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PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The three most active candidates for Portland City Council Position 3 engaged in a surprisingly low-key debate before the City Club of Portland on Thursday, April 7.

Incumbent Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty squared off against U.S. administrative law judge Vadim Mozyrsky and attorney and technology owner Rene Gonzalez. Recent polls show Portland voters overwhelmingly believe the city is headed in the wrong direction and are disappointed in the response of elected officials to issues like crime and homelessness. One showed only 25% support for Hardesty, with most voters undecided.

Although Mozyrsky and Gonzalez described Portland as being a city in crisis during their opening and closing statements, they did not directly attack Hardesty during the rest of the debate, however, allowing her to largely cite her accomplishments on the City Council without challenge. They included the creation of the Portland Street Response program as an alternative the police for many 911 calls, which she cited several times.

Responding primarily to questions from Wells Fargo Public Affairs Vice President Chabre Vickers, the three candidates tended to agree on most issues. For example, Hardesty, Mozyrsky and Gonzalez all said they supported hiring more police. They agreed all governments must work together and do more to end the homeless crisis by providing more shelters and services. And they all expressed support for the concepts to change Portland’s form of government being proposed by the Charter Review Commission that will appear on the November 2020 ballot.

Just about the only clash happened when Gonzales told Hardesty that some Portlanders see her as the face of the “defund the police movement.” Hardesty pushed through a $15 million Portland Police Bureau budget cut in 2015 that eliminated the Gun Violence Reduction Team.

Although shootings have spiked since then, Hardesty responded by saying the cut freed up 40 officers for patrol duties. The issue did not come up again until Mozyrsky’s closing statement, when he said the council has since voted to replace the team.

Mozyrsky, a member of the Charter Review Commission, tried to challenge Hardesty after she supported the reform proposals, including hiring a professional city manager to oversee all city bureaus. He said Hardesty supported the current system of having council members oversee bureaus assigned by the mayor at an April 2021 commission meeting. Hardesty chose not to respond.

Several controversies were not even raised during the debate. They included the $16,000 default judgment imposed on Hardesty by a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge, the recent audit criticizing the Portland Clean Energy Fund that Hardesty championed for lacking fiscal safeguards, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s executive order banning homeless camping along busy streets, neighborhood opposition to some of the six Safe Rest Villages that Commissioner Dan Ryan is trying to establish throughout the city, and the initiative petition supported by People for People to redirect 75% of the voter-approved Metro supportive services measure to emergency shelters.

Gonzales did say that he favors enforcing prohibitions on outdoor camping, which the petition would theoretically allow.

Although there are a total of 11 candidates in the race, Hardesty, Gonzalez and Mozyrsky are the only ones participating in the city’s Small Donor Elections public matching campaign finance program. As of the day of the debate, Hardesty and Gonzalez were virtually tied in fundraising. Hardesty had raised $80,617 in small donations and qualified for $199,970 in city funds for a total of $280,587.

Gonzalez had raised $109,882 in small contributions and qualified for $169,308 in city funds for a total of $279,190.

Mozyrsky was in third place with $77,202 in small donations and $119,970 in matching city funds for a total of $209,120. No other candidate had raised more than $2,285, according to state election records.

Hardesty was first elected to the council in the November 2018 election when she defeated former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith with 61.8% of the vote. The two finished first and second in the May primary election but neither received more than 50% of the vote to win it outright. The seat had previously been held by former Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who did not run for reelection.

COMMISSIONER POSITION NO. 3

Candidate: Jo Ann Hardesty (incumbent)

Occupation: City commissioner
Prior public experience: Policy analyst for Multnomah County chair; executive director, Oregon Action; president, Hardesty Consulting; legislator, Oregon House of Representatives
Website: JoAnnforPortland.com
Contributions/matches to date: $280,587

Candidate: Peggy Sue Owens

Occupation: Administrator, D&R Glazing
Prior public experience: None
Website: None
Contributions to date: None reported

Candidate: Vadim Mozyrsky

Occupation: U.S. administrative law judge
Public experience: Member, Portland Charter Commission, Citizen Review Commission, Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing, Portland Commission on Disability; supervisory attorney, senior policy adviser, senior attorney, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; court counsel, Republic of Palau; law clerk, U.S. District Court; board member, IRCO
Website: VoteVadim.com
Contributions/matches to date: $209,120

Candidate: Rene Gonzalez

Occupation: Attorney and technology company owner
Public experience: NA
Website: ReneforPortland.com
Contributions to date: $279,190

Candidate: Dale Hardt

Occupation: Not employed
Public experience: None
Website: None
Contributions to date: None reported

Candidate: Chad Leisey

Occupation: Branch manager/service manager
Public experience: Volunteer firefighter
Website: None
Contributions to date: None reported

Candidate: Jeffrey A. Wilebski

Occupation: Educator
Public experience: School administrator
Website: WilebskiforPortland.com
Contributions to date: $1,894

Candidate: Karellen Stephens

Occupation: Caregiver
Public experience: None
Website: None
Contributions to date: None reported

Candidate: Joseph Whitcomb

Occupation: Western Star Trucks/DTNA
Public experience: Chairman, Multnomah County Republican Party
Website: JosephWhitcomb.wixsite.comContributions to date: $2,285

Candidate: Kim Kasch

Occupation: Writer
Public experience: Board member, North Tabor Neighborhood Association
Website: KimKaschforPortland.com
Contributions to date: $1,445

Candidate: Ed Baker

Occupation: Not employed
Public experience: None
Website: None
Contributions to date: None reported