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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

City Council Candidate Steve Novick Talks About His Big Ideas for Police, Healthcare

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Remember that time we made Steve Novick do an interview with a raw chicken?
Now that we've gotten over the SQUEEE! factor that Steve Novick is running for Randy Leonard's city council seat, I talked with him a bit more about what ideas he's bringing to the table and how he feels about launching another political campaign. His ideas for reforming healthcare and public safety in the city are innovative, wonky, and complicated. Dig in:

MERC: You just got done talking to KATU. How did it feel to do a TV interview after a bit of a hiatus from being a public person?
STEVE NOVICK: I haven't done it in a while, so whether I spoke in short enough soundbites, I'm not sure.

How do you feel about getting back into campaign mode? Does it seem overwhelming?
I'm excited about it, I worked really hard in the last campaign, but it was also fun. Campaigns are about getting out and meeting people, so I'm looking forward to that.

How did you line up support for your campaign? Who's onboard?
Because this was Randy's secret, I couldn't really get out and talk to people until today. Instead, I had to get out to ask people sort of vague hypothetical questions, "If I were to run for any of these three offices, would you support me?" Jeff Cogen, Susan Castillo, Bobbie Regan, Guy Crawford, and Bob Stacey are all endorsing me.

Your website has this long statement about healthcare. Will that be your top priority?
When we talk about jobs and economic development, one thing that gets overlooked is rising healthcare costs' impact on business and families. If we can be the number one city in American to get healthcare costs under control, it would give us an edge. A casino workers union in Atlantic City has this innovative healthcare plan that was written up in the New Yorker recently. They identified the most high cost people in terms of healthcare and hired health care coaches to essentially nag them into taking better care of themselves. These coaches call people up and say, "Did you take your meds? Did you exercise today?" It occurred to me reading that the city should adopt that policy and set up its own little clinics that private companies could buy in to and utilize. Then we can say, not only are you coming to the most livable city in America, but you can also join this clinic to curb this rising cost.

What's your big picture for public safety and police reform?
I think the city and county should work together to make a public safety budget. The city and county do have some partnerships, like the new crisis treatment center and the service coordination team, but those are one offs. I think it's time we sit down and say, "Okay, let's look at this from the top." Because if you talk to cops they spend a lot of time as first responders to mental health crises. And that shouldn't be the police's role, that should be the county's job. Also, I think the state should give local governments a comprehensive budget for public safety, and the local jurisdictions can decide how much to spend on incarceration versus other options, like treatment. Right now, there's every incentive for the DA's to spend people to prison for as long as possible, because the state pays for prison.

So what bureaus would you want, if you get the seat?
Well, the Water Bureau would be a clear choice. The environmental protection agency has been driving a lot of what we're doing with our water over the years and I used to be an environmental lawyer for the federal justice department, so I have a lot of background in the area.

You know if you're in charge of water rates, you're going to become the least popular person in Portland.
As you know, I like digging into agency budgets. I would obviously sit down with the heads of the agencies and look over what water rates are in other cities and see if there's anything we should rework.

Did Randy ask you to run? Did he recruit you?
Randy gave me a heads up that he wasn't going to run. We're old friends, we go back 14 years.

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