Nick's Mid-Year Report
July 10, 2018
I write to update you on the first six months of 2018.
It has been a busy year: my re-election campaign, a new budget, progress on affordable housing, transitions for the arts, and continued threats to vulnerable communities by the federal government.
In addition to my day job as a City Commissioner, I am continuing my cancer treatment. I am grateful for my outstanding medical team – doctors and nurses at OHSU, and naturopaths in my neighborhood. But my loving and supportive family and friends are the best medicine!
In May, after nine months on the campaign trail, I was re-elected to serve another four-year term. Public service is my passion, and I’m deeply grateful for this vote of confidence. It is an honor to serve on City Council and to represent all Portlanders.
A New Budget
Our 2018-19 budget invests in homelessness and affordable homes, safe streets, basic infrastructure, community policing, older adults, and small businesses.
Council increased the business license tax from 2.2% to 2.6%, to fund improved community policing and expanded homeless services. And we kept a promise to small business owners, raising the business owners’ compensation deduction to $125,000 of net income.
We also continued to support small businesses in East Portland, permanently funding the highly-successful Catalytic Investment Initiative run by Venture Portland.
The budget includes funding for new police officers, advancing our shared commitment to community policing – freeing up time for officers to stop “chasing the radio” and get out of their cars and into the community.
Utility Financial Assistance
During Portland’s housing crisis, some of our neighbors need extra help paying their utility bill. We’ve offered struggling families and older adults utility discounts since 1995, but with one catch – you needed a water meter to qualify. Because many apartment buildings have a shared meter, renters were left out.
After much research and planning, led by my former Water Bureau liaison Liam Frost, we developed a handful of new tools to help cost-burdened renters stay in their homes.
Housing for All
Affordable housing is the reason I first ran for City Council, and it continues to be my highest priority. Council has taken important steps to address the housing crisis this year.
We dedicated $2 million to fund supportive housing services, which will help us meet our goal of 2,000 new units by 2027.
We adopted permanent renter relocation assistance, building on the protections championed by Commissioner Eudaly last year.
We waived development fees for constructing tiny homes and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), boosting our supply of affordable housing.
And we required short-term rental companies and visitors to Portland to pay their fair share by increasing the per-night booking fee to $4 and dedicating the revenue to affordable housing.
Arts and Culture
I’m honored to serve as the City’s Arts Commissioner and as Council liaison to the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).
Portland’s celebrated creative economy is at a crossroads. Rapid growth and the housing crisis threaten to displace artists and arts organizations.
In February, Council adopted a bold set of recommendations to protect and expand affordable arts spaces. Our goal is simple: to support the arts because they’re important to our local economy and our brand, they inspire us, and they make our community special.
In January, I appointed a new Creative Laureate, Subashini “Suba” Ganesan. Established in 2012, the Creative Laureate serves as the official ambassador to Portland’s creative community.
Last year, Mayor Wheeler and I asked Auditor Mary Hull Caballero to conduct the first-ever review of our partnership with RACC. The timing was good – RACC is conducting a national search for a new Executive Director, and the City and RACC are renegotiating their contract. The Auditor made common-sense recommendations – which we’re already implementing – to strengthen oversight and increase accountability of our public investments.
Protecting Water, Salmon, and the Environment
My bureaus, Environmental Services and Water, are committed to making Portland a healthier, more sustainable city.
Work at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge will restore habitat for salmon. By removing a small culvert, salmon will return to Oaks Bottom for the first time in nearly 100 years!
We reached a major milestone in our ongoing “Poop to Power” effort – opening the City’s first natural gas fueling station. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, replace dirty diesel fuel with clean natural gas, and ultimately deliver a profit for ratepayers.
Council approved a new position at Prosper Portland to help turn brownfields into community assets.
And Mayor Wheeler and I continue to work with the community, as well as public and private parties, to clean up the Willamette River.
A More Welcoming City
When we remove barriers and support a more inclusive community, everyone wins.
This year, I launched a pilot program in my bureaus to provide opportunities and job experience for people with disabilities. We’re expanding the successful partnership with Project SEARCH in the coming year.
Last month, Council proudly renamed SW Stark Street in honor of gay rights leader Harvey Milk.
And we preserved funding for Elders in Action in the budget, so we can continue our partnership on the Age-Friendly Action Plan.
One death on our streets is too many. I am a strong supporter of Vision Zero and will continue prioritizing investments in safe streets, especially in East Portland. As part of that commitment, I supported lowering speed limits on residential streets to 20 MPH.
Transportation network companies (TNCs), like Uber and Lyft, have made it easier for people to get around town. That said, Uber in particular has a history of refusing to play by our rules. In April, they issued the City a formal apology and asked for a fresh start.
As Council renegotiates Uber’s operating agreement, I will continue to advocate for consumers and drivers, focusing on making sure TNC drivers are adequately insured. And recently, I proudly stood with TNC drivers and labor leaders to call for the creation of a TNC Wage Board, an oversight group to give drivers a voice in the workplace. Council approved a wage board in May.
Planning for Portland’s Future
Council finished two major planning processes: the Comprehensive Plan and the Central City 2035 Plan. Both plans are the result of years-long processes with extensive public input, staff work, and Council deliberations.
- Watching my son Chapin graduate from middle school. He’ll be attending Lincoln High School in the fall.
- Joining Portland Public Schools students at Roosevelt High School in a walkout supporting responsible gun control.
- Witnessing the swearing-in of Judge Adrienne Nelson to the Oregon State Supreme Court – the first African-American to serve on our state’s highest bench.
- Celebrating the 20th anniversary of White Bird, and the 25th anniversary of the Muslim Educational Trust.
- Participating on panels with Multnomah County Library to discuss what it means to be a “Sanctuary City” and KGW-TV to discuss trust in government.
- Receiving Community Partner Awards from Friends of Trees and Metropolitan Youth Symphony.
Former Mayor Vera Katz was a visionary leader who helped shape modern Portland. I admired the way she dealt with her illness, as a public official and as a private citizen.
Reverend Dr. W. G. “Will” Hardy was a model “servant leader,” dedicating a lifetime of service to our community. Pastor Hardy will always be remembered for his advocacy for vulnerable people.
We said goodbye to Amira Streeter, who is joining the Governor’s team as a Natural Resources Policy Advisor. Asena Lawrence will take over Amira’s role as Policy Director. And Mariana Garcia Medina will serve as our new Scheduler and Office Manager.
Everything we do at City Hall requires collaboration. Thank you for what you do to make Portland a special place. I am honored to serve on your City Council.
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