PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Julia Brim-Edwards is a long-time member of the Portland School Board and is now running for Multnomah County Commissioner in District Three after the position was vacated by Jessica Vega-Pederson when she was elected as commission chair.
District Three is in Southeast Portland, roughly between Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Southeast 148th.
Brim-Edwards, who is also a former Nike executive, says she has a 30-year track record as a community and business leader “basically pulling people together to create solutions and getting things done,” which she hopes to bring to the county position.
“I’m from east Portland, I grew up here, I went to public schools, and I see that we have really big challenges related to homelessness, access to mental health services, drug treatment and also our neighborhoods are less safe,” Brim-Edwards told KOIN 6 News.
The candidate says she’s “not at all” satisfied with the county’s response to the homeless crisis.
“The county needs to take immediate effective action and the fact that we have thousands of people living on the streets without basic services, without a path to shelter or to permanent supportive housing is completely unacceptable and it’s a humanitarian crisis. It’s heartbreaking for the individuals who are in that situation and also for the neighborhoods and the community in which they’re living,” Brimm-Edwards said.
“As a county commissioner, I’m really going to push for more immediate, urgent action to end street camping, help move those individuals into shelters where they’re safe, they get stabilized and get on a path to permanent supportive housing.”
Besides addressing the homeless crisis, Brim-Edwards says she’ll also work to combat crime if elected as county commissioner.
“In District Three, there are very high levels of crime and gun violence and not only in our neighborhoods but also local businesses struggling with vandalism and crime,” Brim-Edwards said. “I’m going to be a champion and advocate for more resources, both in terms of law enforcement so they have adequate staffing — people call 911, they actually respond in a timely way– but that also the district attorney has resources in order to be able to investigate and prosecute those who have committed crimes, those who have engaged in gun violence.”
Reflecting on her role as a Portland Public Schools board member, the commissioner hopeful said the board has focused on helping students academically, socially and mentally, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s heartbreaking, the impact the pandemic had on our students both academically and their social, emotional health not being around other students and their peers,” Brim-Edwards said.
“So, as a school district, we have focused resources on sort of two main places. One, helping students catch up – whether that’s adding additional resources into the school year, the school day, or adding some additional summer programming so students can get that extra boost and acceleration academically,” Brim-Edwards explained. “And the second thing is, we’ve added social workers, counselors, mental health professionals to really provide support to students based on the social isolation being out of school for a long period of time and the trauma that impacted lots of our students – they may have lost family members due to COVID.”
Brim-Edwards says there are approximately 46,000 students enrolled in Portland public schools after the district saw enrollment decline by more than 1,000 students and notes there needs to be outreach to parents to increase enrollment.
As the board works on the schools’ budget process, she says while there may be some “reductions,” she does not expect drastic budget cuts.
“We may have teachers who lose their positions in a particular school but we expect that they’ll be deployed to other schools. There probably will be reduction in the number of teachers because we have fewer students, but we’ll still have smaller class sizes and it’s unlikely that those teachers will lose their jobs, they will probably get a different assignment.”