PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Candace Avalos is one of the most engaged citizen advocates in Portland, having chaired the Citizen Review Committee and served on the Charter Review Commission that changed city government.

Avalos, who describes herself as a “first generation Blacktina” in reference to her multi-racial background, credits her family for her drive for civic engagement.

“It definitely comes from my family, especially coming from an immigrant family. We came to this country because we wanted a better life for the Avalos family, we wanted better opportunities. And so, from a very young age, civic engagement has always been a part of our lives,” Avalos said.

As a member of Portland’s Charter review commission, she helped reform the city’s government. The charter reform establishes four districts, each with 3 council members — increasing the number of city councilors from five to twelve. The reform also establishes a ranked-choice voting system.

“It is a huge opportunity for efficiency of our government, for improving our governance systems, for improving our voting systems so that more people can feel heard at the ballot box and more communities can be represented in City Hall. It’s a really big opportunity to move our city forward,” Avalos said.

The charter reform, which Avalos calls “a big change that is long overdue,” will be in place by the 2024 November election. With the new system in place, Avalos is considering running for a city council position.

“I care very deeply about implementation of these new changes and seeing that through. There are lots of different stars that will align over the course of this year, and I will be considering my decision and hopefully making that by the end of the year,” Avalos stated.

Speaking on her role on the Citizen Review Committee, Avalos says Portland police need to address community mistrust.

“That level of community trust has continued to be broken as we saw in our city since 2020 and the racial justice uprising. There were a lot of missteps that our police did to just continue to make the problem greater as far as community mistrust with our institutions of policing,” Avalos said.

One of these missteps, Avalos says, includes the 2020 protest response.

“We did a huge report last year on the 2020 protest response and really just surveyed [the] community to ask folks how we could improve that process so that we can protect our First Amendment right to protest and to talk to our government about what our needs are without this oppressive force of this institution of policing, so that was a huge conversation across the city and we continue to have those conversations on the CRC,” Avalos said.

According to Avalos, another misstep by Portland police during the 2020 protests was how less lethal munitions were distributed in the community.

“Folks who were unhoused, folks who were in neighboring apartments were feeling immense effects of tear gas,” Avalos said. She added that another issue was “the usage of rubber bullets indiscriminately across a crowd when folks are trying to, again, express their First Amendment rights.”

Another issue Portland is facing is addressing the homeless crisis, Avalos says.

In response to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposal of building mass-sanctioned homeless camps around Portland, Avalos says the city needs to implement solutions that work.

“There are not only lots of unhoused community members that I know I interact with as a member of Street Roots, but also lots of service providers that are saying it’s not that communities don’t want shelter, it’s not that we don’t want to create systems to give them opportunities to be safe and sheltered — it’s just that the mass amount is not ideal, it is not proven to work. So, let’s actually put in solutions that do work.”