Portland Mayor To Target Crime, Homelessness In Final Months

By Amelia Templeton (OPB)
March 25, 2016 5:46 p.m.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales

Alan Sylvestre / OPB

Mayor Charlie Hales' final State of the City address was part love letter to Portland and its quirks, part description of a community in crisis.


Hales, who opted not to seek reelection, used his final major speech to outline a few major initiatives for the final 10 months of his term. He called gang violence the city's most under-reported news story; 73 people were shot and 15 died in gang-related incidents last year.

But the mayor also credited the Portland Police Bureau with improving the way it responds to people suffering from mental health problems.

"On one December day last year, Portland Police responded to four separate suicide attempts," Hales said, noting that officers "were able to get these people safely to care, not harming themselves."

Hales also focused on homelessness and his recent decision to allow some public camping, at least while the city works to fill a gap in emergency shelter beds. Hales said he plans to open a new homeless shelter to serve about 100 people in an unused building owned by the Portland Public Schools. He's modeling the idea after a navigation center for homeless people in San Francisco.

Other highlights:

  • Hales pledged new annual funding to keep some city community centers open during the summer and free to youth 18 and under as a way to curb gang involvement.
  • He promoted hiring incentives for new police officers, including higher starting pay, a signing bonus for new hires and an award for employees who recruit new hires. Police union leaders say the department is understaffed, and the mayor agreed, saying more incentives are needed to help fill 45 vacancies.
  • The mayor also said he wants to start a "public safety academy" that would provide job training for careers in police, fire and emergency communications for students at Portland Community College and in city public schools.
  • Hales supports a rating system to track home energy efficiency.