PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council will have some new faces in the New Year. Mingus Mapps and Carmen Rubio were elected in the November election and May primary, respectively.
KOIN 6 News spoke with Mingus Mapps about some of the issues he wants to tackle during his first 100 days in office.
Editor’s note: Questions and answers have been edited for style and clarity.
Q: When we talked before the election, you thanked peaceful protesters for supporting civil rights, but asked anyone engaged in acts of violence or vandalism to stop. Is that still your position?
Mapps: We very much endorse and appreciate everyone who goes out to demand that Oregonians and Americans be better, but at the same time one of the things that we’ve also learned over the course of American history and the last 8 or 9 months is that violence is never the answer.
Q: You also said back then that the principle of nonviolence extends to the police as well, and called on them to stop using rubber bullets and tear gas, and change their approach. In your opinion, has their approach improved in recent months?
Mapps: I think you can take a look at what happens nightly and the protests that are out there, we still do have protests out there, but I see the amount of force used by the police going down dramatically. So I think that’s great. But this is also just the beginning. We have spent every day since the election talking with the community and talking with folks in the police department about how we can be better. We’re in the process of trying to imagine how we can do more with less in our policing system, so budgets we’ll cut. We want to have a policing system that emphasizes prevention and rehabilitation as opposed to the old-fashioned use of militarized justice. I can tell you that there are a couple things that this next council will deliver and that’s a smaller, leaner more efficient police department. That’s a police contract which emphasizes accountability. And we’ll deliver a new system of independent police oversight.
I’ll also point out that violence not only happens in the context of political protest, it also happens in the context of everyday life here in Portland. I think this past week we must have reached about our 56th homicide in Portland for the year. That’s about double what our normal rate is. So, you know, this is not an isolated issue. That’s why I think it’s so important that Portlanders come together to renounce both gun violence and police violence and violence at protests.
Note: There had actually been 52 homicides as of our conversation with Mapps on Dec. 21.
Q: A lot of people have attributed the spike in gun violence to the city’s decision to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team. Are the two connected?
Mapps: Gun violence and homicides are up throughout the country. Which doesn’t mean that it’s not an important issue here. I think there are a lot of things that contribute to the spike in gun violence that we see here in Portland. And really the challenge is to figure out what we can do as a city council and what we can do as a city to bring that violence down. Whether it’s gun violence or whether it’s the violence that we see at protests, we’re gonna call everyone to the table to help resolve our issues constructively as opposed to destructively. The fact that this wasn’t the world that Portland lived in a year ago suggests to me that this is not necessarily the future that Portland has to have.
Q: What are some of your other top priorities in you first 100 days?
Mapps: This is actually a great and important day. I think of today as the beginning of the end of the COVID crisis. Finally we have vaccines entering the arms of Oregonians. And you know COVID is not just a public health crisis, it’s an economic crisis. My obligation here as a member of city council will be to make sure that we spend those COVID relief dollars (from the state and federal government) efficiently and transparently and equitably. I won’t lie to you: This is the beginning of the end, but we’re not at the end yet. Some of our darkest days are still ahead. But if we hold together, take care of each other, do the common sense things that we know we need to do like wear our masks, wash our hands, and get that vaccine in our arms as soon as we can, then we can get back to the really fun work of opening our schools again, opening our businesses again, and reinventing Portland for the 21st Century.
Q: The coronavirus pandemic has severely decreased the amount of revenue the city will have to pay for services. How much time do you spend thinking about the budget?
Mapps: Already I spend most of my day in budget meetings trying to figure out how we continue to provide vital services to Portlanders when our funding is down dramatically. We’re really committed to making sure that the city continues to function. Frankly, the services that Portland, especially the City of Portland provides are also key not only to keeping people safe, but also key to helping our city recover economically from this. We’re in a deep recession now and I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure this is a V-shaped recession, that we come out hard and fast and at a steep angle. And I think that as long as we can keep the streets safe, house the homeless, get our schools back open, maintain the public health, we can begin to put this recession in the rearview window right away. I’m looking forward to an exciting and dynamic spring.