Portland mayoral candidates make their case on debate stage


Three candidates participated in the debate

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three of Portland’s many mayoral candidates took the debate stage on Wednesday morning.

It was a civil mayoral debate where the top three candidates took on hot issues Portland is facing. Portlanders would likely recognize current Mayor Ted Wheeler, as well as Sarah Iannarone who ran against him in 2016. A new face, however, is Ozzie Gonzalez — an architect originally from California who has now lived in Portland for over a decade.

The first topic tackled: homelessness. Mayor Wheeler shared his success over the last three years with statistics on preventative services, the expanded shelter system and the amount of people moved off the streets.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler during a debate on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. (KOIN)

“Last year, 7,000 people received preventative services,” said Wheeler. “We moved 6,000 people off the streets, 8,000 were able to participate in our expanded shelter system and we’ve made huge commitment to supportive housing.”

Iannarone spoke about wasted police time and millions of dollars on sweeps. She said Portland lacks shelter space and that she would like to legalize things like car camping.

“We need to deal with the mental health crisis,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re not criminalizing people unnecessarily and make sure we’re not wasting precious money that could be spent on housing and services sweeping the homeless.”

Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone during a debate on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. (KOIN)

Gonzalez said he’s looking for an intervention-centered approach to lift people up.

“We need to have deliberate intentions for pop-up solutions,” said Gonzalez. “Because this is an emergency and this isn’t going to be an occupiable building that takes two years to build.”

Another hot topic was transportation and traffic. Mayor Wheeler said an increase in single-occupancy drivers and poor public transit are to blame. He’s suggesting TriMet should no longer be a separate entity because they aren’t meeting Portland’s commuting needs.

Gonzalez agreed TriMet is lacking — but said it’s lazy to blame it on drivers. He said the city needs to invest and expand beyond bikes and buses.

Portland mayoral candidate Ozzie Gonzalez during a debate on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. (KOIN)

Iannarone said there’s too many quick and dirty solution such as auxillory lanes. She stressed there needs to be a regional and statewide plan implemented to move freight faster.

Other topics like jobs, wages, industry, innovation and charter government also came into play during the debate. Each candidate finished out the morning by saying they should be the last one standing.

Fellow candidate Teressa Raiford was expected at the debate but did not appear. Her office stated that due to an alleged attack on commissioner Joann Hardesty over the weekend and the “threat of anti-black violence,” they made the decision to not attend the forum.

The debate took place at the Holiday Inn near the Portland International Airport on Northeast Columbia Boulevard. Portland’s mayoral election will be held on May 19.

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