Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Antisocial behavior is on the rise everywhere. We see it in escalating gun violence, in reckless driving, and in horrific, hateful attacks on individuals, like the racist attack of an Asian family visiting Portland and the beating of two seniors downtown, one of whom tragically died.
These incidents - as well as other acts of aggression and anger, whether on an airplane, at a supermarket, or at a school board meeting - are unsettling and erode the sense of safety that is essential for a healthy community. If citizens feel unsafe, they may abandon our shared spaces and retreat into more solitary confines, furthering a detrimental cycle.
We must recognize that we have been through considerable trauma over the last several years: the MAX stabbings, white supremacist rallies, the illegal federal crackdown on protesters, COVID restrictions and deaths, gun violence, wild fires, and the deadly heat dome, not to mention the January 6th insurrection. These events (and others) have taken a major toll on our collective psyche.
We are stressed, and understandably so. And we are more likely to get angry, rude, and inconsiderate when we are overwhelmed. What’s worse, these behaviors are contagious. One study found that people who witness rudeness are three times less likely to help someone else. When those incidents are amplified on social media, where vitriol is already prevalent, it’s no wonder that we are witnessing a period where empathy is at a low point, and cynicism and indifference running high.
But we can turn things around. Social scientists say that the erosion of social expectations can be restored through the presence of people reestablishing those norms and expectations. We need to find grace and understanding, and assist those in need. A kindness too, is contagious; generosity can multiply; and the expectations (and reality) of safety, civility, and decorum can be restored.
Summer in our region offers so many opportunities for community engagement - from concerts and movies in the park to farmers markets, festivals, and street fairs. From next month’s Sunday Parkways in east Portland to bridge pedals, block parties, and events like Reclaiming Black Joy, a park-based, cultural activation, which occurs on the last Friday of the month at Dawson Park. Events like these allow us to gather together, re-establish our bonds, calm our spirits, and improve our community.
And there’s always the opportunity to stand with our diverse community, as I did when we gathered to denounce anti-Asian racism, and hate in all its forms. These acts of support and solidarity send an important message: all are welcome here, and we will look out for one another.
In your service,
We are in the midst of a blistering heat wave, and the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning lasting until Saturday evening. The hottest temperatures are expected in the late afternoon and early evening.
Multnomah County has opened four overnight cooling shelters and one daytime cooling center. The overnight shelters will remain open until Sunday morning. Two libraries are also remaining open until 9 pm through Saturday evening. Click here to learn more about up-to-date information on cooling centers, as well as other resources for beating the heat.
It is important to take care of yourself, those around you such as your family, friends and neighbors and pets during excessive heat. Simple precautions such as making sure you’re drinking enough water, wearing lightweight or loose-fitting clothing, and checking on elders and vulnerable neighbors throughout the day can be the difference between life and death during heat waves like this. Be sure to keep your pets well hydrated and off hot surfaces like asphalt and concrete during the hottest periods of the day.
Stay safe, stay hydrated, and check on those around you who may be vulnerable during this heat wave. You can find more tips on how to keep yourself and others safe during the heat here.
East Portland and East County Library Investments
Improvements to our library branches are underway, thanks to the investments made by voters in 2020!
On July 6th, we broke ground on the site of the new Library Operations Center in east Portland. Located at the former Safeway on SE Glisan and 122nd Ave, this operations center will be the beating heart of our county’s library system, processing books and storing program materials for the other libraries to access. The beautiful and sustainably-designed building will bring jobs to east Portland and activate an important commercial area in east Portland.
The Multnomah County Library has also secured a site for the new East County Flagship Library at the former Gresham City Hall Park and Ride. This large, expansive library will serve many residents living east of I-205, connecting them to resources, information, and community, and is located right off of light rail.
Lastly, we’ve kicked off refresh projects at Central Library to build an outdoor public space, expand accessibility, and renovate restrooms. Because of this construction project, Central Library will be closed to the public from August 1st-November 1st. Please consult the Multnomah County Library’s hours and locations page to find the closest, open library during Central Library’s closure.
In the Community
Shortly after the fourth of July holiday weekend, I joined Chair Deborah Kafoury, Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke and others to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Library Operations Center (see above). Located blocks from my house, this operations center will positively impact our community and the vibrant commercial corridor along SE 122nd Avenue. I am honored to turn the page (pun intended) on this exciting, new development in east Portland.
This month I also toured a downtown commercial building with fellow Multnomah County commissioner Susheela Jayapal that could be turned into affordable housing. Creating more housing is an absolute necessity for our region, and as the status of in-person work changes, there will be opportunities to repurpose buildings for housing. Doing so downtown would put people close to jobs, transit, and other amenities, while also adding residents to an area of our city that lacks them. I also met with the new owners of a hotel in northeast Portland that could similarly be turned into a shelter and/or affordable housing. Expanding our supply of affordable housing is the key to fixing our homelessness issue, and I’m excited and committed to working on these opportunities and others.
I also celebrated the opening of the Rockwood Village, which includes 224 units of affordable housing located in Gresham’s Rockwood neighborhood. Developed by Hacienda CDC and Community Development Partners (CDP), the development is designed to foster community and wellbeing with abundant gardening beds, public gathering spaces, and inclusive art and architecture. As my fellow Commissioner Lori Stegmann said in her remarks, “Rockwood is rising!”
Lastly, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge Community Task Force members at their 30th and final meeting. Representing 17 different community, business, and neighborhood organizations, these members worked hard to ensure that the seismically resilient Burnside Bridge would reflect the needs of Multnomah County residents and those who use the bridge. Thank you, members of the EQRB Community Task Force!
Greta Gutierrez is a librarian and manager at the Midland Library branch located in east Portland. She spoke with us for this month’s constituent spotlight to reflect on her work at two branches of our library system, how she became a librarian, and how she sees our libraries adapting to serve their community for decades to come, both figuratively and literally with capital bond dollars being put to use to restore many great branches and build a new east county flagship library. Greta finds great fulfillment in working with people, meeting them where they are, and seeing how best to assist. As a research librarian, Greta beams when she gets a chance to help someone learn more about their favorite hobby or interest, whether that be disc golf, micro-brewing, knitting, or cosplay–she’s seen it all! Greta is immensely proud to work at Midland (my local branch!), serve its diverse and multi-generational patrons, and be adaptive to the changes in our world today. Librarians are truly a treasure to our community. Thank you, Greta, for your service and for talking with us!
Check out our interview with Greta Gutierrez here.