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 Jessie Sponberg, a longtime community activist, answered:
Q&A with Jessie Sponberg
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?
Jessie Sponberg: Even the average person these days doesn’t trust the police. In the old days you’d still get the, “Well, not all cops are bad.” That’s a rare one to hear these days. … It’s an institution.
I don’t know how we can build trust in the cops. I would build trust in the police commissioner. That’s the unique perk right now, that the mayor gets to decide the departments.
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?
JS: The first step I’d take is to allow people to be stewards of their own community. If it was legal right now, I could throw three or four people in my backyard, and probably not even notice.
I’m also a big fan, a huge fan, of places like Hazelnut Grove. In fact, I’m thinking down the road I would like to create an intentional community. There’s no reason that somebody should be paying, what, $1,200 a month to make sure you don’t get rained on or eaten by lions in the middle of the night.
OPB: What should city government’s role be in ensuring bike and pedestrian safety?
JS: As the mayor I would actually propose that we keep bicycles off our major arterials. For Pete’s sake, Powell Boulevard is actually Highway 26. That’s a U.S. highway. It wasn’t meant to have a Wendy’s and a fish shop on there.
Instead, let’s dedicate the next street over to a real bike-friendly street – no cars, maybe if you lived on it you could drive 10 miles an hour… There’s no reason it should be such an either/or. The city should be able to design itself, as we move away from fossil fuels, to a more bike-friendly culture.
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.
JS: Historically, I’ve never been very happy with what the PDC does. They spend more money than they need to, a lot of times their projects are agents of gentrification. They don’t target minorities and try to include them. Portland has a real terrible problem with that…. I’d actually be in favor of getting rid of the PDC.
OPB: Name one distinct neighborhood or area of Portland that needs more attention from city government, and why.
JS: The answer is obviously East Portland, obviously. There are still areas out here without sidewalks. I’ve never ever seen a street sweeper out here.