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On January 10, 2020, I was invited to participate in the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association's Candidate Forum for the Portland City Commissioner 4. The incumbent, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly elected not to participate.
Lents Neighborhood Livability Association's Candidate Forum
by Jack Kerfoot
The following were my introductory comments:
I am frequently asked, why am I running for office? Which is quickly followed by, Are you crazy? My answer is to ask - "are you satisfied with our city's policies on our homeless crisis, environment, unsafe streets and fiscal incompetence?" The answer I keep hearing is a resounding NO!
I started my campaign by reaching out to leaders working with non-profits and faith-based groups dealing with the homeless, small business owners, neighborhood associations, environmental groups, police, fire and rescue, city employees, teachers, doctors, nurses, unions, urban planners and building contractors. I wanted to be sure I had a thorough understanding of the major issues facing Portland, before I started my campaign.
As a result of my outreach campaign, my platform is focusing on -
Homeless Crisis - Portland has literally hundreds of nonprofits and faith-based organizations trying to help our homeless. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released a report that showed that homelessness in America has increased by 2.7% from 2018. However, homelessness in California and Oregon has increased by 16.4% and 9.7% respectively.
Why the dramatic increases in homelessness in Oregon, especially Portland? Our City Council would say, more affordable housing will simply solve the problem. I have met with leaders of nonprofits and faith-based groups across Portland and the city's simplistic perception is not correct. Our homeless crisis is as complex as the people we see on the streets.
If we really want to address Portland's homeless crisis, we must look at what has worked in other cities, such as Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas. A facility built by businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and city funds. It is recognized as the most successful homeless program in America.
Safe Streets - The topic of safe streets is a broad topic. It includes addressing the dramatic rise in traffic related fatalities, rioting on the streets, unclean homeless camps, drug dealers and sex trafficking.
Traffic related deaths (pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, cars) has continued to increase, even though city council has implemented a safety program. Why? Insurance company statistics (Quote Wizard & Allstate Insurance) rate Portland as having some of the worst drivers in the 200 largest cities in America. How do we solve this problem? Traffic cameras have proven to reduce traffic related deaths by 11% to 44% in Europe, Canada and major US cities. I will support efforts to have the Portland Police Bureau to install traffic related cameras across Portland.
In my outreach campaigns, I have repeatedly heard support for community policing. I pledge to support Portland Police Bureau in their efforts to protect and serve. The police across America have come under increased criticism, sometimes justifiably for their actions. Unfortunately, we seldom see or hear of the countless acts of courage by our police every day.
I want to work to help build bridges between our community and the men and women who protect and serve. We will not be able to effectively implement community policing while we have over 100 plus vacancies in the Portland Police Bureau.
Environment - We can see the impact of climate change around the world. In Oregon we are experiencing drier weather, forest fires and stagnant air. Our city council talks about achieving 100% renewable energy but has NO viable plan. I have the expertise to lead the development of a plan, which will be measured and then reported to the people of our city on a regular basis.
Portland also has an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen at the Zenith Oil Terminal. The facility was transformed from an asphalt plant into an oil import and export terminal. The oil is shipped from the tar sands in Canada to the Zenith Oil Terminal, stored onsite and then pumped into a ship to be sold in China. The facility is located on an earthquake liquification zone, which means an earthquake can cause the land to turn to liquid, causing the oil tanks to rupture spilling millions of gallons of toxic, heavy oil into our Willamette River. There are easy solutions to address this potential crisis.
Fiscal Discipline - Cost overruns of 300% to 400% have become routine such as refurbishing of city buildings and water treatment plants. These cost overruns are inexcusable. I will not sign off on any city project unless proper decision and risk analysis has been conducted on the estimate and the project has been rigorously peer reviewed by professionals in this field.
Responsive Government - In my out reach campaign, I continually heard that our City Council doesn't care or isn't listening to the voters once they are elected. I commit to you, that if elected, I will have open-to-the public town hall meetings. I will rotate these meetings across every sector (North, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) of our city. I will also invite the media to these town hall meetings to ensure that your voice is heard not only by me but will reverberate through city hall.
Portland's city government is unique in that a commissioner is expected to lead multi-million-dollar departments. However, it is rare that any commissioner has experience in leading a business. I have spent 40 years in the energy industry, primarily turning around under performing businesses around the world. I know how to energize and lead an organization to improve performance for the stakeholders, which are the people of Portland.
I believe I can be an effective city commissioner that can and will bring positive change to our beautiful city. I will be a commissioner that will continually reach out across our city to listen to your concerns and make sure your voice resonates through city hall. Thank you.
This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.
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