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City Commission, Position 2

AJ McCreary

Portland City Council’s past two years of pandemic-era leadership can be characterized by its unity. Unlike previous council configuration, commissioners have prioritized agreement among their offices before a council vote, leaving the disagreements generally out of public meetings. While there’s certainly some wisdom in choosing to lead in harmony during a crisis, this agreeable style has left little room for ambitious policy-making and constructive debate. We’ve perhaps witnessed this most with council’s newest members, including Commissioner Dan Ryan, who entered City Hall midterm in September 2020.

Entering the office with a mission to “break down silos” between city departments, Ryan has made some incremental progress in streamlining the city’s permitting processes and working with the county on addressing homelessness. Yet, his one standout program to create six “Safe Rest Villages” for unhoused Portlanders across the city has missed its initial timeline goals and has been delayed by predictable neighborhood and business fears about living near previously unhoused people. The sense of urgency felt across the city to offer shelter to unhoused Portlanders isn’t reflected in this rollout, regardless of how frequently Ryan wrings his hands over the “humanitarian crisis” of homelessness seen on Portland’s streets.

That’s why we’re endorsing AJ McCreary for Portland City Commissioner, Position 2. McCreary entered the race with the kind of boldness currently missing in City Hall. McCreary has a background in activism and community organizing, and is the co-founder and director of Equitable Giving Circle, which distributes financial support to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities. McCreary is in alignment with many ideas we see coming from Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s office—she strongly supports the Portland Street Response, objects to funding more police officer jobs until officers are hired to fill currently vacant positions, and opposes city-led homeless camp sweeps. McCreary believes that access to supportive housing is one of the barriers to leaving homelessness behind, and pledges to use voter-approved funding set aside for housing to address these hurdles. She also is clear-eyed about the fact that there’s no one simple “blanket solution” to homelessness, and is open to supporting a variety of solutions in hopes of alleviating the problem.

Perhaps most importantly McCreary has the public’s ear. With a record of community organizing and coalition-building, McCreary knows how to build ties with communities often underrepresented in City Hall and use those relationships to inform policy.

We endorsed Ryan for this position in 2020 for what we believed to be “a genuine intent to use the community’s input to inform his decisions.” Although he does appear driven by community concerns, his actions show that he lends more merit to the worries of those traditionally overrepresented in Portland—middle-class homeowners and business coalitions—than the rest. We believe McCreary will more fully reflect the interests of communities pushed to the margins in Portland, and won’t be afraid to break from her colleagues to push for change.

City Commission, Position 3

Jo Ann Hardesty

When Jo Ann Hardesty first entered City Hall in 2018, she was considered a one-issue politician. Campaigning with such a narrow lens on police reform and accountability—work she spent decades advocating for as a community organizer—it was all but guaranteed that her tenure in council chambers would be defined by a constant assault on policies that have allowed the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to skirt sanctions and oversight for years. Four years later, her legacy is far more complex.

In her time in office, Hardesty has championed issues from housing access to transportation—including scrambling to stand up a number of outdoor housing pods for unhoused Portlanders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, negotiating with the state to transfer oversight of SE 82nd Ave to the city, pushing for pedestrian safety measures in high-crash streets, establishing the Portland Clean Energy Fund to support small green businesses while decreasing carbon emissions, and forging a path to permanency for car-free plazas founded during the pandemic.

This isn’t to say she hasn't also moved the needle on police reform while at City Hall. In her second month in office, Hardesty moved the city to sever its policing ties with a federal terrorism task force which had a history of racial profiling. She went on to help establish the Portland Street Response, a program designed to send social workers and paramedics—instead of armed officers—to 911 calls involving low-level mental health issues or complaints about unhoused people, and spearheaded a ballot measure to restructure and give extra muscle to PPB’s community oversight arm. Hardesty’s office was a main player in the drawn-out union negotiations with PPB’s union, the Portland Police Association, helping the city reach an agreement in February 2022. And Hardesty has continued to play a central role in the city’s settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) meant to improve PPB officer interactions with people in a mental health crisis—an investigation that she compelled the DOJ to take on a decade ago.

Instead of eroding PPB, Hardesty has added scaffolding to support the bureau through an inevitable transition toward transparency and accountability that the council has unanimously supported. Hardesty’s advasaries, who are eager to baselessly pin the blame of the city’s murder rates and lagging 911 response times on her, might tell you otherwise. To be sure, Hardesty has faced a torrent of opposition by local and national pundits desperate for a villain in the racial justice movement, all of which she has handled with remarkable grace. Even the leaders we expected her to butt heads with, like Mayor Ted Wheeler, have been positively influenced by her advocacy on council, and partnered with her to pass smart policy.

Her top opponents, Vadim Mozyrsky and Rene Gonzalez, both represent the pearl-clutching Portlanders who have emerged in recent years in what appears to be a backlash to to racial justice movement of 2020. Both men stoke fears of homelessness, trash, riots, and crime rates without pointing to a sustainable solution to any of these issues, and suggest that simply hiring more police officers is the sole solution to most of the city’s problems. Their talking points, which are bankrolled by local business interests as well as Portland's police union, are reactionary and reductive, and will only reverse Portland’s forward momentum as a progressive city. We want to particularly steer you away from Gonzalez, who has proposed arresting people who refuse to enter homeless shelters.

Hardesty’s ability to remain focused on what’s asked of her from the public—while not letting petty police officers or internet trolls drag her down—is why we’re certain she needs to remain in City Hall. I know that we’re all exhausted and unnerved by the past years’ crises and looking for someone to blame. But Hardesty’s not it. And she deserves to be reelected.

Portland City Auditor

Simone Rede

While Portland’s auditor is the only elected city official that doesn’t sit on City Council, the office still holds significant influence over city policymaking. The auditor’s office is responsible for deciding which bureaus or specific city programs deserve investigation to measure their efficiency, equity, promised outcomes, and overall success. The auditor’s office is as if the city hired a top-notch team of investigative journalists to dig into its messiest, most unorganized corners and publish the results. Findings of an audit can often inspire the creation of new policies to improve clunky bureaucratic systems, save taxpayer dollars, and expose gaps in accountability and oversight.

We think this responsibility should go to Simone Rede. Rede is a seasoned auditor, with experience in the Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division and Metro’s Auditor Office, where she currently works. She has dug into broad, far-reaching investigations, like the audits of Metro’s affordable housing bond and TriMet, and has a track record of parsing through heaps of information to draw impactful conclusions.

We’re particularly interested in Rede’s focus on inclusion when it comes to initiating and working on an audit. Rede said she wants to prioritize community feedback when deciding which audits to pursue, and is open to trying new ways to engage the public and gather input. Rede has also worked to reach out to overlooked groups when she’s gathering qualitative data during an investigation—for example, Rede said she compelled Metro’s audit team to interview people with disabilities when auditing the affordable housing bond, something she said wasn’t already in the works.

Rede wants to prioritize investigations into two areas that currently draw the most public concern: Housing and police. In particular, Rede is eager to audit the integrity of a still-in-the-works plan to equip Portland police with body-worn cameras when it's up and running, with an eye toward data storage and oversight.

While her opponent, certified public accountant Brian Setzler, has a knack for numbers and could bring an outsider’s perspective to the office, we believe Rede’s experience is critical to steer the office through a particularly bumpy period in City Hall. Vote Rede for Portland City Auditor.

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