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 Sarah Iannarone, a café owner who also works for Portland State University’s First Stop Portland program, answered.
Q&A with Sarah Iannarone
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?
Sarah Iannarone: Let’s call the relationship dysfunctional. There’s huge communication gaps between the people of Portland write large, certain communities in Portland the police bureau, local government, police leadership and the rank and file. I don’t think it’s just the people of Portland and the police. There are communication breakdowns at various levels and across various communities.
One of the biggest areas of breakdown I see are is between generally the understanding on behalf of the people of Portland on what the police actually do, what they’re asked to do that’s outside their job description, especially with regard to mental health. There are a lot of pressures on police right now, a lot being asked of them that historically hasn’t been in their job description.
I proposed a “community trust in policing fund” that will help us increase the amount of anti-bias training and help us improve our recruitment and retention of diverse police officers. I proposed a charter review … to think about reviewing the city charter to have a stronger citizen overview of policing, so true community policing. I also think coordination at our edges is going to be important, cities like Gresham, where we’ve seen displacement, how can we be partnering with the cities on our edges.
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?
SI: I do agree with that. Criminalizing people sleeping out of doors is not going to help us with the homeless crisis. If someone is sleeping out of door and they want to put a tent over them to stay dry, I’m behind that. That said, if someone setting up a tent outside the front door of Nordstrom a good solution? No. It’s not good for the businesses there, it’s not good for the tourists, it’s not good for the property owners, it’s not good for the person sleeping there. That is not my first choice, but I understand why we’re doing it.
At the same time, we need to be looking at more almost guerrilla solutions to get people out of being without permanent housing, this kind of nonprofit government-driven, top-down transitional housing model is key, but we need other community-based solutions. When I visited Hazelnut Grove, I saw a very viable model that we could be deploying all around the city very effectively. The tiny homes they were building were costing on order of about $1,500 a piece using reclaimed materials. They had solar power, they were dry. The people who built those were able to put their things inside and go to work. TO me that seems more hopeful to economic security than to go into a shelter at 8 at night. We need to think beyond temporary shelter beds into real pathways out of homelessness more quickly.
OPB: What should city government’s role be in ensuring bike and pedestrian safety?
SI: It’s key. I’m a big proponent of Vision Zero. I got the Bike Walk Vote endorsement because I’m an active transportation advocate and a long-time activist when it comes to bike and pedestrian safety. I’m a bike-friendly Portlander, so I get around by transit.
People can’t be dying in our streets, especially when those deaths are preventable … We really do need to think about what modes of transportation are we going to prioritize going forward. It’s just unacceptable.
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.
SI: What I like is the increasing emphasis on equity, especially when it comes to minority entrepreneurs, startups, economic development, small business investments. … That said, whoever the new director is, we need to be thinking of our public investments in terms of how are we going to build out East Portland in ways that make economic sense so we can be creating uplift in that neighborhood as opposed to seeing it as a place that needs a handout.
Not every single person is going to be able to live within a mile of city hall. So what is the role of Gateway in our future? What is the role of Lents? How can we continue to create jobs and prosperity and not just leave that to the devices of the free market, which tends to go where the real estate is already hot and happening?
OPB: Name one distinct neighborhood or area of Portland that needs more attention from city government, and why.
SI: When I think about places like Gateway, I think, ‘How can we capture investment that are already going on here in places like South Waterfront, where we have a billion dollars in the Knight Challenge …? What are the affiliated services that need to go along with that? What are the ways we can capitalize on the intense transportation networks we have in Gateway, Portland Community College, affordable housing?’
You’ve got a whole swath of people there who I’m sure would be happy to do accounting and procurement and shipping and all the affiliated services that go along with that high-end investment that maybe don’t need to be located at South Waterfront? What would it mean for us to have an auxiliary biotech center in East Portland? Lents Is another example. What would it mean for us to have advanced food processing and micro-enterprise there? Even arts. Artists tend to go into places like Alberta and the Pearl as early adopters, and then get priced out. What could the role of arts be in Lents? There are a lot of opportunities when we think about redevelopment that don’t have to just be about housing and mixed-use development.