OPB asked all the candidates seeking a seat on Portland City Council to answer some questions about the issues. Below are answers from Dan Ryan, the incumbent in position 2. These answers have not been edited.
From 2005 to 2008 I served as an elected member of the Portland Public School Board. Prior to joining City Council in September 2020, I was CEO of All Hands Raised (formerly Portland Schools Foundation) from 2008 to 2019, championing collective impact and guiding six school districts in Multnomah County toward measurable and meaningful results and ultimately improving outcomes for children and youth from cradle to career.
I hold a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Oregon and completed graduate-level work at New School University’s Graduate School of Management & Urban Policy.
I am the youngest of eight and a proud Oregonian. Time permitting, I enjoy attending local arts and sporting events, cooking, gardening with my fiancé Amo, and outdoor activities with his 16 nieces and nephews and their families.
Why are you running for City Council? What relevant experience do you have?
Two years ago, I ran for City Council because I knew we had to change our approaches to Portland’s most pressing challenges. Since taking office, I have been clearing roadblocks to urgently address homelessness, community safety and build housing, and have pushed the Council to set priorities. I’m just getting started restoring Portland to the city it should be and look forward to a full term.
What bureaus do you want to run? Why do you think you’re the person to oversee them?
The ones I currently have, which are part of a key continuum of services; the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the Bureau of Development Services, and the Housing Bureau.
In the 16 months I have been in office, we have busted up silos and laid the groundwork for moving someone from being chronically homeless to homeownership. Our permitting system is widely known as a barrier to small businesses, homeowners, affordable housing, and larger developments. The reforms I am leading with Commissioner Mapps will take us from a quagmire to a one-stop-shopping system.
Are there any bureaus you do not want?
My executive experience gives me the confidence to lead any bureau. As a Commissioner my charge is to establish strategies and goals with the bureau director, establish metrics to measure, and continually improve the efficiency of the operations to the benefit of both external and internal customers.
What is one concrete action you would take immediately upon entering office to reduce the number of people living on the street?
In my short time in office, I have led the effort to move the homeless solutions narrative from housing first to services first. We’ve begun construction on six Safe Rest Villages which are on-ramps to successful housing. The transition from chronic homelessness to housing is a big leap for many and these on-ramps are needed to ensure more long-term success.
We have to keep working to house people and increase our pace. People living in parks and public spaces is simply unacceptable, both as a humanitarian crisis and because these are spaces for everyone. This means rustling feathers, but tough love always does.
If the city were to increase shelter supply, would you support requiring people living outside to move into shelters?
It is not compassionate, safe, or effective public policy to allow unsanctioned encampments.
Our continued enabling of untreated addictions under the misapprehension that we are helping has to stop. Without intervention and treatment, more people will end up like my brother Tim — dead on our streets because he could not get the help he needed.
I will fight to move people off the streets as fast as possible:
• Faster progress building safe, clean living spaces.
• Clearing roadblocks to building more affordable housing.
• Increasing addiction and mental health treatment access.
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 have voted in favor of charter reform twice before and will support it again. Portland needs a strong mayor and a city manager — and I support expanding the council for broader representation.
We also need to be sure we bring systemic change to our city bureaus. We have 23 bureaus and multiple offices with their own bureau-like infrastructure. We will need to sunset, consolidate, and streamline, so the thousands of talented people who work for our city have the latitude to help us work smarter and get better results for Portlanders.
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?
We should have protected small business housing providers when we protected renters. We gave lots of protection to renters, including eviction protections and significant relocation assistance, but we failed to provide meaningful protection to the small businesses-people who are renting their basements or mother-in-law units/ADUs. We’ve experienced a significant loss of Portland’s residential rental homes in the past 5 years, and the rate of loss is actually increasing. And worse for our local renters, these housing providers are in the position of needing to choose short-term rental strategies over long-term residents to mitigate risk and to simply stay in business. Or, as we’ve seen, the alternative is to sell these homes. Now we have a lose-lose situation.
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 a reset and that work is being done.
Hiring a Community Safety Director to knit together all first responders — 911, Police, Fire and Portland Street Response. In addition, we just passed a new police contract that has much-needed clarity on discipline, a guide towards implementing body-worn cameras, and community involvement with training.
The police accountability measure passed overwhelmingly in 2020 is another important step. We need a strong policy commissioner who will make clear that policing is about community safety in partnership with community, and officers who don’t support reforms will be given an exit strategy and replaced with new officers interested in building trust and respect.
Together with police, other first responders and community, we can build a restorative community safety culture and move from the fierce divisions that lead to demoralizing morale among first responders, including Police.
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?
We have focused our budget on addressing the ongoing homeless crisis while investing in community safety and livability. We must remove fear of our streets and replace it with joy. Economic recovery is dependent upon this.
What do you think the city could do to speed up the construction of affordable housing?
We have been losing detached single-family rental units over the last 5 years due to the unintended consequences of state and local policies. We need to revisit those policies and get exemptions where necessary during this housing emergency so we can build faster. We need to send a clear message to the housing developers that we need them and are prepared to incentivize them to invest and build in Portland. Which not only creates affordable housing but also creates living wage construction jobs. Additionally, a streamlined permitting process will remove time and cost.
Additionally, a streamlined permitting process will remove time and cost which is why I am leading this much neglected chronic problem.
What can be done to make Portland’s roads safer?
I support Vision Zero policy, but I want us to be held accountable for the lack of progress and the disappointing results. We need to get honest on why we are failing. In general, the city government needs to hold ODOT to account for its deadly negligence on many fast-moving arterials and seek further shifts of responsibility from the state to the city. I have always found, the closer to the work, the greater opportunity for better results.