Gov. Tina Kotek announced today that she and the CEO of one the city’s largest employers, Dan McMillan of The Standard, are forming a public-private partnership to help get Portland back on its feet.
“Downtown Portland has faced an onslaught of challenges in recent years that have tarnished some of the characteristics that people love about Oregon’s largest city,” Kotek said.
In an interview, the governor explained that she hears a refrain when she travels around the state: Every city has pressing needs, but as goes Portland, so goes Oregon.
Kotek says her determination to address some of the city’s most pressing problems should not be seen as criticism of elected officials in the city of Portland or Multnomah County but, rather, a recognition of Portland’s importance to the region and a need to bring greater focus and urgency to finding solutions.
“We are creating a place to have critical conversations about next steps,” Kotek said.
Many of the conversations she’s had with business leaders on the campaign trail and since taking office in January have convinced her that the best approach is a tightly focused public-private effort, hence her partnership with McMillan, whose company is headquartered downtown and employs more than 3,000 people.
“We want to get everybody in one spot, and not just have conversations, but take action,” Kotek said.
What such action might look like remains to be seen. Kotek says her office will contribute staff time—including her own—and she expects Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson to be involved. She expects business leaders to contribute staff time and resources, too.
“This won’t be performative,” Kotek says. “We will focus on key issues.”
The new task force will determine whether that means new state money, additional police, or other tangible measures, Kotek said.
The new group will include 20 or 25 members and subcommittees focused on “vision & value, clean streets, crime & vandalism, unsheltered homelessness, and tax competitiveness,” Kotek said. It will start meeting Aug. 22 and deliver a preliminary plan at the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit in December.
“We are thankful to have a strong and willing partner in Gov. Kotek working with the business community, local officials and nonprofit leaders to create actionable steps to ensure downtown Portland’s future prosperity,” The Standard’s McMillan said. “We’re gradually seeing increased foot traffic, a decrease in property crime and boarded windows coming down. It’s time to seize the moment and write the next chapter for our beloved city, together.”