Andrea Valderrama, 29, is a senior policy advisor to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and a member of the David Douglas school board.
Below are highlights from her conversation with OPB. You can also listen to the interview using the audio player at the top of this story.
Amelia Templeton: What sets you apart from other candidates in this race?
Andrea Valderrama: I’m the only one in this race that has direct experience working in City Hall. I’ve been there almost six years. I also am the only one in this race on a school board. I’m currently in my second term on David Douglas.
I’m the only one that has a young kiddo and is really thinking about growing up, having my daughter grow up in our public schools. It’s important to me. I’m the only one that I understand to be representing the immigrant and refugee community, bilingual-bicultural, in Portland.
Templeton: What roles have you held in City Hall?
Valderrama: Currently, I’m a senior policy advisor to Mayor [Ted] Wheeler. I predominantly worked on housing, economic development, equity policy and previously had worked for Commissioner [Steve] Novick on a range of issues from transportation, family-friendly policies, budget, government affairs policy as well.
Templeton: Wheeler has said he would like the city to have more local control to regulate the housing market. What’s your position on no-cause evictions and what is your position on rent control?
Valderrama: Having worked in the building for so many years, my general frustration has been this exact preemption issue.
This is not a new fight. This is something that I understand to always be part of the role city council, to continue that advocacy, to make sure we are demonstrating our commitment to these issues.
I absolutely am in favor of both establishing a just-cause eviction standard and the opportunity to start dialogues around a rent control policy, or to have the opportunity and ability to instill a rent control policy. I frankly do think it is unacceptable that we have families in David Douglas, or frankly anywhere in Portland, faced with a 100 percent — not dollars — 100 percent rent increase.
It’s hurtful not only to the family members who have to find an alternative place but to the youth, who have to move schools, to the community who are losing their neighbors, to the business. We have to be able to have the tool in place to be able to address this really problematic policy that is impacting so many families. Those are things I am very much an advocate for and have been working on trying to get that preemption lifted.
Templeton: If you had a magic wand and could fix one thing about Portland’s transportation system, what would you pick?
Valderrama: If I had a magic wand, I would decrease speeds on most streets, arterials and residential local streets. That’s the biggest concern that I have, frankly, walking around all parts of the city.
Maybe this is having worked in transportation, I know the difference between 20, 30, 40 miles an hour, and what it does to your body. It’s scary when you’re walking along an arterial that has six to seven to eight lanes. That’s something I would love to have the opportunity to have access or authority at the local level to address, immediately.
Templeton: If you do succeed in the primary and win the seat in November, what will your pitch be to Mayor Wheeler regarding bureau assignments?
Valderrama: I have really had the pleasure of working with the Office of Equity and Human Rights. I believe that bureau can be used as a mechanism to address a lot of the inequities that we are facing in the city of Portland. I would be very honored to do that work and push that bureau forward in a way that the city is ready for.
Having worked on transportation, and clearly having a keen interest in that work, I would also really enjoy that bureau.
I would also say that as someone who has personally experienced housing instability, particularly because of domestic violence, being able to continue the legacy and the work of Commissioner [Dan] Saltzman in our Children’s Levy and our Gateway Center for Domestic Violence, is something that’s very important to me, to make sure we have a city council member who is going to continue to champion those initiatives and be successful.
Templeton: What’s the largest organization that you have managed and how many people were you responsible for?
Valderrama: At the school district we have, I want to say around 1,300 to 1,400 employees, a $133 million budget. Day one on the job I was part of the hiring process for our superintendent, overseeing not only him but our whole administrative cabinet.
I really enjoyed that work as a school board member, not only the workforce equity issues I’m so passionate about but the budgeting, the bargaining, the HR, the curriculum, in addition to the policy that I’m really eager to work on with my colleagues on the board. That’s been something I’ve really enjoyed.