Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury said during her State of the County address Friday that Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality should do more to crack down on air pollution.
Until the agency does, Kafoury said the county plans to hire a consultant to look into forming a local air agency. She said the effort has extended beyond Multnomah County.
“It definitely would include working with Washington County, Clackamas County and Metro,” Kafoury said. “We’ve already started conversations with the other jurisdictions, because this is a problem not just here in Portland, but around the tri-county area.”
Officials at Metro and Washington County confirmed talks are ongoing.
“There have been conversations among staff in Multnomah and Washington counties about how multiple counties might work together to explore options for a regional approach to ensuring air quality,” said Washington County communications officer Philip Bransford.
Bransford cautioned that the talks were only in a preliminary stage.
Kafoury first mentioned a local air authority last month, after high levels of arsenic and cadmium were found in Southeast and North Portland. She said she would prefer stronger state limits on airborne heavy metals and diesel exhaust.
Kafoury’s comments on a regional air authority followed her Friday address, delivered to the City Club of Portland.
Her formal remarks focused more on housing and homelessness, with Kafoury saying at one point that Multnomah County has “never seen a housing crisis like this.”
She applauded progress on veterans’ homelessness and building affordable housing. She recalled how the county and a local non-profit converted an old strip club into a homeless shelter for families.
The new facility meant kids didn’t have to move in and out, every day.
“I will never forget the sight of seeing kids lined up at 7 o’clock at night, on a cold wet evening, waiting for those shelter doors to open, for a warm place to do their homework,” Kafoury said. “I’m glad that we now have a safe place for these families.”
Kafoury said the county is working with the City of Portland to align programs and budgets on homelessness and housing.