Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week I spoke with a group of students about my role as a County Commissioner. I listed some of the services the county provides, and it is a long (and sometimes random) list: we provide shelters to our homeless neighbors and behavioral health services; we run our libraries, youth programs, senior services, health clinics, elections, property tax collections, animal services and more; we oversee the jails, restaurant inspections, and supervise those on parole and probation; our deputy sheriffs provide public safety to many areas of our community; we also are in charge of four downtown bridges and two others across the Willamette. It is a lot. And as with any organization, it takes a team.
Recognizing the team aspect of our work is core to my work as an elected leader. Because the fact is the work we do is carried out by our public employees and the partners we contract with. And they matter. A lot! They are doing the work on the ground.
After the past 2+ years of COVID, social justice protests, violence, and more, I’ve heard employees and managers at the county talk about the toll it has all taken on staff, and on our front line employees in particular. Our librarians, our health clinic workers, our sheriff deputies and corrections deputies, our parole and probation staff - they have been through it. Facing COVID, providing services as frustrations mounted, dealing with a surge of behavioral health issues and violence.
That’s why my office led an effort to show some of our front line staff just how much we appreciate them - with personalized posters delivered to our 30+ library branches and health clinics, signed by all the members of the county board and our staff. I personally delivered several and met with employees to thank them for their service during these challenging times. I’ve also written notes to employees and visited other worksites.
Now, I recognize that these gestures of appreciation are not enough. But saying thanks sends a message that we see you and recognize the challenges you’ve faced and the work you’ve continued to do. That acknowledgment extends beyond our libraries and clinics, and to all of our employees: We see you. We appreciate you. We thank you for your service to our community. We are better for your efforts.
If you visit a library or health clinic, or interact with any public employee, I hope you’ll share your appreciation as well. Because it takes a team.
Preschool for All Should be a Model for the Nation
Preschool for All is the largest, most impactful single investment our community has ever made in the wellbeing of our children. The model we’ve adopted of providing universal, free preschool, while raising wages and supporting diverse preschool programs, could serve as a model for a nationwide preschool system.
On October 7th from 9-10:30am I’ll be speaking on a panel with U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Andrea Paluso, Co-Director of the Child Care for Every Family Network, and Dr. Connie Ozawa, professor at Portland State University, about preschool education. The event is free for attendees, who can watch in person or online. Registration and additional details can be found here. I hope you’ll join us!
In the Community
I don't know a single family that hasn't been touched by addiction. This month, I shared my story of addiction at 4D Recovery’s Hands Across the Bridge celebration, where we recognized the prevalence of addiction, de-stigmatized the shame of it, & renewed our commitment to treating it. This beautiful and impactful event was punctuated by the linking of arms across the Columbia River, demonstrating the strength of us coming together to support one another.
Veterans often have trouble reentering society and dealing with the traumas of their service. That’s why I attended Transition Project’s Veterans Hiring Fair and Stand Down event, which connects veterans with employment opportunities and the services they need to get the support they deserve. It was wonderful to talk to our veterans and thank them for their service to our country.
I also visited downtown Portland to talk to business owners, managers and employees about the challenges they are facing and the opportunities ahead. While downtown has had its ups and downs, things are looking up. I did my back to school shopping downtown and encourage others to visit and support our downtown businesses. I know that additional work and cooperation to address homelessness, behavioral health, and public safety issues is key, but that the work is doable. I want to thank the Downtown Portland Clean and Safe team for their insights and for helping facilitate this wonderful tour.
As a proud Latina, I was honored to kick off Latine and Hispanic Heritage Month with a number of proclamations, celebrations and events that recognize the strength, resilience, contributions, and richness of our Latine communities. I hope you’ll find the time to discuss these contributions and celebrate as well.
I also stopped by Bienestar la Familia (The Wellbeing of the Family), which offers culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate services focusing on Multnomah County's growing Latino Community, other diverse groups, and the community at large. Every year Bienestar provides eviction prevention assistance, mental health resources, healthcare, & access to healthy food & financial relief to thousands of families in our community every year. I visited Bienestar in the Cully neighborhood to discuss their work and say thanks. And I attended the grand opening of IRCO’s new Africa House, which serves 5,000 African immigrants and refugees every year.
Lastly, I spent a whirlwind Saturday in east Portland, attending the wonderful Festival of Nations, which showcases the diversity of east Portland, and riding TriMet’s new FX-2 bus rapid transit line along Division Street. This new line will speed commutes and connect the two largest libraries in Multnomah County - our central library downtown and the soon to be under construction East County branch in Gresham! It was a fantastic day to see friends and be an east Portlander!
For this month’s constituent spotlight, we spoke with volunteer extraordinaire Emily Coleman! Powered by our community’s spirit of service, Emily helps eager people roll up their sleeves to solve social problems, such as homelessness, food insecurity, environmental threats, and more. Emily is the volunteer coordinator for Transition Projects, a service provider and shelter operator for unhoused residents here in Multnomah County, a job that taps into her ability to coordinate a robust network of volunteers and her love of serving her community.
Check out our conversation to learn more about Transition Projects, the pivotal role of its volunteers, and how you can lend a helping hand. Thank you, Emily, for all you do to support our community! You can find the full interview here.