There is so much to say I hardly know where to begin. In a few short weeks there will be another election, but that can wait for the moment. We are living in a time of incredible tumult and upheaval, much of it brought on by hundreds of years of oppression and institutionalized and sanctioned violence against Black Americans. So I’d like to start there.
This issue is very important and personal to me. For decades, I’ve been working to balance my privilege with my ability to improve outcomes for people of color. As is my practice, I’ve been listening to Black Portlanders are saying and asking for, working to further understand my privilege and its impacts, and reminding myself that there is always more to learn.
The problems with policing in our country and Portland can no longer be ignored if we want to save our city and our nation. I have come to agree that we need to label racism for what it is - a public health crisis that has infected our police forces and our criminal justice system.
We all have to do everything we can, every day, to work to dismantle systems of oppression that are crushing the lives of Black Americans. For white folks, there is so much work to do. We have to start with understanding the problem; we have to start by educating ourselves on what it means to be white in America and the inherent privilege that brings. We have to confront our own discomfort and defensiveness - white fragility - which is all too common even in ‘’progressive Portland”, and perhaps most importantly, we have to learn to amplify Black and Brown voices in our community.
I know we have to act in order to save lives. I’m fully supportive of the City Commission’s vote to cut $15 million from the Portland Police Bureau by cutting programs that have long been criticized for causing more harm than good. But that is only a first step. We have to change the culture of our police force and implement real reforms that will reduce violence, protect our communities, and transform our public safety officers into community guardians and champions.
It is also crucial that policies already on the books are enforced. For instance, just two months ago, the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing blasted PPB’s work regarding training and use of force. Additionally, the issue of qualified immunity is one that must be addressed.
I am an ally, a leader, and a partner in supporting this work while amplifying the voices of our neighbors most impacted by these systems and policies. I’m excited to help change the culture of this city, and I am ready to be Portland’s next City Commissioner.
Now is the time for a true community accountability champion to shake up the status quo of our city. Trust me, this will not end with the Portland Police Bureau, but it has to start there. Reshaping how all our city's agencies work to serve the residents of this city can and must be transformed during this time of unparalleled crisis. I am a builder, not a maintainer. Now is not the time for a continuation of the status quo; we have the opportunity to insert a hometown leader who will keep standing up to fight for true equity and tangible results. I am that leader, and I look forward to serving as Portland's next City Councillor.
As our city works to find a path forward in the midst of this crisis, there are positive first steps that have been taken. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has worked with community-based organizations to develop a November ballot measure that would dramatically change police oversight through the creation of an independent oversight board. The city cut the Portland Police Bureau's budget by $15 million and reappropriated the funds in community programs that will restore, rehabilitate and save lives. The state legislature passed Senate Bill 1604, which reforms the arbitration process and takes an important step to make it easier to discipline offending officers.
However, one thing is clear: there is serious work that needs to be done, and that work HAS to start with the city's contract with the Portland Police Association (PPA).
The fact that we find ourselves in a situation where the city had no choice but to renew PPA's current contract is deeply unfortunate. The problems we face have to be addressed now, as another year of a flawed system of policing is a year too long. The PPA has had decades to clean up their house and address a toxic culture and bad actors. Now we have to do it for them.
Now that the contract stands for another year, we have to use this year to build power, to amplify the voices of community leaders who are speaking out against injustice, and to prepare to overwhelmingly impact the negotiations so that we bring serious, lasting change to our city.
In order to do this, we need a plan. I stand firmly behind the changes called for in Unite Oregon's Police Reform Network Letter on Portland Police Association Contract. Specifically, there are four changes called for in the letter that must be adopted when the city reviews the contract next year:
▪ Improve Portland’s Ineffective System of Civilian Oversight (which would be addressed by Commissioner Hardesty’s ballot measure)
▪ Hold Officers Accountable for Excessive Force or Bias-Based Policing
▪ Institute Comprehensive Mandatory Drug Testing
▪ Fix the Public Complaint Process
It is crucial that PPA take accountability for the ways they can improve, and I will be a fierce advocate for these changes when their contract is up for renegotiation. But that isn't enough. We have to find ways to follow up on the $15 million cuts to the Portland Police budget with even more substantial cuts. While I supported the spirit of the call for $50 million in reductions to the police budget, the community deserves and the city leaders must provide a plan—how specifically we will divest from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) budget, and just as importantly, how we will use those funds to reimagine the concept of community safety. I will work with the Council and our community to build that plan and help execute it.
As former chair of the Portland Public School board, I know what it takes to fight for funding for public institutions. I also know what it takes to fight for racial equity in our educational institutions. I have listened to so-called progressives talk about fighting for equity, until the action needed will take even a tiny portion of resources from their neighborhood, their school, or their "favorite" organization. Time and time again, I've seen the "fight" remain hypothetical. Not for me. I have not caved in when it comes to these issues, as implementing equity is my life’s work. When I look at the bloated, even secretive PPB budget, I get even more determined to institute true public evaluation, with clear and transparent metrics that will serve as a tool for enacting holistic community safety.
Together, we can make lasting change and create a stronger, more equitable Portland where all are respected and valued.
I am interested in learning from you. Please reach out and send me your ideas on how we can improve and bring our city together.