OPB asked all the candidates seeking a seat on Portland City Council to answer some questions about the issues. Below are answers from Jo Ann Hardesty, the incumbent in position 3. These answers have not been edited.
Jo Ann Hardesty is a veteran and civil rights leader whose compassionate vision brings Portland together. As the first Black woman elected to city council, Commissioner Hardesty championed the Portland Street Response, an alternative to burdening police with mental health response. She helped build the coalition that set the national standard for local climate action, and at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations, she crafted a police reform measure that 82% of voters approved. She is a former state representative serving North/Northeast Portland and former President of the Portland NAACP.
Why are you running for City Council? What relevant experience do you have?
I am a United States Navy Veteran, long-time civil rights organizer, and ran a small business before being elected in 2018 to Portland City Council. I ran in 2018 because for nearly 30 years I had been working to address the disparities in our communities and had enough of our elected officials failing to serve the most vulnerable in our community. I pledged to bring new, diverse voices into our decision-making processes, to act with fiscal responsibility and transparency, and to have the political courage to deal with the toughest problems in Portland without scapegoating or sweeping them under the rug.
I am running in 2022 to serve those same values, and more - to ensure that all Portlanders feel safe on our streets, have homes we can afford, and have a fair shot in building a meaningful life in our city.
We are in a moment that demands bold and proven leadership. To me, this means being honest about the problems we face, collaborating on solutions, and having the courage and political will to fight for community-driven solutions.
Our policy platform promises a livable , safe, and equitable future for our beautiful city. Portlanders agree that we want to stop the violence, clean up the streets, and house everyone. No exceptions, no scapegoats.
What bureaus do you want to run? Why do you think you’re the person to oversee them?
I love the bureaus I am currently overseeing: Transportation, Fire & Rescue, and Community & Civic Life. I am excited to continue supporting, innovating, and leading them if offered the opportunity.
With my steady and talented city hall team that has had only one staff turnover in more than three years, and my management experience at the city, the Mayor knows he can throw anything at me. That is why he gave me the Office of Community & Civic Life at a point when it was in deep crisis. He knew I could handle the toughest challenges and turn it around.
I am the person to lead at the city because of my proven track record of tackling Portland’s toughest problems and winning. After deep listening with businesses, homeless communities, and neighborhood leaders, we secured unanimous support to create Portland Street Response in 2021 to address the health crisis on our streets. My office led a violence prevention pilot in collaboration with community and City bureaus in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, which reduced gun violence in the area by 64%. These are a few of the examples of the leadership I will bring for a second term.
Are there any bureaus you do not want?
What is one concrete action you would take immediately upon entering office to reduce the number of people living on the street?
I will be doubling down on ensuring that the citywide expansion of Portland Street Response is permanent and 24/7, that we urgently and humanely address houselessness, traffic violence, and gun violence on our streets. I will hit the ground running, building on our violence mitigation pilot in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, and transformational systems change including our police accountability measure. Three members of council have yet to work regularly inside city hall, and my experienced team and I will continue to deliver for everyday Portlanders.
If the city were to increase shelter supply, would you support requiring people living outside to move into shelters?
While we should do everything to move people living outside into safe, humane, and sanitary shelters, government mandated sweeps have proven to be ineffective and costly to taxpayers.
We have strongly supported new mental health centers that are now under construction, won major policy changes including zoning reforms, and new investments to build affordable housing across the city.
In the short-term, we need to act with urgency to audit the approximately 14,000 vacant rentals in order to quickly convert available units to immediately house 3,000 houseless persons, protect Portlanders from rampant evictions, and protect supportive services for people and families living on our streets. It is illegal, immoral, and expensive to criminalize people because they are houseless, and sweeps are a cruel and ineffective solution.
Looking long-term, we must lay the groundwork with new investments to address the root cause of housing instability - affordability - and continue to expand supportive housing that connects residents with mental health care and treatment for substance abuse disorders.
The charter commission is currently in the process of reviewing and making recommendations to Portland’s charter. Do you support changing the form of government? Why or why not? What specific changes would you support or recommend?
I was outspoken when I joined the council in 2019 that we have diverse voices on the commission, and they are fully funded to do the work they need to do. I served on the last charter commission, and we struggled with limited resources and support.
I am proud to have helped recruit and appoint an incredibly talented group of Portlanders and will support what they recommend. My job as a sitting commissioner is not to influence them before they have issued their formal recommendations. I am committed to upholding their independent process. I am impressed with the work they have already completed and the early consensus on their proposals. I have every confidence that they will put a well thought out measures before the voters, and then voters will have the opportunity to decide.
Name a policy the council adopted in the last four years that you disagreed with. Why did you feel that way? What would you have done differently?
Deciding to postpone an expansion of Portland Street Response beyond a few neighborhoods in Outer Southeast Portland when we had the resources and community support. Portlanders would have benefited from the recent expansion. I am committed to fighting for Portland Street Response to become permanent and 24/7.
Racial justice protesters and advocates have called for years to dramatically reform the Portland police bureau. Do you believe changes need to be made to the police? If so, what are they?
We need to see through the will of the voters and establish a meaningful police accountability system that restores trust. We need to recruit officers who are invested in Portland, and a truth and reconciliation process to confront historic harm to move forward together. We need to fully implement the civilian oversight commission and civilian training dean position.
We also need to scale up recruitment. I recommend a First Responder Youth Camp, where our Fire & Rescue, Police, and Emergency Response Bureaus can connect with young people to get them interested in serving our communities.
I am one of the biggest assets when our Police Bureau convinces me they are moving in the right direction with authentic policy and cultural changes.
Poll after polls shows the electorate is furious with city leaders for a wide variety of issues - trash, homelessness, rising crime. Which of the many problems Portland faces do you see as a priority for your first term in office?
Compassionately addressing the houselessness on our streets with fully operationalizing the Safe Park area that I have championed and the other Safe Rest Villages, and focusing affordable housing development in the 0-60% median income level.
Expanding public safety to reduce the burden on our police and innovate with new approaches like Portland Street Response and the Mt Scott-Arleta Neighborhood violence prevention project we supported.
What do you think the city could do to speed up the construction of affordable housing?
I support the streamlining of the permitting process being led by Commissioner Dan Ryan.
Other approaches I support include:
Establish a new public land trust seeded with $20 million for future housing and for small businesses with community control over how development happens. Study dedicating publicly owned properties (i.e., post office, golf courses, racetracks, park & ride lots, expo, etc) and securing foreclosures while utilizing the power of eminent domain to house Portlanders faster.
Ensure large developers pay their fair share to support affordable housing in community-driven and transit-oriented development including places like downtown, the Rose Quarter and the 82nd Avenue corridor.
What can be done to make Portland’s roads safer?
Speed and poor infrastructure are root causes of high crash corridors. We are already taking significant action to make our streets safer. I intend to build on these achievements:
* Clearing 350 dangerous street intersections with parking up to the corner to ensure children, people with disabilities, and the public can safely cross.
* Expanding traffic cameras that are proven to reduce speed by shifting administrative duties to civilian control and freeing up police resources to focus on patrol and more serious crime.
* Investing in sidewalks and complete streets across Portland, and especially in East Portland.
* Fighting for and winning $185 million from our governments to improve 82nd Ave.