PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has a 2022 message for residents: City Hall understands their anger and frustrations “but help is on the way.”
In a Zoom sit down with Eye on Northwest Politics, KOIN 6 News anchor Ken Boddie asked Wheeler questions on a variety of topics, including what city officials are doing to address the rise in gun violence, issues in connection with homelessness, the city’s charter and more.
Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner under its charter system, said the Portland Police Bureau will deploy a new unit — the Focused Intervention Team, or FIT — to address the rising violence and hire more police officers after a major exodus started in 2020, adding that community investment is critical.
“So between those two actions, as well as just hiring more police officers, making sure that we’re making investments in the community around education and job training and economic prosperity for family health, I believe all of those will make a substantial difference in 2022,” he said.
The mayor also expressed hopes the new FIT unit will become a model for other cities around the U.S. looking to include community oversight into its policing.
Wheeler also spoke on the issue of homelessness, which residents who have voiced to KOIN 6 News their frustrations about issues in connection with it.
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“Let me roll this back just a little bit, and state what may be the obvious but it needs to be stated anyway, which is that homelessness is a humanitarian catastrophe,” Wheeler said. “And it’s terrible and inhumane for people living on the streets. But it’s also terrible for everybody else who has to live with the ramifications, whether it’s public health, public safety or environmental hazards caused by unsanctioned homeless camps.”
The mayor also called about the city’s charter, which allows for a commissioner system instead of a city councilor system, “a terrible form of government” and added he supported changing it.
“There’s no way we should stay with the commission form of government,” he said. “It is obsolete, it is antiquated, it is fragmented, it makes it very difficult to coordinate amongst bureaus. And frankly, the public deserves to know who is in charge, who has the authority and who is responsible. And right now, responsibility and authority rests with different commissioners depending upon the issue.”