Former Portland Commissioner Steve Novick joins 2024 council race

By Alex Zielinski (OPB)
Dec. 15, 2023 10:40 p.m.

Novick is the first person with City Council experience to enter the increasingly crowded field for the expanded council.

City Commissioner Steve Novick

FILE: Former Portland city Commissioner Steve Novick in June 2020.

Amelia Templeton / OPB

The first Portlander with experience on City Council has thrown their hat in the quickly growing council race. On Friday, Steve Novick announced his hopeful return to City Hall in 2025. Novick, who served on council between 2013 and 2017, said he’s eager to get back to work on the city’s biggest issues, like homelessness and crime.


“I think I could be useful,” Novick told OPB.

Novick, 60, is running for District 3, a newly established voting district that encompasses inner Southeast Portland. He joins a crowded race. Novick is one of 10 Portlanders who announced their candidacy for District 3, and more than 40 people have joined the council race citywide.

Novick, who spent years working as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, served one term on council before losing to political newcomer Chloe Eudaly in 2016. Since leaving City Hall, he’s worked as a special assistant attorney general in the Oregon Department of Justice.

He said the city’s housing crisis has inspired his decision to return to council chambers.

“There’s sort of been this battle between funding permanent housing or shelter,” Novick said. “And yes, we need to be getting people into permanent affordable housing, but that’s going to take a long time. In the meantime, we need to figure out ways to get people off the street.”

He supports the city’s involvement in operating outdoor shelters made up of sleeping pods, like the Safe Rest Village program. But he is concerned about the high cost of operating those shelters.

“The question is, I think, ‘Are there ways to get people into safe places without everything costing you a ridiculous amount?’ Novick said. “I’m going to be talking to the experts about how you can do that affordably.”


While in City Hall, Novick said he lobbied for more transparency around how taxpayers’ dollars were being spent. He championed a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax in 2016, a voter-approved fund that pays for a number of street maintenance and safety projects.

Novick said he’s still interested in finding smart ways to leverage city dollars, as local taxes have accumulated in recent years.

“I think that in general, people are more upset by spending more money in taxes and not seeing a return for it than they are about spending money in taxes,” Novick said. “I think looking for specific ways to lower the tax and fee burden and bringing everybody into conversation about making sure that we’re spending the money we have effectively, I think that’ll make people feel better.”

Novick is also interested in addressing ways to reduce youth suicides through new public safety programs and continuing to expand the city’s climate change initiatives through programs like the Portland Clean Energy Fund.

He’s particularly excited about helping steer the city into a new chapter of governance. Per a voter-approved plan, Portland’s City Council will triple in size to 12 members in 2025, and those members will represent four geographic districts. Voters will elect three council members to represent each district. Unlike the current model, council members will no longer oversee city bureaus, allowing them to solely focus on policymaking. Bureau management will be handed over to a new city administrator, appointed by the council. Novick is ready for the change.

“I thought that the old system was really problematic, because when you give the commissioner bureaus, those bureaus become all-important to that commissioner and everything else becomes unimportant,” he said. “So it really discourages teamwork.”

He’s also interested in having more peers on council.

“One of the issues with having a council of five is that sometimes you get tired of each other, and if you’re mad at two of your colleagues, you’re mad at half your colleagues,” he said. “Whereas, if there’s 12, you don’t get as sick of each other.”

Novick is the only candidate who has previously sat on Portland City Council. Rex Burkholder, who is also vying for a seat in the same district, won three terms on the Metro Council. No current city commissioners have expressed interest in the race, while at least two will be running for mayor.

Novick said he’s interested in helping political newcomers navigate City Hall.

“I think it might be useful to have somebody who’s been there,” he said, “to dispense wisdom to the kids.”