OPB reporters asked candidates for Portland mayor a series of questions about pressing issues facing Oregon’s largest city. Here’s a rundown on how Bim Ditson, an activist and musician, answered:
Q&A with Bim Ditson
OPB: How would you describe the relationship between the Portland Police Bureau and the people of Portland? What steps would you take to build trust in the police?
Bim Ditson: Well, the relationship is not good. There's not a lot of trust. And I think it's due to things like the 48-hour rule, which I've committed to bargain to get rid of. We also do militarize contracting for equipment and I think we should stop that practice. I don't think that our police need to feel they should be acting in a militarized way against Portlanders. And I also think that it hurts their ability to do the type of community policing that really are the most effective.
OPB: Do you agree with Mayor Charlie Hales’ decision to temporarily allow public camping in Portland? What is one step you would take to ease the homeless crisis?
BD: I agree as a stopgap measure, yes. I believe that we should not be criminalizing homeless people, I see those that are suffering from homelessness, are people who are victims of a system that's basically – they're getting affected by something out of their control.
And I see our huge increases in homelessness as a humanitarian crisis. I think we need to treat it that way. And we should do everything that we can to ensure people are safe. But in the long term, we need to change a lot of our structural things of how we approach housing. I believe that housing needs to be a mixed market that is partially a commodities market and partially a public good. It is a human right to have housing and I believe that we need to act on that and not just talk about it.
OPB: What should city government’s role be in ensuring bike and pedestrian safety?
BD: The way to do that is to get bikes away from cars. We know that. The way to pay for that becomes more difficult. I think we need a cultural shift away from an acceptance of government subsidizing an industry of single passenger vehicle traffic.
We should move towards government that promotes a more sustainable future and a better future for Portlanders. That includes completing neighborhoods so people don’t have to drive five miles to buy a dozen eggs. That means we have to invest in our metro and we have to make our public transit competitive with driving your car. And it means we have to put safety first. I mean, the vision zero, I agree with, but we will not get there as long as we keep bowing to ODOT and bowing to big industry that relies on large, dangerous trucks to get products to stores.
OPB: Are you satisfied with the work being done by the Portland Development Commission? Describe the approach you would take as mayor toward economic development and how it would differ from the PDC’s current approach.
BD: You know, we have community benefit agreements that are not strong enough. We have contracting that's going to pretty much exclusively, large, white male run businesses. We need to take action against that kind of thing. The city shouldn't be spending it's money investing in luxury housing in what was our affordable housing areas, and while doing that only employing groups that, honestly, don't need the business as much as businesses we're supposed to protecting and serving.
I mean, essentially, I think the PDC has failed in most ways. And I think there are some things that they’re doing that are good but they do not counter balance the amount of damage that they’ve done to Portland and the history of Portland. I think we need a complete restructuring of how we approach the PDC. I think that it should be community leaders sitting at that table rather than people who come from a background in development. We shouldn’t be trusting people whose entire lives have been built around profiteering to ensure the future of our society.
OPB: Name one distinct neighborhood or area of Portland that needs more attention from city government, and why.
BD: East Portland, because it never got it. I mean, duh.