Dear Friends and Neighbors,
While cooler temperatures have now arrived, just a week and a half ago our region was in the midst of a triple digit heat wave. Learning lessons from the unprecedented June heat dome event, this time we were better prepared.
Multnomah County utilized the weather event advisory (WEA) system, sending messages to all cell phone users about the upcoming heat, local cooling centers, and the need to check in on vulnerable community members (and scaring many a cat in the process).
We opened up additional cooling facilities in areas that suffer from heat islands, such as southeast Portland, and solicited a record number of volunteers to staff the facilities and conduct outreach.
We improved communication and coordination with our partner agencies: TriMet provided free rides to and from cooling centers, firefighters knocked on doors to check on residents, 211info was better prepared for increased call volumes, and Portland Public Schools opened the new Kellogg Middle School as a cooling center.
While the temperatures didn’t reach the same levels as in the June heat dome event, our county has reported three potentially heat-related deaths thus far - each would be a tragedy, but this number is a major improvement from the scores of deaths suffered in June.
I visited the County’s Sunrise Cooling Center in Rockwood at the start of the heat wave, and saw the best of our community in action. The center, being operated by Cultivate Initiatives, a non-profit focused on serving east Portland, was active with people seeking a cool place to rest, and offered meals, hydration, and community. A showering truck was on hand to provide hygiene services for those in need, and those working and volunteering said about half the center’s visitors were living on the streets and the other half without air conditioning in their residences. Our four cooling centers served 653 individuals over the course of the heat wave - thanks to over 400 volunteers - and is a reminder of how we can pull together to look out for our most vulnerable.
Last Monday, I joined U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, state Representative Khanh Pham, and Verde Executive Director Candace Avalos to advocate for federal action on climate change and federal assistance to deal with it’s deadly impacts. We met in Lents, an area identified as a heat island and one that suffered a disproportionate share of deaths during the June heat dome event. It’s an area desperately in need of a more robust tree canopy - something my office and other partners are working to address - and other improvements that can reduce the heat island effect.
In these crises - COVID, heat waves, wildfires - there are things large and small we can each do. We can advocate for federal action on climate change, and knock on a neighbor's door to make sure they are staying cool. We can vote for the nation’s first-ever climate fund, and drive a friend to a COVID vaccine clinic. We can organize a cooling center for our neighborhood, or plant a tree.
Our actions can make a big difference. Let’s do something positive today.
In your service,
PS: The County released its preliminary after-action report on the June heat dome response. You can find that report on Multnomah County's website: /preliminary-review-excessive-heat... I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this report. Please email me at email@example.com.
Cleaning up our Communities
Last month my office partnered with the Division Midway Alliance and SOLVE Oregon to organize an east Portland clean up event. I was so moved to see the community turn out that day and the energy and time that volunteers invested in the Mill Park neighborhood. The event was a huge success--in total 35 amazing volunteers participated, picking up roughly 400 pounds of trash. Thank you again to volunteers, Division Midway Alliance, and SOLVE Oregon for their help.
We accomplished a lot during this clean-up event, but I know that more resources and government intervention will be needed in order to address the accumulation of trash in our communities. That’s why I am happy to share two announcements on this front.
First, starting August 20th, the City of Portland will start to bring online six new Clean Start teams, which will nearly double the number of clean-up teams from eight to 14. These teams will accelerate our efforts to clean up trash around the city, as well as help identify houseless encampments with the highest risk assessment to prioritize for clean-ups. Previously, these teams were split into 5 sectors across Portland. Our office has learned that the first sector that will be split using these additional resources will be inner and outer southeast Portland.
Second, we have confirmed that the City of Portland has received $2 million from the State of Oregon to remove trash, litter, and graffiti along state highways and freeways, such as I-84 and I-205.
So many in our community are working to clean up our neighborhoods. In June, I met with the founder of Adopt One Block, a local nonprofit that provides clean up supplies for those willing to commit to keeping a block clean of garbage and debris. To date, 4,100 people have signed up to keep 4,700 blocks in Multnomah County clean.
After our clean-up event in the Division Midway district, I noticed the street corners and sidewalks looking more vibrant than the day before. I am hopeful that with the influx of these resources and volunteer efforts throughout our community we will similarly improve the conditions of our freeway entrances, public spaces, and neighborhoods.
East Portland Gun Violence
Last week I joined many east Portland residents to hear an update from the Portland Police Bureau on the surge in gun violence we’ve seen throughout our community. Over the past year we’ve seen gun violence take a terrible toll, and my family has experienced it first-hand: my Hazelwood neighborhood has seen 111 shootings over the last year, including shootings just outside our home.
The police bureau is working to address this gun violence crisis using tools like better community policing and enhanced coordination between law enforcement and community partners. But we know that preventing gun violence requires a holistic approach. That’s why I was proud to champion County investments in gun violence prevention and intervention programs that will strengthen our community’s capacity to provide critical life coaching, mentorship, and other resources that are proven to prevent and stop acts of violence.
Census Data & Redistricting Feedback
Earlier this month, important data from the 2020 census was released. Over the last ten years, we saw Oregon’s population grow by 10.6%, and here in Multnomah County we added more than 80,000 new residents, bringing our county’s population to 815,428.
Now that the census data has been released, County Auditor Jennifer McGuirk is beginning the process of redistricting the county’s four commission district boundaries. Redistricting is an important action, locally and statewide, that allows us to ensure that all of our communities are adequately represented on the Multnomah County Board, in the Oregon legislature, and in the U.S. Congress.
The Auditor is soliciting feedback from community members about the county redistricting process. Please click here to learn more and provide your input.