OPB asked all the candidates seeking a seat on Portland City Council to answer some questions about the issues. Below are answers from Sandeep Bali, a candidate for position 2, currently held by Commissioner Dan Ryan. These answers have not been edited.
I came to Portland in 2009 to pursue my doctorate in pharmacy. I’ve been here ever since, working in specialty pharmacy for HIV, hepatitis C, drug addiction and mental health treatment.
Why are you running for City Council? What relevant experience do you have?
It is disheartening to look around our city and wonder how much worse it can get. If we continue to elect candidates who are pushing the same unworkable ideas then we will continue to witness Portland’s decline.
I do not have any political experience. I’m not a politician. Portland needs people on council with real-world experience and common sense. I’m passionate about helping all communities in the city that I love.
What bureaus do you want to run? Why do you think you’re the person to oversee them?
I don’t think commissioners should be running the bureaus. That work should be done by individuals with training and education in the respective fields. The main function of commissioners should be to serve and represent the constituents.
Are there any bureaus you do not want?
While I don’t think commissioners should be running the bureaus, I would welcome the opportunity to work in any bureau that is assigned to me.
What is one concrete action you would take immediately upon entering office to reduce the number of people living on the street?
I would enforce a city-wide ban on street camping. Homelessness has gotten out of control because county and city policy rewards and encourages it. We have essentially put out the message that people can come to Portland and freely camp, use and sell drugs, and commit crimes.
Despite millions of dollars in resources, local governments have failed to help the homeless because they keep trying the same “housing first” approaches that have already failed in other cities.
Portland has ample emergency shelter in nonprofits like Bybee Lakes Hope Center. Many of the beds go empty because — unlike city “solutions” — these facilities require residents to adhere to treatment programs. I am a proponent of treatment as I see its long-term effectiveness in my patients every day.
I believe the homeless situation will improve with the new message that help is available to those who want it, but the city’s “anything goes” policies are a thing of the past.
If the city were to increase shelter supply, would you support requiring people living outside to move into shelters?
Absolutely, but I would also require the shelters to have mental health and drug addiction resources available. Moving a person off the streets into a shelter is not a long-term solution if nothing is done to treat the underlying issues.
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 think the current debate over our form of city government is fretting over semantics. Seattle and San Francisco have district representation and it has not solved their problems.
Portland is in crisis now because of years of bad policies, many of which were approved unanimously. The structure of the city government is really secondary. We need better people on council.
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?
It’s hard to pick just one, but it would have to be the “inclusionary zoning” policy that was adopted unanimously in 2017. Because of this policy, multifamily building permit applications dropped off a cliff and larger developments were downsized to avoid the new thresholds. Not only did “inclusionary zoning” not bring about any affordable housing, it did just the opposite.
I would like to do away with “inclusionary zoning” and all of the other misguided housing policies that were put into place around that time. Housing costs are a function of supply and demand. If we want more affordable housing we must reward development, not penalize it.
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?
Defunding the police and dismantling departments like the Gun Violence Reduction Team was a huge mistake. The proof is in the record-setting crime we are now seeing.
I would like to increase the Portland Police Bureau’s budget and restore our police department. I would like to start new initiatives to recruit and reward high-quality candidates. We must bring the best and the brightest to Portland.
I realize that there must be accountability. I support body cameras and community oversight. I am also a proponent of reforming police unions, which all too often block efforts to terminate officers with a history of bad behavior.
Poll after poll 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?
My top priorities are ending the homeless crisis, increasing public safety and cleaning up the city.
What do you think the city could do to speed up the construction of affordable housing?
This is very simple. We must let builders build. Developers who have the capital to build expensive multifamily properties simply find the city’s housing regulations to be too strict and volatile. This is leading them to invest in other cities and states that are more welcoming
What can be done to make Portland’s roads safer?
This comes back to public safety. The lack of police officers means fewer citations for people who are driving recklessly or disregarding traffic laws. There must be accountability or the roads will continue to be a hazard