Circle up, campers, and let’s see if we can’t get some questions answered about what lies ahead for arts and culture in Oregon’s biggest metro area.
This week we moderated a candidates’ forum hosted by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Creative Advocacy Network.
The purpose was to talk with candidates for mayor and city council about hot issues like Portland’s arts tax, city funding for arts organizations and projects, equity in the arts, affordable artist housing and more.
Here is a run-down of the candidates present:
• Mayoral candidate Jules Bailey (outgoing Multnomah County commissioner and former state representative)
• Mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler (Oregon State Treasurer, former Multnomah County Commission chair)
• Position 1 incumbent Amanda Fritz (former psychiatric nurse and community organizer)
• Council Position 4 incumbent Steve Novick (legislative advocate, environmental lawyer)
• Position 4 candidate Stuart Emmons (architect, preservation activist)
We’ll be speaking with other candidates about arts issues throughout campaign season.
The discussion drilled down on a wide range of issues over a 90-minute conversation. Here’s a breakdown of what we asked them, with some highlights.
03:57 - What arts and creative work have you checked out over the past two months?
08:57 - What’s your vision for Portland’s future? And how do arts and culture fit into that?
“We’re this close to a city that can be fantastic.” — Stuart Emmons
23:37 - What candidates will commit to regarding funding RACC’s arts work.
“As mayor, I’m committing to increasing funding for RACC.” — Jules Bailey
“I’m not going to promise every group that we’re going to increase their budget. You can look back at my past performance and see that I am a champion of the arts.” — Ted Wheeler
29:38 - The 2015 budget surplus: why none of the $49 million dollars went toward arts and culture.
“We need to take care of people who are living on our streets; we need to stop people dying on our streets because of lack of infrastructure and to take care of A&C. It’s not either/or.” — Amanda Fritz
“We did frankly spend some money on things in this budget that I think we should have discussed whether investing in the arts would have been a good alternative.” — Steve Novick
37:39 - What the mayoral hopefuls intend to do with the arts portfolio — keep it or assign to another commissioner?
“Sam [Adams] set the right tone, but I want to work with other champions on the city council.” — Ted Wheeler
“I won’t make any commitments until I sit down with the other commissioners. That said, I will have one arts and culture [person] on my staff.” — Jules Bailey
39:13 - One priority that’s central to mayoral candidates’ housing policies.
“If we have a fast-track process for working families that need to live in Portland, we can waive fees, have a faster process and make sure that housing gets built.” — Jules Bailey
“I will pick the design review process combined with permitting and inspection process. It needs to be reformed.” — Ted Wheeler
45:18 - What the city should do to mitigate soaring commercial real estate costs, which have decimated available maker space.
“[The city should] help arts groups buy their own buildings, so they can stay in their spaces.” — Stuart Emmons
“We need to learn from the lesson of the past 25 years. The pearl is now the pearl, and it’s too expensive now.” — Amanda Fritz
“I do want to say something about the general issue of affordability: One of the most important things we can do to address affordable housing is elect Bernie Sanders as our next president.” — Steve Novick
54:47 - What will candidates do to address equity in publicly supported arts.
“Make it a condition of receiving the dollars.” — Ted Wheeler
1:00:14 - What candidates want voters to know about Portland’s arts tax.
“I want people to know the arts tax is making a huge difference in the schools.” — Steve Novick
01:07:28 - Has Portland turned its back on the creative community? Is the city’s soul slipping away?
“I grew up acting, playing the violin in the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. It made a big difference in who I am.” — Jules Bailey
01:16:40 - Audience question: What will you do to make sure Portland’s hip-hop artists survive and thrive?
“We need to embrace the role that hip-hop can play. It’s an important part of our service provision.” — Jules Bailey
01:19:24 - Audience question: Would you support the development of a right-sized performance venue, i.e. Lincoln Center Portland?
“I am guessing it is probably cheaper to renovate an existing facility than to build from scratch. I’d be open to that brainstorming and planning.” — Stuart Emmons