I have decided not to run for re-election in 2020.
I have loved serving the people of Portland, and it is tempting to seek another term. My Chief of Staff Tim Crail and I have assembled a phenomenal team of amazing staff members, who excel in everything we ask them to do and also in everything which they self-initiate. Claire Adamsick, Cristina Nieves, MeeSeon Kwon, Yesenia Carrillo, and Cynthia Castro have made the past six months excitingly successful. We coordinated the preparations for the Open and Accountable Elections program, which will launch for candidates in July. We engaged the community, City staff, and Council in hiring the second Director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights, Dr. Markisha Smith, and in re-envisioning community leadership and advisory opportunities for people experiencing disabilities. We passed the Resolution opposing oil and gas drilling off the Oregon Coast, following on from previous City policies I led opposing coal trains and oil trains passing through Portland. We passed the Code change clarifying that people who do not subscribe to religious beliefs are protected from discrimination in Portland. We continue to work on the “Floor Area Ratio (FAR)” project I initiated that will allow City Bureaus to sell development rights from City-owned sites downtown that will never be re-developed, like Waterfront Park and City Hall, which could add millions in resources to address the continuing backlog of maintenance needs in City facilities Portlanders do want to preserve. And of course, we have embraced the responsibilities, opportunities and challenges of being newly in charge of the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Portland Water Bureau. Every day is interesting and filled with urgent needs for my staff, Tim and me to help City government better serve the people of Portland.
So why I am I leaving at the end of 2020?
I have already accomplished many significant changes in ten years of service to the people of Portland. Of national significance, one that stands out is the transformational (yet so obviously needed) Paid Sick Time initiative, in partnership with UFCW 555, MotherPAC, Working Families and a host of other community leaders coordinated by then-Chief of Staff Tom Bizeau, which led to statewide legislation and will hopefully result in national provisions. We also led the state in requiring insurance coverage for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for people on the Autism spectrum. All Interstate highways throughout Oregon are safer because of installation of median crash barriers, thanks to the help of then-Director of Government Relations Martha Pellegrino and now-Director Elizabeth Edwards. In Portland, with Dora Perry, Amalia Alarcon de Morris, Afifa Ahmed-Shaffi, Desiree Williams-Rajee, and Danielle Brooks, I co-led with Mayor Adams the City’s work to establish the Office of Equity and Human Rights, which is institutionally transforming how City staff are hired, retained, promoted, and provide services and opportunities for historically under-served and under-represented communities and people with barriers. And with Cristina Nieves, I worked with community partners to re-establish Public Campaign Financing in Portland, by passing the Open and Accountable Elections ordinance at the end of 2016.
I have championed fiscal responsibility, and established structures and programs that make sure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. Thanks to Tim Crail, the City Budget Office was established and has become an independent guardian of the Budget process and Bureau spending. I passed the rule that 50% of any one-time “budget surplus” must be spent on infrastructure maintenance, resulting in over $65 million being spent on basic needs in Parks, Transportation and Emergency Preparedness, where previously it would have been allocated to lesser priorities - a rule which is soon to be embedded in City Financial Policy thanks to Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Cooperman. With Senior Policy Advisor Patti Howard, I led the Council’s Tribal Sovereignty Recognition resolution, and championed the funding of the Tribal Relations liaison position.
Guided by staff in Portland Parks & Recreation and assisted by Commissioner Fish, in 2014 I passed the Fix Our Parks replacement bond, providing $68 million for urgent repairs in our beloved parks. And as Parks Commissioner for over five years, I presided over the construction of five new parks, in some of the most under-served neighborhoods in Portland, as well as the greatest expansion of park rest room facilities in the Bureau’s history. Parks has made great progress in internal and external equity, thanks to Equity Manager Art Hendricks and my former staffer Pooja Bhatt. We established the Parks for New Portlanders program, led by Som Subedi.
With Office of Neighborhood Involvement Director Amalia Alarcon de Morris, I set up the City’s successful recreational cannabis program, and passed the local tax on recreational sales that is bringing in more than $3 million every year to fund vital programs like Vision Zero, traffic safety enforcement, and support for people previously disadvantaged by cannabis prohibition. My Senior Policy Advisor Claire Adamsick and I helped find a relocation site for the Right 2 Dream Too rest area, giving people living outside much-needed support while at the same time allowing for the redevelopment of the historic China Gate area. I partnered with first Mayor Adams then Mayor Hales to champion planning and sustainability - I have had monthly meetings with BPS since 2009, despite never being in charge of the bureau. With community advocates including the Audubon Society of Portland and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, I persuaded the Council to leave West Hayden Island out of the Comprehensive Plan, to save golf courses as Open Space, and to refuse to consider permitting the Pembina fossil fuel terminal. With Cristina Nieves, I led the Council in opposing oil and coal trains passing through Portland.
So again, why am I leaving at the end of 2020?
I will be 62 in 2020. I will have been in nurses training or working in public service for over 40 years. I had been planning to end my time in City Hall in 2016, with my husband finishing his thirty years at the Oregon State Hospital in 2018 and our subsequent goal of riding off into the sunset together for the rest of our lives. Prior to the crash on I-5 as Steve was on his way to work in 2014, I intended to work 12-hour days six days a week until the end of 2016, as I had since January 2009 and before then in a sixteen-month election campaign. Since September 24 2014, I have still been known as one of the hardest working members of Council. I am resolved not to lose that hard-earned reputation. On Election Night in November 2012, after a brutal campaign that tested every one of my supporters and every ounce of my courage, I said I was never running for anything ever again. When Steve was killed, I found myself in the company of many older Americans, especially women: I needed a job to maintain health insurance. And I needed motivation to get up in the morning. Bereft of the love of my life, continuing to serve the people of Portland answered both needs. I greatly appreciate the support of Portlanders, in that nobody filed to run against me until a week before the deadline in 2016 and I was re-elected with 69% of the vote. I have worked hard to make sure your faith in me was rewarded.
Now, I feel I’ve accomplished many of the things that have been in my power to get done. I plan to continue working flat out for the next 21 months, and I know I can’t continue to do that for another four years beyond that. My father was a world-class masters marathon runner. He could keep running for 24 hours, barely changing his pace, when he was fit. He ran an age-group world record 118 miles in 24 hours at the age of 70, and he set age-group distance records on Lincoln High School’s track during Megan’s Run in 1998. At the age of 59, he ran his fastest marathon at 2 hours 57 minutes, which is better than Lance Armstrong ran at age 35. In my father’s last London Marathon at the age of 74, he was injured after 6 miles, and walked the rest of the course to finish in over six hours. I want to keep running on pace until my time on the Council is done. I’m announcing now in the hope that many worthy candidates will use the public campaign finance resources in the Open and Accountable Elections program, and there will be as positive and trust-building campaign for the open seat in 2020 as there was when five of us ran with Voter Owned Elections funding in 2008. I want to open the door for someone else to be the voice of Portlanders in my place.
I still have many goals I hope to accomplish over the next 21 months. It is even more important to me than ever that the Open and Accountable Elections program is successful. I will do whatever I can to make it work, and to prepare community-supported candidates to use the system. It can truly change the balance of power in Portland, empowering people of color and people from underrepresented communities with far more opportunities and authority than a change in the Commission form of government could ever achieve. I will complete setting up the FAR development rights sale program, which will be a gift to current and future Portlanders in providing another mechanism to fund maintenance of public assets. I want to explore how to make TriMet fare-free, which would simultaneously make massive improvements for people experiencing financial challenges and for addressing climate disruption. I want to make bigger strides on reducing plastics use. I will lead the campaign to add more permanent protections for our precious Bull Run water into the Charter, in a referral to voters. I will partner with Dr. Smith, Office of Equity staff, and Bureau Equity Managers to reinvigorate the City’s Equity initiatives pursuing racial and disability rights. I hope to be able to stop some of the more catastrophic effects of the current proposals to demolish single family homes in Portland, in the so-called Residential Infill Project coming to Council this summer. And of course, I will continue to meet with Portlanders, read and respond to my own emails, and research every item on the Council’s hearings Agenda before I vote each week. In other words, I will continue to do my homework, and dedicate my life to serving the people of Portland for the next 21 months.
It is an honor to serve on the Portland City Council. I have learned from the people of Portland. I have been inspired and encouraged in good times and bad. Over more than ten years, 27 people have worked with me on my office staff. Each one has embraced my commitment to public service, helped me on things I couldn’t do and supported me on personal and professional levels. Each one who has left has gone on to either greater heights in public service, or well-earned retirement. I am particularly grateful to my Chiefs of Staff, first Tom Bizeau and then Tim Crail. The Chief of Staff role is truly crucial to a Council member’s success, and I feel honored that these two public servants will have supported me for my entire time of engagement in Portland issues.
I am looking forward to finishing strong with Tim and my team over the next 21 months. And then, I plan to spend a lot of time in my back yard with my cat, watching the wildlife.