PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Voters will soon decide whether to grant Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly a second term, or elect her challenger, Mingus Mapps. Eudaly failed to win more than 50% of the vote in the May primary, a crowded race that included former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, prompting a runoff.
KOIN 6 News spoke with Eudaly and Mapps via Zoom, asking them about their priorities and the issues facing Portland. Answers have been edited for space and clarity.
Mingus Mapps grew up in the San Francisco Bay area but spent his summers with family in Portland. He graduated from Reed College in 1990 and has split his career between academics – teaching on issues of urban politics and race at places like Cornell University and Portland State University – and public service. He has worked in the Multnomah County Chair’s office, Portland Public School’s Governmental Relations office, and most recently as a program coordinator for the City of Portland.
Mapps has an ambitious list of priorities, including addressing homelessness, affordable housing, police reform, and charter reform.
Portland has been dealing with a homeless crisis for a long time. What will you do differently?
Mapps: We have to do a surge right now to get people off the streets and into safe, socially-distanced housing situations. I think we need to do that this winter and then, moving to the long term, I think we really need to focus on getting folks who are chronically houseless inside and connected to care. According to our best estimates we have about 4,000 Portlanders who actually sleep on the streets every night. Let’s target 4,000 of the new affordable housing units that we’re bringing online to our most vulnerable citizens and then let’s make sure that those 4,000 housing units are connected to social services, so we can actually bring people inside and then also give them a doctor’s appointment too so they can stay inside and begin the process of healing. We are teed up to get this done. We have a new bond out there that gets us dollars for new affordable housing and we have a new pot of money for social services. So really it’s a matter of focus and follow through, and also priorities.
What about affordable housing and renters?
Mapps: I’m deeply concerned about renters being bullied by bad landlords. I’m concerned about every Portlander perhaps losing their housing during this economic shutdown. That’s why I’m pushing City Council to put every dollar that we possibly can into emergency rental assistance, that way no Portlander loses their housing during this crisis. And I also will support extending the eviction moratorium until our economy recovers.
Let’s talk about COVID-19’s impact on the economy. Are you concerned the city will face a revenue shortfall and struggle to pay for services like public safety, maintenance, parks, etc.?
Mapps: We are facing a revenue shortfall and frankly our next city council is going to be facing a period of austerity. We’re gonna have fewer dollars but greater needs. That’s why I think really focusing on what our core priorities are is really important. I want to make sure that we maintain the basic safety and health of every Portlander. I don’t want to see anyone lose their housing because of this. I don’t want to see anyone lose their property because of this. I think it’s incredibly important that we work with the business community to make sure that they can reinvent their business model so they can get back into the business of doing the work that they love. Then we’re gonna have to really budget the dollars that we have effectively. There will be budget cuts in the next budget cycle. I pledge to you to do everything that we can to make sure that we preserve services … I don’t expect any raises anytime soon. I suspect that we will have cuts to management in City Hall too. And some projects which are urgently important might get delayed for a year or two.
What are your views on police reform?
Mapps: As an African American dad, I really have skin in the game right here. That’s why I’m calling on the police to stop the use of racist policing tactics like chokeholds. I also think we need to come together as a community to develop a meaningful approach to independent police review so we can hold our cops accountable when things go wrong. The (Portland Police Association) endorsed me. I appreciate their support. It’s also the case that we don’t always agree on everything and indeed one of the reasons why I think it’s important to have an open dialogue with the police union is to begin discussions about how we can begin to reinvent policing. I think there’s more common ground there than people realize. I think we need to continue to work for things like nonviolent and non-racist police practices.
How do you feel about the way demonstrations against police and racism have been handled so far and what, if anything, would you do differently?
Mapps: I think we need to make a distinction between peaceful protesters and folks who engage in violence. To everyone out there protesting peacefully on behalf of race and civil rights, I want to thank you. As a dad of two brown boys, your support means the world to me and my family. And to folks who go to protests and commit acts of violence or vandalism, I want to ask you to please stop. Burning a building or throwing a rock does not make me or my children more free. Indeed it does the opposite. Violence feeds racism. That’s one of the reasons Martin Luther King not only opposed racism but he also practiced the politics of nonviolence. I think that’s the only way to dismantle the scourge of racism that we’re currently struggling with. That principle of embracing nonviolence extends even to the police department. I want to thank all the men and women who work everyday to keep us safe. At the same time, I think it’s time for police to stop using rubber bullets, stop using tear gas, and change their approach to managing protests. Police intervention should deescalate tensions and not make things worse.
Are there any other issues you wanted to address?
Mapps: One of the things I will push hard on in City Hall is to get us to change the way that we organize our government. Portland is unique in that we have a commission form of government. Our members of city council don’t just vote on budgets, they’re also the chief operating officers for individual city bureaus. Which really means that we have five mayors. We have a mayor for the police, a mayor for the fire department, a mayor for civic life, so on and so forth. We have five mayors, often not working together …. That’s one of the reasons that Portland is doing such a bad job at managing problems. Our form of government is literally designed to prevent coordination between different city bureaus. That’s why we need to move toward a city manager form of government.