By Kris McDowell
Jack Kerfoot is running in the May primary to fill City Commissioner Position No. 2, recently vacated with the passing of Nick Fish in January.
During his 40 years of work as an energy executive, his focus was on turnarounds and startups; experiences he intends to apply to Portland should he be elected.
Kerfoot views the City as in need of an overhaul, similar to the turnarounds – a financial recovery of a poorly performing company to bring stability to its future. As with any company, there are multiple issues he feels need to be addressed to change the direction the city is going in to achieve future stability.
One of the major issues has to do with the polarization that exists between City Commissioners. The work that Commissioner Fish did was in Kerfoot’s words, “a bridge between sides.” He would like to continue to bridge the gap between Commissioners so that a base can be built for progress to be made fixing issues Portland wrestles with.
Outside the difficulties the commission form of government presents, Kerfoot has identified six priorities he feels need to be focused on: environment, responsiveness, the homeless crisis, hate crimes, labor support and fiscal discipline.
• Environment – Kerfoot’s career in energy has given him a detailed understanding of the environmental impacts of a variety of energy sources, from coal to natural gas, to wind and hydroelectric power he would share with the city to help meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. He says, “There isn’t anyone on the City Council who understands energy to make formative changes.”
• Responsiveness – While all five city quadrants (six starting in May) share similar problems, understanding how to best address them is something Kerfoot intends to find out by holding open-to-the-public town hall meetings that rotate among the quadrants. In addition to hearing from residents, the media will be invited to attend the meetings.
• Homeless Crisis – Portland isn’t alone in having a homeless crisis on its hands; cities across the US are struggling to deal with it.
Kerfoot equates it with “a raging fire that is out of control,” but unlike the training and coordination fire departments have to fight a fire, Portland’s steps have lacked coordination and collaboration needed to be effective.
He applauds the steps taken in San Antonio, bringing the private sector and non-profits together to develop an effective program, and would like to see similar plans put in place here.
• Stop the Hate – Kerfoot is intent on working with law enforcement, clerics and residents to address the growth of hate crimes. In addition to the damage done to the targets of hate crimes, he points out that demonstrations such as the free speech marches that have taken place in downtown are damaging to businesses in the area and a threat to the safety of bystanders.
• Labor Support – Teachers, police officers, healthcare workers, and others represented by unions are “heroes” that Kerfoot will work to protect by supporting unions.
He wants to work with trade unions, the city and businesses to expand trade schools and apprenticeship programs in fields which have critical skill shortages.
In turn he says, “further supporting our apprenticeship training programs can be an important tool in our efforts to bring good jobs to our region.”
• Fiscal Discipline – During his career, Kerfoot has run multi-million-dollar projects and feels it is egregious that the city is “unable to complete anything on time or within budget.”
He is committed to implementing steps to be applied toward any financial proposal that would lead to transparency and fiscally responsible decision making.
“In my opinion, we should expect our City council to use our hard-earned tax dollars wisely.”
As of this writing, there were eight others vying to fill Position No. 2; a broad field that Kerfoot will need stand out in to achieve the needed votes.
Even if he isn’t successful in gaining enough votes to claim the Commissioner’s seat, he feels the campaign will have been worth it to bring light to the issues he has identified as priorities.
More information at jackkerfoot2020.com
Photos by Brandi Rollins and Jack Kerfoot