As a young person, Oregon Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer first saw extreme poverty when traveling to refugee camps overseas with her father, who worked for Save the Children. She followed in his footsteps, doing community development with Oxfam in Indonesia after college while still in her early 20s.
Although she continued to volunteer internationally, Keny-Guyer has spent her professional career working on poverty in this country, especially where it impacts women and children and people of color.
“She is a champion of people who really need help, not only in Multnomah County but statewide,” said José Ibarra, a former chair and longtime member of the Commission on Hispanic Affairs who nominated the legislator for the Public Official Achievement Award. “She never says no.’’
A Democrat first appointed to the House of Representatives by the Multnomah County Commission in 2011, Keny-Guyer represents District 46 in Southeast and Northeast Portland, including the Mt. Tabor, Mt. Scott and Foster-Powell neighborhoods. In Salem, Keny-Guyer has focused most recently on the housing crisis, working to boost affordable housing, protect tenants and prevent homelessness.
“Our disparities have continued to grow in this country, and our society doesn’t collectively provide enough attention and resources to address it,’’ Keny-Guyer said. “In fact, we continue to follow policies that exacerbate these disparities.”
For instance, the state provides just $10 million a year for emergency housing for distressed renters and the homeless. That’s far more than the state used to spend, “yet we provide half a billion dollars a year in mortgage interest deductions for homeowners,” Keny-Guyer said, noting that 60 percent of those receiving that deduction are among the top 20 percent of income earners.
“Because of racist policies such as redlining and discriminatory language in the covenants, conditions and restrictions of homeowner titles in past decades, the vast majority of homeowners are white,” Keny-Guyer added. “So the mortgage interest deduction continues to perpetuate and worsen our racial and economic disparities.”
The nomination letter contained the following:
“Her continuous dialogue with the communities she represents is a testimonial of her interest in serving those experiencing poverty. She is always an ally to those advocating for those issues impacting the less fortunate in Multnomah County and the State of Oregon. She is a strong voice in Salem for residents of Multnomah County.”