PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is leaning on her political record and relationships to convince voters to elect her for a second term on Portland City Council.
The former bookseller and publisher came from out of nowhere in 2016 to oust incumbent City Council member Steve Novick. She faced seven challengers in her May primary, including former Portland Mayor Sam Adams. Eudaly failed to get more than 50% of the vote, prompting a runoff with Mapps.
KOIN 6 News spoke with both Eudaly and Mapps via Zoom, asking them about their priorities and the issues facing Portland. Answers have been edited for space and clarity.
What are some of your accomplishments from your first term?
Eudaly: The Relocation Assistance Ordinance, which I passed in my first 30 days in office. It’s the strongest anti-displacement measure the city has passed since I’ve been on council and I’ve proceeded to deliver the strongest protections to Portland renters since World War 2. It’s the issue that I ran on and the issue that I won on and it’s helped stabilize tens of thousands of vulnerable renters across our city and stem the tide of people becoming cost-burdened, displaced, and homeless. I’m also really pleased about the advances that I’ve been able to make in the realm of carbon emissions and air quality. I helped craft and pass the strongest renewables resolution in the country back in 2017. I’m also the commissioner in charge of PBOT and I just absolutely love that assignment. I’ve overseen a number of new innovative projects, the most notable probably being the Rose Lane Project which aims to get busses unstuck from traffic so that transit can become a more reliable and more attractive option to Portlanders across the city.
You have a lot of endorsements from many organizations and public officials. One you don’t have is the Portland Police Association, which has endorsed your opponent. Are you concerned about that?
Eudaly: I have never sought their endorsement and have actually taken a pledge to never accept money from the police union. My only concern is that my opponent is endorsed by the police union. The police union has been our biggest obstacle to any change with the police bureau and what I’ve come to realize is that past city councils have bargained away so much of our rights and our ability to regulate that bureau that we have been unable to achieve a lot of the reforms and policy solutions that we’ve been trying to. So I don’t believe that anyone who poses a threat to the police union’s agenda or power would receive their endorsement, and I think it’s critical that someone like me is there working with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and community leaders and advocates across the region to deliver the kind of change to our public safety and policing system that the public is absolutely demanding right now.
What kinds of reforms would you like to see to the police bureau?
Eudaly: We need to take a really hard look at what we want police to do for us, and we also need to start dealing with a lot of the social ills that we have neglected and have ended up having to be handled by police and those are challenges like homelessness, people experiencing mental health crisis, people experiencing addiction. I support Commissioner Hardesty’s Portland Street Response pilot which hopefully will be rolling out soon. The police union has been a huge impediment to us implementing that program, which all of council supported. Those teams will respond to non-life threatening situations where people are on the street in crisis. I’m also looking at what it would take to move traffic enforcement from the police bureau to PBOT. There are some instances where we will need a sworn officer with the right to pull someone over who is recklessly endangering the public. But with many, many traffic enforcement issues we don’t need that kind of intervention and it can lead to community harm and tragedy as we’ve seen across the country.
You’ve been vocally opposed to the presence of federal officers over the summer. How do you feel the demonstrations should be handled and has the situation improved at all since the federal officers stepped back?
Eudaly: The arrival of the federal officers really escalated the tensions between protesters and police. While it seems that they have ratcheted down somewhat, we’ve still seen some really disturbing behavior from the Portland police. Their current methods are clearly not working and have resulted in the indiscriminate use of teargas and other less lethal munitions that have caused grave harm to not just protesters, but bystanders and people simply trying to live in their homes in downtown Portland and in our neighborhoods. We received a record number of emails and an outpouring of testimony about reducing the police budget. And we have heard time and time again from neighborhood residents that they are not afraid of the protesters, they are afraid of the police. So something is going very wrong. I don’t have the ultimate answer for how this needs to be handled. I just want to encourage people to continue to make a distinction between people exercising their constitutional rights and committing actual crimes, and to keep the focus where it belongs which is on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
We’re going on eight months since COVID-19 hit the U.S. More than 20 businesses have permanently closed just in downtown Portland. How should the city balance health effects and economic concerns?
Eudaly: It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch the devastation in our small business community. We’re taking a regional approach to the reopening in the tri-county area so we have to abide by those rules. I fought really hard for CARES dollars relief to go to small businesses and won, I think it was $15 million for small business relief, with $2.5 million earmarked for our Phase 3 businesses who are the first to close, they’ll be the last to reopen. Many of them are just keystone species in our economy like live music venues. I’m really hoping for another round of federal assistance. It’s just unconscionable to me that the president would hold that relief hostage until after the election with millions and millions of people suffering across the country. Another way that we’re working with businesses is through our Healthy Business Program and PBOT … where we’ve issued free permits to businesses that want to take over parking spaces in front of their restaurants or cafes and have expanded outdoor seating or quick pickup, or business districts that want to close streets and create public plazas so that they can conduct their business and maintain safe social distancing. That program has really been a boon to our food and beverage industry.
Are you concerned about the economic impacts of COVID-19 hurting the city’s tax revenue?
Eudaly: I couldn’t not be concerned about that and be in the position I’m in. For example, PBOT relies heavily on specific funding streams like the gas tax and parking revenue. We’ll take a hit on our general fund dollars, but the hit to the gas tax and parking revenue in the early days of COVID was from 50-99%. So my focus with my bureaus was to instantly implement cost-saving measures, eliminate all unnecessary spending. At PBOT and Civic Life, we’ve been able to maintain all our essential programs and not have to cut jobs in this fiscal year. The recovery is going to take longer and that’s gonna be really challenging to navigate in the coming months and years.