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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 29 April 2010

A wide field of insightful candidates stack the ballot for Portland Commissioner #3. Spencer Burton, Martha Perez and Rudy Soto did not submit answers to our questionnaire, but all candidates participated in The Skanner News/KBOO Community Radio Live Forum April 14. Listen to the podcast here: http://kboo.fm/node/20813.
We asked the contenders four questions. Here are their answers, unedited.

Ed Garren


What are your top three priorities if you are elected?
1. Bringing about reform of the policies, practices, procedures and (among some officers) attitudes within the Portland Police Bureau. The bureau appears to be one of the vestiges of the racist history in our region. Former officers of color have told me that there is racism in the bureau, and certainly what we have seen of officer behavior not only indicates a lack of respect for people of color, but genuine problems with regard to restraint and general civility, even off duty. Key items include significant training, revision of personnel policies, hiring, discipline and discharge of officers, as well as drug and alcohol testing, including steroid use, excessive alcohol consumption off duty, as well as psychological testing for new hires, and officers involved in any questionable situations.
2. Job creation and reduction of unemployment in the region. I have proposed a significant energy and seismic retrofit program for our existing housing stock which would put a lot of people back to work. http://www.edforpdx.com/cms/?q=node/107 . This and other CETA type public works projects to put people back to work and money back into our local economy.
3. Reducing our high drop out rate and preparing our children for the world and jobs of tomorrow. I would like to create significant after school programs in our public parks (or other accessible facilities such as Boys & Girls Clubs) which would include tutoring and arts/music education. No child should go home to an empty house, or be allowed to fall behind in school because there is no one to help them with their school work. By paying upper level high school and college students to provide tutoring, we can significantly increase the academic performance of our children, no matter what the quality of the school system might be.

What special experience to you bring to this office?
Thirty years of professional experience (Nine years administrative experience) in education, counseling, rehabilitation and mental health programs.
Program Design and implementation, creation of agency policy and procedures to form compliance with Local, State and Federal regulations. Interface with regulatory entities, quality assurance of appropriate service delivery, lead for agency during programmatic audits and service delivery reviews.
Most of this work was provided in agencies which were multi cultural, racial and lingual, serving diverse populations including native born, immigrants, refugees, and persons living in exile.
Six years experience as a consultant to the Los Angeles and Long Beach Police departments dealing with excessive and lethal force, diversity and community relations.
Hablo Espanol tambien, y vivo con personas como habla Espanol toda mi vida. Me Espanol es mas o menos, pero es Espanol.
I speak Spanish also, and have lived with persons who speak Spanish all of my life. My Spanish is not that good, but it is Spanish.
Give a concrete example of how you would allocate scarce budget resources for the maximum benefit of your constituency.
There appears to be a lot of monetary "massaging" going on at City Hall. We find 20 million for street/bike improvements from the sewer fund and then three weeks later we have a five million shortfall and have to make major cuts in our spending/personnel allocations. The Police Bureau is over budget, etc. One has to question, what are the financial realities going on at City Hall, particularly when our streets are in bad condition, our police department is out of control and one wonders "what's next?"
I would be very reluctant to vote for any of this money moving unless there are tangible reasons and resources to justify it. In addition, we have focused so extensively on "urban renewal" generated by tax credits, we have all but bankrupted the county, making it difficult for the county to provide basic health care, mental health, addictions and other vital services. We need to take a break from gentrification and help people more.
What do you see as the top two issues facing the African and African American communities in the Portland metro area and what will you do to address those issues?

The Urban League's "State of Black Oregon" has clearly defined the pervasive problems that haunt too many Black families in our region. From my perspective, there has not been enough dialogue in the larger community about the covert racism that permeates our region. People of color are simply "invisible" in most decision making in the region. I think that the dominant culture is unaware of all the things it does to discourage people of color from full participation in the decision making, and other elements of our civic life.

I have already offered some leadership in this area by calling out what I perceive as the ghosts of a very racist history in this region. By stating the obvious, hopefully others will feel more empowered to engage in meaningful dialogue about all of our unresolved business with regard to racial equality in Oregon. There is a LOT of work to be done.


Dan Saltzman


What are your top three priorities if you are elected?
Continue my work to look out for Portland's most vulnerable citizens: children and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Job creation: I will continue my support of economic development that focuses on our strengths of clean tech, active wear, software and advanced manufacturing. Also, jobs for youth this summer.
Transparency and accountability in the Portland Police Bureau: I will continue my work to restore community trust by increasing dialogue, implementing new training standards and increased transparency.
What special experience do you bring to this office?
I am an environmental engineer by training- which has shaped my professional personality as a measured decision maker who pays close attention to detail and the bottom line. I will always work the problem before I work the politics- and I think that's a valuable quality in a public servant.
Give a concrete example of how you would allocate scarce budget resources for the maximum benefit of your constituency.
The Summer Youth Employment Program meets a number of goals on a limited budget. Young people are given valuable working experience while doing much needed work. This also keeps kids safe: giving them a place to go and a place to learn. I have guaranteed a number of jobs for gang-affected youth.
What do you see as the top two issues facing the African and African American communities in the Portland metro area and what will you do to address those issues?
Closing the gap in living standards: This exists, and it's up to our entire community to address this. I would take a couple of approaches:
Provide more opportunities for minorities in our strategic job development strategies.
Having an honest dialogue with the community around the effects of gentrification and collectively come up with workable solutions.
While this may not be the African American community's top priority- as the Police Commissioner, I have to address the lack of diversity on our force. This affects how our police force is viewed as well as the community interaction that makes or breaks the success of the force. I've been active in changing this by focusing our recruitment efforts on minorities and addressing the issues that have created the current disparity.


Jesse Cornett


What are your top three priorities if you are elected?
#1 Jobs:
Portlanders are hurting, and they need to know their leaders have concrete ideas to keep food on their tables, a roof over their heads and opportunities that will lead to brighter days ahead. Communities of color are hit even harder than everyone else, and they are tired of talking about economic development plans and have no interest in attending job forums, they just want to go to work. To that end, I submit five ideas that can help spur job growth in our city.
5 Ideas to Create Jobs in Portland:
The Mayor and Council should name a Commissioner of Jobs to interact with City Bureaus to ensure they are operating in as business friendly manner as possible and to suggest changes when they are not. This position wouldn't oversee a new Bureau but would serve as the Council's Liaison to communities of color, Chambers of Commerce and other business groups in Portland.
Think globally but bank locally—recently, the City Council passed a Buy Local resolution. If they really want to put some teeth into it, they should deposit city funds into a locally owned community bank or credit union that is more likely to invest our money in Portland neighborhoods and businesses. And we must ensure that this community bank or credit union does not make it difficult for minority owned businesses to receive business loans.
In exchange for exponentially increasing community bank assets, The City of Portland would have leverage and local banks would have more incentive to provide low-interest loans and grants to neighborhood business owners through creation of a Neighborhood Business Development Fund. People of color have historically been shut out from getting business loans or redlined out of getting home loans – those practices are intolerable, and I would guarantee that the Business Development Fund would provide equal opportunity for all Portlanders.
As a city, we should do our part to encourage the efforts of homeowners and businesses to lower their energy usage. Portland should reduce or even waive permit fees for energy conservation improvements that qualify for state and federal incentives if local contractors are utilized.
Portland should waive business license fees for 12 months for any existing or new small business with between 2-10 employees.
#2 Police Reform:
I am the only candidate for City Council, including the incumbent Police Commissioner, to release a detailed plan for much tougher oversight and accountability of the Police Bureau. My plan, available at jessecornett.com, addresses the following points:
Recruitment, because people of color are underrepresented. We deserve a Police Bureau we can trust, and that starts with making the Police reflect the community they serve;
Training, ensuring our officers are prepared for the demands that they meet on the street;
A Return to Community Policing, because many people don't know their neighborhood officer – they just see police cruisers on patrol. We should be getting officers out of their cars and onto the sidewalks of our neighborhoods;
Eliminating Racial Bias, requiring a top to bottom independent review to determine the extent of bias;
Taking Care of Officers, to make sure that those sworn to protect have the necessary tools to ensure that they can handle the stress of their job; and
Accountability, Portland needs to do a better job holding Police Officers accountable for their actions. A good first step would be yearly performance reports, which could provide an early warning about bias and racist police officers.
#3 Using City money wisely.
I'm very concerned the dollars we are sending to City Hall aren't being well managed and the city has no plan to create jobs during the worst recession of our lifetime. In these conditions, it is unacceptable for our government to raise sewer rates by nearly double and then suddenly "find" a mysterious pot of $20 million in the sewer bureau and divert it for non-sewer related projects.
What special experience to you bring to this office?
With Portlanders struggling through the worst recession in decades, I would bring a voice to City Hall that knows the value of a dollar. I grew up the son of a waitress and a plumber. I was the first member of my family to graduate from college, earning by bachelors and masters degrees from Portland State while working as a cook and busboy.
I went to college with the ambition of becoming a police officer, and I was trained in the police academy and spent three years as a Multnomah County Deputy Reserve Sheriff. I also served eight years in the Army National Guard and the US Army Reserves. This experience gives me a depth of knowledge on public safety which we need on City Council to promote police reform and increase police accountability.
I have a long career of encouraging people to be involved in our government. While working at the Secretary of State's office, I helped reform our campaign finance system to give everyday Oregonians a greater say in our government, and I helped found the Oregon Bus Project to encourage young people to get involved in the future of our state.
I love the City of Portland. I am running for the City Council so that I can continue to serve this community.
Give a concrete example of how you would allocate scarce budget resources for the maximum benefit of your constituency.
The current City Council has squandered our money on pet projects while neglecting basic City services. At a time when household budgets are being squeezed, I will ensure that our tax dollars are put to good use.
I oppose using taxpayer money to help build a soccer stadium. That deal just made a rich family even richer while shoving the risk to us ordinary Portlanders.
It is wrong to use $20 million from Portland's city sewer budget for other purposes like building bicycle boulevards, especially after sewer rates have doubled in the past decade. That kind of "shell game" budgeting erodes trust in city government and needs to stop.
I support depositing city funds into locally owned banks that will invest our money in neighborhoods and small businesses, and I will require that an appropriate portion of the loans are given to people of color so that they are not shut out of access to credit to start and maintain businesses.
I will work to waive city permit fees for home energy conservation improvements, putting local contractors to work and saving Portlanders money on energy bills.
What do you see as the top two issues facing the African and African American communities in the Portland metro area and what will you do to address those issues?
I see a clear top two: (1) Jobs, and (2) mistrust of police.
We are in the middle of the worst recession of our lifetimes, and it's a fact that communities of color are hit harder than anyone else. My jobs plan offers sensible solutions that will create the right environment to lift up all of Portland that is hurting. It is time we took care of Portland communities. The City needs to invest its money locally, this includes freeing up bank loans for minority owned businesses.
Regarding mistrust of the police, what reason would communities of color have to trust the Portland Police Bureau when the Bureau is not racially diverse, and when the only encounter many people of color have with the police are negative? That is why I proposed reforms in recruitment and hiring – I want the Portland Police Bureau to look like the citizens of Portland. And I proposed a return to community policing – let's get the police out of their cars and into the communities. When neighbors know their police officers and police know their neighbors, it could help repair the trust that has been shattered by police violence. We have a long way to go, but my leadership can put us on the right path.


Mary Volm


What are your top three priorities if you are elected?
The Economy
First, strengthen Portland's economy and get people to work. This requires experience and I am the only candidate in this or any other race with economic development experience. I worked for the State of Oregon following the collapse of the timber industry and the Reagan "trickle-down" recession. It also requires the City of Portland to tighten its belt and assist small businesses during this current and horrific recession.
To attract new jobs to Portland, we must have a comprehensive and diverse strategy and actually get in the game. We have a lot to offer new, relocating and expanding business in Portland. Many of the enticements we used at the state were Portland-based and still exist: livable safe neighborhoods, strong industrial districts and history, trained, easily trainable and motivated workforce, close to recreation and natural attractions, mild climate, positioned on the Pacific Rim with international port and airport, and one of the best places to live, work and play. (We've fallen behind on the strong schools, but we are capable of a strong recovery.) This requires research to identify emerging industry and business and further research to detect actual businesses looking to start-up, expand or relocate is the first and necessary step. Currently, the City is working with a weak plan, touting numbers like 10,000 new jobs, without the due diligence and follow-through. A workable plan is one that is flexible, smart and identifies our strengths and matches with emerging industry. In addition, Portland's underserved populations and marginalized communities need government subsidized training and first opportunity. Simply, it is what we can do to right a wrong.
Government doesn't create jobs but the City of Portland can ensure a business friendly environment. As a city of small businesses (80% employ 50 or less), it is imperative on local government to recognize the challenges facing our business sector and become a partner in Portland's economic vitality. What has happened with the current City Council is, as tax revenues to the city decrease, the city increases its fees on business rather than cutting back on spending. The healthier Portland's business community, the more people have jobs, the more taxes are collected. The city gets a significant portion of general fund dollars from business. When the economy is in a downturn, the city increases fees to support its budget rather than looking on how we can assist business in the downturn to stay in business. The exodus of Portland businesses over the last five years, as well as those businesses who cannot afford to stay in business in a bad economy, are leaving storefronts, office buildings and even the few big box malls looking like ghost towns.
If the leadership of the city could decide to support businesses (and you do not have to sacrifice the environment to do this) it also would gain leverage to encourage certain hiring practices to improve the lives of our minority and poor citizens.

Back to Basics
Over the last few years I have seen a severe lack of attention to the delivery of municipal services –
Police, Fire, Parks, Transportation, Water, Sewer, Planning – these are the City's core responsibilities.
Instead, certain elected officials have brought with them their pet projects and issues, have diverted
attention, staff and resources to these legacy projects, often taking resources from essential
maintenance budgets.

When we have ecoli in our water system without telling the public until the last minute (after
their health is at risk), police marching on City Hall, tearing out PGE park only seven years after its
reopening (and the City is still bonded for another 17 years at over one million dollars a year), lack
of trustworthy leadership that has alienated other elected officials and businesses looking for a new
location, police shooting after shooting of the mentally ill, and using water and sewer rates for a $632
million - $1.5 billion bicycle plan when we have crumbling sewer pipes built 50-100 years ago, I have
to ask what next? We as residents, business owners, tax and rate payers can't shoulder much more.
My primary goal is to focus on maintaining what you have already invested in and use every day.
Cultural Competency
Portland is fortunate to have a rich and vibrant community of cultures, beliefs, orientations, and colors. Yet many Portland residents are marginalized, and this is not acceptable.
There is so much untapped talent in our community, yet access is denied based on perceived differences. We all are responsible for the health and welfare of our community. I believe we have much more in common with those who appear, seem or believe differently than ourselves. We must break down these artificial barriers so all Portlanders can enjoy the benefits this City has to offer.

What special experience do I bring to this office?
I bring decades of relationships, historical perspective and intricate knowledge about this city to the position. As an extremely dedicated, creative and articulate public servant, I have earned the public's trust here in Portland and have an exceptional ability to solve problems rather than look for someone to blame.
I have done the work for commissioners and mayors during my tenure. I have advised, written city code speeches and ordinances, came up with solutions and engaged the public countless times for our elected. And I have argued against bad ideas with grace, tact and respect.
There is no one in this race that knows the city better than I, including the incumbent. I know city staff across all bureaus, have worked with leaders on the region, state and national level and created regional committees and lead them in great successful projects and programs.
I have extensive experience, good relationships with and professional respect for local, national and international news media. I have build Portland's reputation and image over the last 20 years.
I am uniquely qualified for this position. Perhaps more qualified than anyone currently serving on Council, if I can be so bold. I am an exceptional leader who involves others in my decision making process and gives the credit to those who actually do the work.
Give a concrete example of how you would allocate scarce budget resources for the maximum benefit of your constituency?
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize and stop the mission creep at the city. The City is responsible for the delivery of municipal services, efficiently and cost effectively. Many elected over the years have brought their pet projects, issues and funding priorities with them, which takes valuable time, dollars and focus away from our primary responsibility. Consequently, needed attention has been taken away from core responsibilities and let both chaos and a mess to clean up.
Whenever there is extra tax money, it is immediately allocated for pet or legacy projects. The city/state/national economy goes up and down, more so on a local level. A rainy-day fund to help bridge this roller coaster and maintain level of essential service should be the city's top priority. I will fight for economic stabilization.
After twenty years with the city, I know where the bones are buried, where the extra resources are and what can be eliminated without a second glance by the community. Back to the basics and live within our means during economically challenged times.

What do you see as the top two issues facing the African and African American communities in the Portland metro area and what will you do to address those issues?
I believe it is access to family wage employment and access to higher education or job training. Although I have addressed my solutions to these issues in previous questions, I will also add that through a good job comes a variety of other benefits including home ownership, self-worth, sense of community, pride, access to recreation and travel, and the most important, setting an example for the next generation.
Job fairs, specialized training programs, working with charitable organizations for special scholarships, hiring at the city, and hearing directly from the community how to help are all things the city can do to help achieve this goal.

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