City elections an opportunity for renewed push on housing

SR editorial from the August 5th edition.

Announcements and rumors about the up and coming Portland election in 2012 have the city buzzing.

With the announcement that Mayor Sam Adams, an established housing advocate, and Randy Leonard, a rabble rouser on tough issues, will not seek re-election, the city now has two open seats. Incumbent and housing advocate Amanda Fritz is seeking re-election, but there is discord from her base in the far left that expected much more from her to counterpunch the downtown business machine. She faces long-time Oregon State Rep. Mary Nolan, who so far seems to be outraising Fritz and gaining broad support.

Lots of personalities have entered the race, or are rumored for a run: Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady, Steve Novick, Jefferson Smith, Tom Chamberlain and others. Regardless who wins, housing and homelessness has to be at the top of the priority list for those who would helm our government.

In many ways, the current City Council, led by Commissioner Nick Fish and Mayor Sam Adams, has helped keep the Portland Housing Bureau and the region’s housing agenda afloat during the recession. With the council’s support, they have launched a handful of high-profile projects while keeping the ship steered in the right direction — even as massive revenue declines are taking place for affordable housing and homeless services.

Saying that, the current leadership on housing and homeless issues needs more support. If Portland and the region are to build a coalition of the willing to support much larger efforts on the housing front, we need electives that are willing to understand and push for more than just the status quo. We know that affordable housing can be tied to a broad range of important issues concerning transportation, education, equity and the quality of life for every Portlander. New leaders emerging from around the city need to understand the importance of this, and help move the agenda forward.

This election provides an opportunity to tackle the tough issue of housing in the region. We know elected officials support the notion of more affordable housing. We know Portlanders do too. There isn’t enough affordable housing that is available for teachers and police, much less people working minimum wage jobs or who are homeless. It’s all a matter of how Portland prioritizes the issue and having the leadership at the top that can maintain a coalition of people and businesses to make our city one that works for everyone.

We hear a lot of slogans come election time: protecting the environment, public safety, the economy, better education and supporting small business and corporations moving to Portland. What we don’t hear is how hard-working people deserve a safe and stable home, and a strategy that goes along with it.

We will not solve the education or public safety problems, or the massive equity gap for people of color in Portland, until housing in our region is addressed and put on the main stage. We’re hoping that in this upcoming election, candidates understand that Portlanders do care about housing and we expect leaders who will not only talk about making housing a priority, but will lay the groundwork to make bold moves in the future concerning the health of our city. Portlanders are waiting.

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