A (Kind of Long) Note From Your New Multnomah County Commissioner

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Three weeks ago, a group of us Americans from across the country were gathered on a nondescript plot of asphalt in Selma, Alabama. We were sandwiched between the Brown Chapel AME Church and the George Washington Carver Homes, a public housing project built seven decades ago. This was sacred ground.

We were on a tour with Selma foot soldier Joanne Bland. Where we stood at that very moment, she explained, was the spot where she, John Lewis, and hundreds of other Americans gathered on March 7, 1965 before marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge. They marched for the right to vote. After being brutally beaten on what would become known as Bloody Sunday, they marched again just days later. And again days after that. They marched until Congress passed the Civil Rights act of 1965, enshrining the right to vote for all Americans—the right guaranteed in our Constitution since 1870.

The right to vote. The right to choose who represents us. It is a sacred right—one that many Americans gave so much to secure and protect.

It is not lost on me that you did not vote for me to be your Commissioner.

I've been thinking a lot about this quirky designee process - Commissioners choosing who ought to take their place if they can't serve. It is why I’m writing to you today as your Commissioner, just one week into a role I hadn’t planned on having.

The people of District 2 deserve continuous representation on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. The designee process makes sure they do. But I've realized that the designee process goes beyond the continuity of function—it also means a continuity of the values from which the voters chose their Commissioner to govern. 

It was a coincidence that Commissioner Jayapal and I were both wearing our best burgundy when her/my/our staff convinced us to pose together. (Is it a coincidence we're both Scorpios?! ) But it is no coincidence that we have shared values—values I intend to uphold in my representation for North and Northeast Portland through this budget planning cycle. 

For many years, I've worked to support people, organizations and policies that promote a more equitable democracy. This simply means that those least represented in our past have the chance to lead our future, whether they are voters, candidates, or even ideas that make our society more just.

It is not quick work, as Joanne Bland and John Lewis knew so deeply. This kind of democracy takes time. 

It takes time to engage the kinds of voters that have every reason to think their voice won't matter. It takes time for new kinds of candidates to consider what it would mean to run for their families and their communities. It takes time to mount a campaign and raise the resources in our County’s complicated campaign finance rules. 

I think it's time well spent in the ongoing effort to build a more perfect union. I think it's time that the people of District 2 deserve. While we take that time, there is much to do here: 

  • Just a few weeks ago, Multnomah County’s Local Public Safety (LPSCC) Coordinating Council was awarded a $2 million federal grant over the next 3 years to advance a community safety project in District 2’s Cully neighborhood. The effort to secure this grant originated years ago through a series of community conversations in Cully where neighbors were seeking creative ways to address low-level crime without an over-reliance on law enforcement. The goals of this project are to advance community-driven approaches that improve community safety, facilitate access to needed services, and increase trust between residents, government, and law enforcement. We expect these federal dollars will be accepted by the Multnomah County Board later this month. My office looks forward to working with LPSCC and our lead community partner NAYA Family Center to set the planning and implementation of this grant up for success. 
  • Additionally, my office has been working with the City of Gresham and Gresham Police Department to implement a diversion pilot, inspired by the success of Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. This pilot aims to help people get on a path towards a better life, reduce recidivism and prevent crime by giving police options to divert residents away from arrest and jail time and into more effective and positive options.
  • Chair Vega Pederson has asked me to keep the transportation portfolio that Commissioner Jayapal has worked on since the beginning of this year. This includes the bridges across the Willamette, including Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge, the many road and culvert projects in unincorporated Multnomah County, and tolling and the revenue shortage facing our transportation agencies. I am eager to learn more about this complex and vital system that moves people around our region. 
  • The process of deliberating Multnomah County’s budget for the next fiscal year will be upon us soon, culminating in a vote in early June. District 2 residents deserve to have representation that has been fully engaged in the entirety of the upcoming budget process. My office will work to ensure there is broad community engagement and that we are funding a continuum of housing and service options for people experiencing homelessness. 

I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.

I invite you to join me for my swearing in on Thursday, November 16th at 9:30 a.m. inside the boardroom of the Multnomah Building at 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you, however briefly. It is an honor—a sacred one.