By Midge Pierce
The November ballot will include two City Council positions with run-offs against Portland’s Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Eudaly.
As violence, crime and houselessness rise and confidence in Portland governance has decreased, incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler has been challenged by activist Sarah Iannarone.
A self-described anti-fascist, Iannarone has blasted Wheeler for failing to hand off oversight of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and not yielding more fully to defund police during 100+ nights of demands that often devolved into violence.
Given turmoil and pandemic, Wheeler is asking for time to deliver on his “deep commitment” to structural reform. He and Iannarone face a write-in candidate, Black Lives Matter activist and founder of Don’t Shoot Portland, Teressa Raiford.
Incumbent Council member Chloe Eudaly faces heavy criticism about turnover in the Office of Community and Civic Life (OCCL), which she renamed from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI). She has widespread support from renters and the marginalized.
Her challenger, Mingus Mapps, once worked at ONI as a community outreach organizer with a reputation for coalition building.
All four candidates seem to concur that, in its present form, Portland’s government is not working.
Here is a look at the candidates based on answers to questions from The Southeast Examiner:
Ted Wheeler, Incumbent for Mayor (tedwheeler.com)
Despite claiming strides on homelessness, housing affordability and support for greater police anti-bias and de-escalation training, Wheeler’s past few months have been co-opted by crossfire between demonstrators, vigilantes, owners of damaged property and Trump twitter storms.
To the criticism that he is ineffective in enacting reforms, he admits there is much work to do to implement overdue structural change.
“I unequivocally believe Black Lives Matter, fully recognize disparities in our policing and criminal justice system, and strongly believe we must continue to change how we do policing,” he said.
Among Wheeler’s accomplishments are the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing to increase PPB accountability, creating the PS3 (Public Safety Support Specialist) program for unarmed response to non-emergency calls and increased funding for PPB’s Behavioral Health Unit to address those in crisis on Portland streets.
He supports points in the Reimagine Oregon Project that include local investment in communities of color, public safety programs and bans on choke holds and teargas.
Wheeler faces the unenviable task of navigating a pandemic and what he calls two distinct movements: the peaceful protestors he supports and a smaller group of violent agitators he says are “driving division, encouraging hate and stoking unrest.”
Wheeler says he’s doubled shelter capacity, saved over 7,000 high risk households from houselessness and helped some 6,000 people into transitional housing.
He says he’s made significant progress in preventing evictions and sheltering homeless elderly and families and now plans to focus on chronic homelessness, mental health and drug abuse.
Given that, due to COVID-19, more Portlanders could lose homes, his supporters emphasize the need for continuity to mitigate crises.
Regarding climate, he supports the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. He hails youth activists for providing invaluable input to his Climate Emergency declaration.
As for Portland’s Commission-form of governance, Wheeler says he wants to be the last Mayor serving in our “antiquated and inefficient form of government” and applauds restructuring through a racial and social justice equity lens.
His role in passage of the Residential Infill Project (RIP) garnered support from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters that was expected to endorse his competitor.
Wheeler is the first incumbent mayor to seek a second term in decades.
Mayoral Challenger Sarah Iannarone (sarah2020.com)
Sarah Iannarone’s platform includes a Green New Deal and making the City a leader in equity and racial justice by building healthy neighborhoods without displacement and keeping people safe without biased policing.
Climate, housing and inequality are the core of her campaign, she says. She calls the Portland Clean Energy Fund one of the world’s most groundbreaking climate justice programs that would lift up under served communities in East Portland.
While she has never served in public office, Iannarone has been a community activist who frequents Portland protests. She rejects the concept that Portland is a city divided, calling it instead a city united in which 75 percent support Black Lives Matter demands.
She supports programs like Portland Street Response, a non-police, first response to street crises proposed by Street Roots and calls for the city to “stop throwing good money after bad.”
Recently, she defended against accusations that she has not condemned nightly violence.
In a letter to The Oregonian, she wrote “police brutality has sparked 100 days of mostly-peaceful protests demanding change.”
Regarding homelessness, Iannarone denounces disproportionate use of force on the houseless who “just want to lay their head down at night and sleep in peace.”
Regarding accusations that she is too radical she said “…If housing our people, making sure they have healthy food, clear air to breathe, a reliable bus to ride, safe streets to walk, if those things are radical, that makes me laugh.”
Iannarone calls herself a working class mom who put herself through graduate school to learn how to make Portland the best it can be.
With the City on what she calls the verge of “greatness or continued decline,” her solution is to shift power from city government and mainstream organizations to frontline communities.
Her plans include convening an Intergenerational Summit to tackle climate change by 2030, along with transit access, gentrification and displacement.
Her other ideas include turning golf courses into mixed income housing, treating broadband as a public utility and establishing a city-owned, municipal bank.
Incumbent Commissioner Chloe Eudaly (votechloe.com)
May’s tight race for Council Position Four left incumbent Chloe Eudaly facing off against community organizer and former OCCL staffer Mingus Mapps, after former Mayor Sam Adams conceded defeat.
Eudaly, who oversees both the Bureau of Transportation as well as OCCL, plans to continue her work on housing and tenant protections. She seeks to decrease discrimination barriers and create more home ownership opportunities for low income households.
Her supporters consider her a champion for renter rights, affordability and accessibility. The rent crisis was a major driver of her 2016 bid for office.
“I’ve fought to keep all Portlanders housed during this crisis, including calling for the rent and mortgage moratorium and advocating more assistance at the local, state and federal levels.”
Eudaly was one of the first Council voices decrying systemic racism, which she calls “the biggest challenge Portland faces.”
She says COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, diminishing outcomes in education, economic opportunity, incarceration, health and longevity.
“It is undeniable that racism is the root of so many of our social ills.”
Her OCCL directives for a rewrite to City Code Chapter 3.96 antagonized longtime Neighborhood Association (NA) volunteers.
Eudaly said: “Racial justice has informed every major policy solution my office has advanced. From housing to transportation to civic engagement and the environment, we have centered the least well-represented and least well-served in our community to deliver policies that do the most good for the most people.”
Despite critics’ accusations of divisiveness, she says, “We are at our best when we come together and find common ground.”
Eudaly was an early supporter of the Portland Clean Energy Fund and a co-creator and sponsor of our 100 percent renewables resolution.
On policing, she says Portland should move away from punitive practices that destroy communities.
“We must invest in community-based solutions, informed by the principles of harm reduction and restorative justice.”
Responding to Portland Ombudsman Margie Sollinger’s request for an independent assessment of complaints about treatment of staff and high turnover at OCCL, Eudaly said, “It came as a surprise that she wasn’t ultimately satisfied with the scope of work developed by the City Attorney and the Bureau of Human Resources…I’m currently seeking clarity from the Ombudsman to ensure that her concerns are addressed.”
Commissioner Challenger Mingus Mapps (mingusmapps.com)
SE resident Mingus Mapps, an educator and former neighborhood and public safety coordinator at Eudaly’s OCCL, describes himself as a progressive who is deeply pragmatic with financial skills and values that are needed when the City gets hit with post-pandemic revenue setbacks.
Managing the economy in a way that mitigates homelessness is critical, he says.
Portland’s triple crises of housing, pandemic and police protests have solidified Mapps’ determination to effect positive change to bring “restorative justice to our social services and peace to our streets” through listening, dialogue and follow through on promises.
A Neighborhood Association supporter, he believes in more community-centered engagement and training that includes helping NA’s outreach to under-represented groups, non-English speakers and overwhelmed parents with small children.
A father of two pre-teen boys who attend a SE public school, he knows the challenges of parenting, homeschooling and juggling professional life.
“Dismantling the neighborhood system is one of the craziest things I’ve heard from a department whose purpose is to promote community-centered engagement.”
He calls for finding solutions to housing and community engagement through collaboration rather divisive confrontation to get results.
The upcoming police union contract negotiation was a motivator in his decision to run for office. He advocates a demilitarized approach to policing to replace the current “cops and robbers” holdover from the 1950s, when Portland lacked diversity. “The justice system must be about human dignity,” he says.
As a minority, Mapps says the key to ending strife is to reach out to Black Community members, most of whom seek crime reduction.
“If you ask, they will tell you: there are gangs and they are afraid of the recent rise in crime.” He believes community policing is a way to establish relationships of trust.
“People do not understand that a lot of what police do is reaching out, heading off trouble, mediating and connecting those in need with services.”
He supports handing off some mental health and drug calls to other agencies.
A former Political Science professor, Mapps seeks charter reform of our “siloed” government structure by adding a City Manager to coordinate all of Portland’s bureaus and possibly geographically-based Commission seats.
For those curious, he says his name comes from jazz great Charles Mingus and that his middle name, Ulysses, comes from the James Joyce book. “If you know those two things, you know a lot about me,” he laughs.
Key dates to remember for this election:
• October 7-10 Voter pamphlets mailed out by the Oregon Secretary of State.
• October 13 Voter registration deadline.
• October 14 Ballots mailed to voters.
• October 27 The last day to safely mail ballots to County Elections Office. After this date, ballots should be submitted at drop off locations (multco.us/dropsites).
• November 3 Ballots must be received before 8 pm in order to be counted.
More information about the November 3 general election at multco.us/elections/current-and-upcoming-elections-multnomah-county-elections#nov2020.