OPB asked all the candidates seeking a seat on Portland City Council to answer some questions about the issues. Below are answers from Joseph Whitcomb, who is running for position 3, the seat currently held by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. These answers have not been edited.
Born & raised in Portland. Married. 4 daughters and almost 7 grandchildren. I have a degree in criminal justice. I’ve been in the workforce for 44 years now. I like classic muscle cars, motorcycles, bicycles, I love my family and pets are family too.
Why are you running for City Council? What relevant experience do you have?
I am running because the current incumbents have failed Portland.
Experience: I am the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party; I ran for Mayor of Portland in 2020 as a write in candidate, 44 years of work experience which includes managerial, team lead, and currently I work in the materials audit group where I resolve problems.
What bureaus do you want to run? Why do you think you’re the person to oversee them?
Portland Police Bureau, Portland Fire & Rescue, and the Bureau of Transportation. I have a degree in Criminal Justice which make it easy to relate with that bureau and it will also help me to relate with fire & rescue. Doesn’t take much to realize what needs to be done for our city transportation wise.
Are there any bureaus you do not want?
Not sure if there are any.
What is one concrete action you would take immediately upon entering office to reduce the number of people living on the street?
Get with the current team that is working on the homeless issue to learn what they have been or are doing. However, Portland needs to start enforcing vagrancy laws again in an attempt to clean the streets.
If the city were to increase shelter supply, would you support requiring people living outside to move into shelters?
I would strongly ‘request’ them to move into these shelters. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. So, incentives would need to be used here (i.e. enforcing vagrancy laws or there is a hot meal waiting for you!?).
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 would need to review the current charter vs. the proposed charter before making a decision on how to move forward. However, I believe we have too much government in Portland.
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?
Defunding the Police Department. What a mistake as crime has gone unchecked because we no longer have the personnel to defend the public. Reverse that decision as soon as possible. Remind the public that the Police department is there to keep the peace and/or enforce the laws. Then higher more officers to protect businesses, the public, and our peace officers. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere IS a threat to justice everywhere.”
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?
I was raised not to break the law. I believe there should be a basic knowledge of that. Or why would a person run from the officer/s? Some information first, the Police Bureau higher men and women as “Peace Officers” and/or “Law Enforcement Offices” as that is what they do, keep the peace and enforce the laws. Next, if a person breaks the law, a peace office will be dispatched to the scene, upon arriving, that officer will assess the issue of the crime and attempt to resolve said crime and/or enforce the law/s broken. If that officer is met with resistance, then that office will administer a form of force to take control, for their own safety and the safety of the public. Portland as long as I can remember has always been a very culturally diverse bureau and trained as such. This was part of my criminal justice program when I was in college. Also, at one time, the Portland Police Bureau, I believe led the nation in the area of cultural diversity. Something else, Portland ‘had’ programs where peace officers went to schools to talk with students, get to know “your peace officers” program. I sure enjoyed that as a child, then to see those officers in their patrol cars and be able to call out to them by name was cool...if you don’t mind me saying that. WE need that type of program again to build a relationship between our peace offices and the public. Next, with crime out of control and the DA not pressing charges on these criminals, I see this pushing the public towards a vigilantly justice program and I see it as the government okaying this action by defunding the police department. I do NOT want to see that happen. Portland NEEDS a strong Police Department, and I would like to make this happen.
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?
All 3 are important. I see these areas being unhealthy for ALL of Portland’s citizens and because of the homeless issue, we are seeing a rise in crime and trash around our city. I want all these issues resolved and I WILL work towards that goal.
What do you think the city could do to speed up the construction of affordable housing?
This is a tough question. With taxes on the rise, consumer goods for this area unconditionally at an all-time high. How can we cut cost for affordable housing? Let’s say the city purchases a section of land for “Tiny Houses” and let’s say that 50 tiny houses will fit on that land. Next, there will need to be plumbing and electrical plumbed to all 50 tiny homes. Finally, there will need to be an on-site laundromat. I would estimate this project to cost the taxpayer $1 million for only 50 people. So, at the moment, I see no reasonable solution. I do not see the private sector working for free. Or we find some amazing benefactor to donate millions or billions of dollars to resolve this issue? For now, I am back to, “No Reasonable Solution” for housing.
What can be done to make Portland’s roads safer?
My first thought is to fix them with the tax dollars we elected for the roads.
However, I believe this question is more in line with the above questions and my answer is to higher more Peace officers.