Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our community is being ravaged by gun violence. We are on pace to exceed last year’s record breaking shootings and murder rate. Like others throughout Portland, my family and I hear gunshots regularly, and I hear from terrified residents who have had stray bullets fly through their homes.
The violence inflicted often spurs retaliatory shootings. And the necessary public safety response to any shooting - from police responding to the shootings, to the investigations and prosecutions - then soaks up resources that would otherwise go to patrols, investigations of other crimes, and timely prosecutions.
We’re in a bad cycle, but I know we can pull out of it. Over the past several months, I’ve visited the locations of shootings with families and friends of the victims, as well as intervention strategists. I’ve convened an intimate meeting with families impacted by gun violence to discuss what could have helped their loved ones. And I’ve attended events with advocates determined to break the cycle of violence by building and strengthening our communities.
That’s why I am strongly advocating for strategic funding in crime prevention and accountability in this year’s Multnomah County budget. Specifically, I will be pushing for resources in three areas:
First, I want to invest in new models of violence prevention that have demonstrated success. Advance Peace, which relies on mentorship, close supervision and service navigation, and financial support for those most directly impacted by violence, is such a model. I have been talking with local advocates and County leadership about bringing such an intervention model to our community.
Second, I want to continue to build capacity with our violence prevention partners. Last year I championed a budget amendment that established an organizational “incubator” to support smaller organizations doing critical violence prevention work to grow community capacity. That funding has helped several local nonprofits develop their organizational management and development skills, and it’s work that needs to continue.
Third, our justice system is under immense strain due to record caseloads in the wake of two years of court closures combined with a surge in gun violence. I have had multiple discussions with District Attorney Mike Schmidt, and I’m committed to ensuring he has the resources needed to investigate and prosecute gun crimes and other serious felonies.
I’ve also spoken with the city of Portland about the need to expand the number of public safety support specialists (or PS3 officers), who are unarmed officers that can patrol areas of our city, investigate crimes, reduce the likelihood of break ins and vandalism, and engage in community policing. PS3 officers can be brought online more quickly than police officers and provide crime prevention, deterrence, and investigatory assistance.
But the real way we’ll pull out of this spiral is by finding the humanity in one another and the comfort and sense of belonging that comes from community. I’ve been leaning into such opportunities, with neighbors, friends, family, and our broader community, and trying to foster such opportunities in my role as commissioner. And I hope you get the opportunity to do so as well.
In your service,
As Multnomah County considers our next budget, I want to hear from you. What are your top concerns and priorities? At the top of my list are addressing homelessness and gun violence. But what are your priorities and the strategies and tactics you want funded?
Take a moment to fill out my survey here. The information you share will help inform my priorities as we move forward.
You can learn more about the timeline for our budget, community engagement opportunities, and more here.
In the Community
In early April, I attended two events that I want to reflect on: Take Back the Block and the mandated annual tour of our County’s jails.
Hosted by Oregon Walks and Multnomah County Health Department’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), Take Back the Block celebrated National Walking Day on April 6th. Gathering in-person at Gateway Discovery Park before embarking on a walk through the surrounding neighborhoods, we came together united by the belief that all pedestrians deserve safety while active in their communities and that our infrastructure must prioritize people. During the walk, Ashton Simpson, Oregon Walks’ Executive Director, and Charlene McGee, Multco’s REACH Director, shared pedestrian safety tips and talked about the importance of walking as a means of strengthening community. One of the reasons I ran for public office was my frustration at the lack of safe sidewalks in my east Portland neighborhood. It is important to understand ways to stay safe as a pedestrian, but more importantly we need to build safety into the way we design road infrastructure.
Additionally, I toured the Inverness Jail and the new Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office training facility - the latter of which is used for on-going classroom and scenario-based training for deputies who need to maintain their certification, as well as a location for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education. The tour was part of a requirement of our board to oversee the conditions of our jails and understand the level of care given to the adults in custody. We spoke with corrections deputies responsible for our jail programs, such as the law library, visitation, faith-based, and mentorship programs. We also met with members of the Corrections Health team and thanked them for their efforts during the difficult last two years as they labored to limit and treat COVID-19 in our jails.
After the release of long-awaited 2020 census data, I asked the County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) teams to create new countywide maps that display race and ethnicity, poverty, and crime data.
We’ve received the first batch of maps including those that show the percentage of each racial and ethnic category in the census questionnaire and others that display rates of poverty among the county’s census tracts.
You can explore this interactive map of the county district borders to get a sense of where my district is located on these new countywide maps. Once you’ve located District 3, you’ll notice that higher percentages of people of color, especially Asian, Black, and Latinx residents, live in my district compared to other areas of our county. Additionally, we see from poverty data maps that a higher percentage of people experiencing poverty live scattered throughout the county, but concentrate around 82nd, 122nd, and the I-205 corridor.
I asked for these maps to be created because I wanted an up-to-date understanding of who I represent and how I can better serve them. I am committed to fighting for investments in east Portland and for the communities who make up these census tracts.