PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ozzie Gonzalez is trying to convince the people of Portland that the city needs new leadership.
Gonzalez is campaigning to become the first Latino mayor of Portland. He’s originally from Southern California but has lived in Portland for more than a decade.
During his time in the Rose City, Gonzalez has served on the TriMet board, the Regional Arts and Culture Council board and has worked with construction and engineering firms on green building development.
He’s passionate about climate change. And becoming Portland’s next mayor.
“Seeing our city struggle and seeing the need for having leadership in that office compels me to step forward,” Gonzalez said.
He believes growing pains are overwhelming Portland’s leaders.
“We have changed a lot in a few short years,” Gonzalez said. “And we need to have people at the helm that understand what it’s like to actually become a city.”
The mayoral candidate says homelessness is the top priority and the first step is viewing homeless people as fellow citizens.
“We have to design places that are intentionally serving their needs and don’t look like some forgotten afterthought,” he said. “I’m looking at new facilities and I’m looking at existing sites.”
In terms of the city’s affordable housing crisis, Gonzalez thinks changes in design and city code requirements are needed.
And when it comes to law enforcement, he believes the message has to come from the top.
“Free speech ends when violence begins,” Gonzalez said. “And the mayor needs to have the back of law enforcement when that line is crossed.”
This is the first time Gonzalez has ever run for a political office. He said he’s aware that trying to unseat a well-known incumbent is no easy task, especially for someone who is relatively unknown. But Gonzalez — who is the first Latino to graduate from Cal-Poly Pomona with a master’s degree in architecture — said he’s dealt with challenges his entire life.
“It’s another chapter in a long line of stories of being the first Latino at something,” he said.
Whether he’ll become Portland’s first Latino mayor will be revealed on May 19.
Four of the five Portland city council seats — including mayor’s seat — are up for election on May 19. That figure includes the seat left open by the death of Commissioner Nick Fish.
Gonzalez is one of nine candidates who have filed for mayor, including activist Teressa Raiford and urban policy advisor Sarah Iannarone, who ran in 2016.
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