I hope this finds you safe and well. In my eighth year of elected service to the people of Portland, I’ve seen a lot of progress in making a livable community. But recently, I’ve seen the kind of transformational change that is going to make a difference for all the people of our region for decades to come.
I am happy to report on some of the activities that I’ve been proud to work on including referral of a people-centered parks and natural areas bond, advancement of our affordable housing efforts, exploring ways to make our transportation system more safe and reliable, and more.
First I’d like to share a few words about the COVID-19 pandemic. It has had tremendous impacts on the people of this region, and on Metro’s ability to spark economic development in greater Portland. We are continuing to do what we can to support the people of this region, including those who have been most impacted by this crisis. Metro moved swiftly to open part of the Oregon Convention Center as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Our staff continues to operate our waste transfer stations, ensuring that garbage and recycling service keeps moving in the Portland area.
Working together, we will overcome this challenge. Stay tuned for more on how we can work together to address this crisis.
Everyone needs a safe, healthy place to rest. All of the livability we’ve created in greater Portland over the years is meaningless if only the wealthy can afford to live here. That’s why I’ve pushed Metro to get more involved in affordable housing in my eight years on the Metro Council.
In 2018, the voters of Metro passed the nation’s first regional affordable housing construction program. Pre-development is underway on hundreds of new apartments, that will have their rents limited so that people in lower incomes can find a stable, affordable place to call home. Groundbreaking on the first units is coming soon.
Earlier this year, the Metro Council went a step further, asking voters whether to pursue a supportive housing program that addresses the needs of people experiencing homelessness in our region. Through a 1 percent tax on individual incomes above $125,000, or joint incomes above $200,000; and a 1 percent business profits tax that exempts businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue, we hope to provide services such as health care, addiction treatment, job placement and case management for every person currently experiencing chronic homelessness in our region.
In 2019, voters approved an extension of Metro’s bonds to protect clean water and habitat around greater Portland. This measure was developed through a comprehensive community process with a focus on creating opportunities for access to the residents of our region.
During the formation process, I advocated consistently to ensure that investments focus on areas inside the urban growth boundary and enhance quality of life through trails and connections to serve the most people, especially those communities who have not always benefited from past investments.
This people-centered approach will help bring the health benefits and beauty of the natural environment to our urban landscape while helping us mitigate climate change and protect our native wildlife and critical waterways. I will continue to advocate for the npGreenway, am excited to report on continued progress on the Columbia Blvd., Bridge and St. John’s Prairie Trail, and continue to seek ways we can continue to progress the remediation of Willamette Cove so that one day it can be returned to a vital natural river access point for the people of the region.
There is a lack of diversity in the construction trades in greater Portland – especially across higher skilled construction occupations. People of color and women face multiple barriers in accessing and sustaining construction careers. The inconsistent nature of construction work, lack of career ladders at construction firms, and insufficient funding and resources for education, job training and support services are among the factors that limit career employment.
To address these challenges, the Construction Career Pathways Project is convening stakeholders at the regional level to learn more about the problem and identify strategies to provide reliable career pathways – from pre-apprentice and apprentice to journey level – for people of color and women in the construction trades.
Our recent snapshot shows the people and numbers behind the work: https://www.oregonmetro.gov/snapshot
As Metro and partners continue to work to develop a transportation measure for 2020, it is critical that we ensure the investments made today protect against further climate change in the future. That’s why I have continued to express the need to match our project goals with strategies that decrease greenhouse gas emissions, help to get diesel pollution out of our neighborhoods, and ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities have safe, efficient multimodal ways to get around.
In the coming months, I look forward to hearing more about a regional congestion pricing study that could help us greatly reduce congestion and vehicle miles traveled; a joint Metro/ODOT regional mobility policy that moves us away from a car-centric measurement to one that reflects multiple modes of travel; and jurisdictional transfer of old state highways like 82nd Avenue or Powell Blvd., so those streets can be designed and built to work better for the urban uses they support today with better transit, bike and pedestrian amenities and other needed improvements.
I also am proud of the work I led for a regional affordable fare program, providing deeply discounted TriMet fares to low-income residents of the region. More than 25,000 people now ride TriMet with affordable fares that help make it easier to balance the budget at the end of the month.
Looking forward, I’m excited about Metro’s continued work on a transportation package to send to the voters in the November ballot. I know that the transportation programs will help make our streets safer, our transit faster and do our part to address climate change.
The funding measure could include dedicated resources for several regionwide initiatives, ensuring that the benefits of investments extend beyond the corridors to reach everyone in the Portland area. And I continue to advocate for our transportation measure to include a region-wide YouthPass program that will make transit free for every child in the Metro area.
And I’m looking forward to the opening of the first of the thousands of new apartments being built by Metro’s affordable housing program. Thanks to the support of the region’s voters, we are building a livable, green community that everyone can afford to live in, and feel safe getting around in.