Gov. Tina Kotek has established a new task force to address the biggest issues facing downtown Portland.
The Portland Central City Task Force will focus on addressing crime, homelessness, trash problems, and tax issues that create barriers to doing business in Portland. Kotek will co-chair the group alongside Dan McMillan, CEO of The Standard insurance company, which has a massive office building in downtown Portland.
Portland has lagged behind other similarly-sized cities to recover from the financial impacts of the COVID pandemic. While the city has established its own programs to hasten recovery, downtown Portland has been slow to attract businesses to its vacant office buildings or see a return to pre-pandemic visitor rates.
Portland’s economic challenges and problems with unsheltered homelessness were central to the 2022 governor’s race. Kotek has expressed her disappointment with Portland’s response to these crises since entering office.
Kotek said that Portland’s economic challenges serve as a “bellwether” for the future prosperity for all of Oregon.
“Growing pains turned into crises, exacerbated by a global pandemic, and now concerns about Portland have become a statewide economic issue,” Kotek said in a statement.
The task force will meet monthly to discuss solutions to the city’s problems. The group, whose members have not been finalized yet, will present final recommendations on how to best address these issues during the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit in December.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler established a recovery plan for downtown Portland on the heels of the pandemic called Portland’s Central City Recovery Plan. The project includes investments in police, homeless services, parks and public events.
It’s not clear whether Wheeler has been involved in the creation of Kotek’s task force plan, but his office said he will be “an active member” of the new group.
In a statement, Wheeler said he welcomed Kotek’s involvement but underscored other ways the state could be actively helping address the city’s issues. He pointed to recent requests made by Portland City Council to state leadership to expand the state’s officer training program to get new officer hires on patrol more swiftly and to bolster safety and trash cleanup work on state-owned streets in Portland.
“In order to be successful, we will need broad support from all layers of government and committed private sector employers to make progress on the immediate and long-term interventions,” Wheeler said.