February 20th, 2012 12:45 pm | by WW Staff News | Posted In: PDX Votes

The Mayoral Candidates on Poverty in Portland: What Can City Hall Do?

“What new focus and coordination will your administration bring to serve low-income residents, particularly the children and seniors living at or below or near the poverty line?”

The leading mayoral candidates—Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady and Jefferson Smith—got this question at a Feb. 16 forum sponsored by the Northwest Examiner at the Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center. The question was aimed at Northwest Portland specifically (Chapman Elementary, the candidates were told, has 32 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.) But the candidates took a broader view in their answers. Some excerpts follow.

HALES: First, we should celebrate what works…. One of the things I'm particularly proud of is the streetcar. I had Susan Hendricks who runs the Northwest Pilot Project, come up to me the other day say, "You, Charlie, you were working the streetcar I opposed it, because I thought it was just an amenity for yuppies.” But the people are nonprofit-served. We’re trying to get back into the workforce, we're trying to get back into the economy. The last thing they need is a car, when they're going to their first job, or they're going to their doctor's appointment. Sometimes they're even going to their parole officer on the streetcar. Everybody’s riding it. It isn't just a tool for yuppies.

We should make sure, first, that the transit system continues to be a public service, and serves everyone, and serves the whole community. And that our rates don't go up so high that seniors can't afford to ride it anymore.

BRADY: These are issues that cross neighborhoods. Let's not forget that there are 150,000 people east of 82nd that live in Portland—40 percent of our school children live there…. We have a city within a city in outer East Portland. This is an under-served, under-employed area that we as a city have to pay attention to. They deserve a legitimate seat at the table.

One of the things I hear from people in outer East Portland is very simple. They want bus service. They don't have enough lines. They're not running frequently enough. They can't get to work, they can't get to school. Seniors can't get out. We have to, as a community, prioritize discussions with Tri-Met to expand those lines for people across the city. I think it's a real opportunity for rapid bus transit to be experimented with in outer East Portland.

SMITH: I'm the only candidate on this dais who didn't openly criticize the Office of Equity proposal, because our city is changing, it's not getting lighter. We have to have an awareness of the progressivity of the tax system. That's why it's relevant, I think, I'm the only person this dais who did publicly support Measures 66 and 67 to increase the income tax on families earning over a quarter million dollars, and all businesses, increasing the $10 corporate minimum tax.

I have one objective on education that we can all get behind, I hope. And that is for this city, to set an objective to have the most robust set of summer enrichment programs of any major city in the country. More and more information is showing that’s the biggest driver in the achievement gap, between upper-income students and lower-income students. And I'm not proposing we take over the school system. But that's something we can do.


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