This morning, six mayoral candidates participated in a public forum on housing conducted by local housing and homelessness organizations. The candidates — Jefferson Smith, Shonda Colleen Kelley, Josh Nuttall, Loren Charles Brown, Charlie Hales and Eileen Brady —tackled topics from gentrification to budget cuts in the two-hour-long discussion. Most candidates presented polished, on-topic responses to the six questions, but some answers came out a bit rocky and unprepared.
Charles Brown pushed a clear agenda: with him as mayor, homelessness would be a distant memory. "I want everyone to sleep on the street with me as the new mayor. We gotta get better. With me, there will be no homelessness," he said.
The participants proposed innovating low-income housing plans, work integration programs for the homeless and shared their views on Occupy Portland.
"I think the city handled the occupation very well," said Hales. "Maybe a little less riot gear next time." Smith echoed Hales' perspective, adding that the public shouldn't have given Mayor Sam Adams so much flack for his Occupy actions.
Said Brady: "We saw some of the best of Portland when we transported them from the parks. That is all."
Colleen Kelley seemed a bit new to the Occupy idea. "I don't really know what happened there," she said.
Back to the housing issues. When faced with increasing budget cuts (up to 8 percent this coming year), the candidates were asked where they'd cut and what they'd keep.
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Hales and Smith both agreed that they'd like to see the city audit major projects to conserve funding. Additionally, Hales said he wants to work with the county to hash out which body deals with which part of the city (he used streets vs. bridges as a clear example). Charles Brown straight up rejected cuts, while Brady focused on conserving public safety and other basic services.
While some clashed on their views of the government’s role in the housing department (Nuttall called the local bureaucracy "shoddy", followed by Smith avidly supporting government workers), many agreed that community outreach and participation is key when faced with housing changes. “I believe in a shared sense of public interest,” said Smith. “As mayor I can’t do it all, I need you as partners.”