as an administrative law judge, that was a culmination of my parents’ American dream. I just see too many people having a hard time realizing their American dream, and I don’t think it’s through any fault of individuals. I think it’s that the government is having a really hard time putting in policies that work for people. 

 

What would you do to increase racial and socioeconomic equity in Portland?

I would call for a cohesive call to action. 

We need to improve family wealth creation, especially through businesses and entrepreneurs.

So I think it’s very important to support Black-owned businesses and Brown-owned businesses.

We need to make sure we support an ecosystem that’s conducive to their prosperity and have equitable outcomes. Part of that is certainly procurement, making sure that we ensure that contracts go out from the city, and also to talk to the private sector to make sure that procurement practices go to Black- and Brown-owned businesses.

Just generally, (supporting) mentorship opportunities for Black youth so they can get jobs early and then get promoted through those jobs. Those mentoring opportunities where you’re paired up with someone that is doing what you want to do in the field that you’re working in is very valuable to build wealth and succeed. 

And we should encourage participation not only through mentorships but internships. I’ve been endorsed by unions in Portland, and talking with the unions, they have programs for internships for individuals and they pay really well. The surprising thing that they tell me is they have difficulty recruiting BIPOC individuals into these programs. They’re trying to recruit more diverse participation, but are actually encountering difficulties getting the word out. I think we need to encourage that public-private unification so that people can get good jobs – journeyman jobs actually pay fairly well. 

And then I think policing has to be equitable in Portland. I think my background working on the police oversight agencies – either the Citizen Review Committee or the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing – has helped me to forge connections not only with the police and the police commissioner, the police chief, but also organizations that review the policies of the police, review their practices, review their use of force incidents. I think those relationships will be really key in moving forward, because we need to have that analysis of what is being done incorrectly, how is policy being followed or not followed? 

 

In this position, you would likely oversee the city’s Office of Community & Civic Life. What do you see as the most urgent issues impacting general quality of life in the city, and how would you address them? 

People feel the crime palpably, and that needs to be addressed as a livability concern as well. And then homelessness –  once again, we’re breaking records in all the wrong ways. We should be breaking records for being the greenest city in the country, the most sustainable city in the country, the most visited. Not breaking records for the fact we have the most people dying in our streets in the history of Portland – 126 people died, and half of them of drug overdoses. 

The Office of Community & Civic Life, by its very name, is the conduit for bringing voices to city hall and building coalitions to bring plans that actually work to our city commissioners. I think that’s very important, to build those coalitions with neighborhood associations, with immigrant, refugee, disability, community safety programs. I think it’s very important to have a means to coordinate those responses and bring people together and hear from them. 

My plan is in the first 60 days in office, through Civic Life, if that’s the bureau I’m put in charge of by the mayor, I’ll convene a summit of private public sector leaders to address a lot of these issues. Neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations, service providers, city and county officials, to provide clear, short- and mid-term shelter options for our homeless community, making sure people aren’t dying in the street. Making sure people are getting services.

Rene Gonzalez

Rene Gonzalez is an attorney specializing in business law who founded his own firm in 2012. He organized the education advocacy group ED300 to push for the reopening of schools and is currently the president of United PDX. Previously, he served on the board of the Library Foundation and the Portland Children’s Museum.

 

Why did you feel called to run?

Our city is facing a livability crisis with crime and homelessness. My experience leading efforts to reopen Oregon schools gave me a degree of confidence in leading centrist coalitions to address complex public policy issues. 

We unified a local effort to cross the state into a statewide organization called ED300 of 40,000 parents across the state. I led those efforts to unify and led the organization that successfully advocated to Gov. Brown to mandate all schools in the state reopen, which she did last year. It was bipartisan, urban, rural, Democrat, Republican, all focused on just getting kids back in school with access to sports and arts and other cultural activities.

Fundamentally I’m just deeply concerned about the direction of our city and couldn’t stand on the sidelines and let it continue to deteriorate. 

 

What is unique about your background and lived experience that you can bring to the council?

I think we’re going to need leadership, and I’ve led three different organizations through the pandemic: my own small business, where we were able to retain all our employees through the pandemic. Second, I’m president of the largest youth soccer club in the state, called United PDX, and was really a financial steward as president of the club, and oversaw the financials in response to the pandemic. And we came out of the pandemic in a better financial situation than we entered it. Through that success, we were able to ramp back up and get kids playing again promptly as we were allowed to. Third, that experience leading the reopening schools effort where I was just very effective in building a coalition focused on a specific outcome, and I think that ability to build coalitions is crucial for city commissioners. That combination of leadership experience and coalition-building.

I led strategy for the largest private employer in the city earlier in my career, and led a large legal department there. I was with the KinderCare brand of companies. So I have real experience with strategy for large organizations as well as management, both of which are relevant for a commissioner role. 

I have deep ties to the city. My grandmother was born here, her mother was born here, and I’m raising three children with my wife here in the city.

I’m deeply vested in the city’s future, with deep ties to its history. 

 

What would you do to increase racial and socioeconomic equity in Portland?

With respect to racial, we need to really center policy on cultural competency and language accessibility. We have a large and growing number of Vietnamese-, Chinese- and Spanish-speaking populations, as well as Slavic languages. We need to make sure those are accessible across the board. We need to instill in city government real cultural competency in supporting the needs of our citizenry.

With respect to socioeconomic equity, I am a strong protector of minimum wage that adjusts with the increasing cost of living. Crime and homelessness disproportionately effect the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods, and so I really firmly believe we need to confront those two issues directly, which again, hurt our poorest neighborhoods most. 

I am very concerned that the path we are on if we don’t correct it is going to lead to the privatization of police for the most wealthy.

They’ll find ways to protect their neighborhoods, and the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods will be left behind, and so I think we need to absolutely focus on crime and homelessness to raise the quality of life for everyone. 

 

In this position, you would likely oversee the city’s Office of Community & Civic Life. What do you see as the most urgent issues impacting general quality of life in the city, and how would you address them? 

I really think we need to strengthen the relationships between neighborhood associations and city government. They’ve been greatly frayed in recent years, and we really need to keep those connections strong. Our neighborhood associations are in some ways our most grassroots political outlets in this very big form of government we have, the distance between neighborhoods and City Hall can feel really, really big.

The number one and number two priority for me across the city is crime and homelessness. I think we need to confront those issues very directly, and treat them as the dual crisis that they are.

I put them under the heading of livability: record homicide rates, vehicular deaths are through the roof, and then the more impactful ones that everyone’s suffering from, whether they report it or not, is the tagging, the catalytic converter thefts, the vehicle thefts. When you’re dependent on your car to drive to work and your car’s gone the next day, or your catalytic converter is gone, that has very real direct impact on frankly everyone, but particularly in our lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods and communities.

With respect to homelessness, it’s a complex issue, however the impact of unsanctioned camps and illegally parked RVs and vehicles, particularly on the east side, I think they’re environmental hazards and they are eroding livability throughout the city. We need to address those issues very, very directly and put them as the number one and number two priorities for the city. 

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