Portland, OR

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Charts a Path Towards Recovery in His Annual "State of the City" Address

Rose Bak

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Photo courtesy of City of Portland

Portland mayor Ted Wheeler gave his annual “State of the City” address on Friday.

The speech was part of the City Club of Portland’s “Friday Forum” series. Wheeler framed his address as the “State of the Possible”, hoping to draw attention to what can be done to move the city forward.

He acknowledged the enormous toll that the last year has had on the community, specifically citing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing protests, and an increase in gun violence. After a year of crisis, the mayor said, Portland is moving into a year of “recovery”.

“I’m trying to move this community through the crisis: the global pandemic, the homeless crisis, the concerns people justifiably have around their own safety … and the reality that we have a livability problem in a city that has historically been seen as one of the most livable cities on this planet,” Wheeler said. “My job right here and now is to focus relentlessly on moving us through the crisis”.

The mayor outlined his three main focus areas for the coming year: homelessness, livability, and community safety.

"We're doggedly determined to recover," said Wheeler said in his prepared remarks. "Our community has what it takes to move forward to a much greater future.”

Wheeler indicated that he intends to create five committees that he’s calling “action tables” to work on his priorities. The “action tables” include Safety and Compassion, Clean and Green, Community Events, Business Reopening and Success, and Reputation Recovery and Rebranding, and are open for citizen participation.

Mayor Wheeler called on Portlanders to get involved in the recovery efforts and asked residents to help with the initiative. He encouraged viewers to sign up for his newsletter to keep up to date on the city’s progress and ways to help.

Wheeler also announced the launch of a “Clean and Green” program, a city-wide clean-up program that has already received a generous donation from Columbia Sportswear CEO, Tim Boyle.

"Our city is way overdue for a deep clean...I'm sure you agree," Wheeler said. “The pandemic paused important cleanups to keep workers safe, but today, we’re ramping up our efforts."

Mayor Wheeler also announced that he is seeking $2 million dollars in a one-time funding allocation for the Portland Police Bureau to help investigate and stem the rapidly increasing rates of gun violence throughout the city.

The City of Portland has had over 200 shootings in 2021 and is averaging two homicides related to gun violence each day.

Similar to the recent “State of the County” address by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, this year Mayor Wheeler shared his presentation time to allow more voices.

Speakers included John Togogna of ECONorthwest and Leslie Carlson of Brink Communications, who spoke on Portland livability and infrastructure; Jeff Riddle of Transition Projects and Chris Aiosa of Do Good Multnomah, who spoke about the homeless crisis; Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell and Pastor Ed Williams from Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, who spoke about community violence; and Kerry Tymchuk from the Oregon Historical Society, who spoke about how Portland’s past influences its future.

The virtual event was moderated by Western States Center Executive Director Eric Ward. Ward did a question and answer session with Mayor Wheeler after the prepared remarks.

When asked about the Portland Police Bureau’s response to protests and demonstrations that have gone on in the city nightly for nearly a year, Wheeler offered both praise and criticism for the Bureau.

“It is very resistant to change,” he noted. “It all too often takes the call to change personally, as an attack on the institution.”

When asked about the timeline for his recovery efforts for Portland, Wheeler did not commit.

“Now whether that will happen in 30 or 60 or 90 days, I can’t say. The reality is it took us a long time to get to where we are today. And the reality is it’s going to take time.” he said. “And I’m committed to sticking around to do that.”

Wheeler has been the mayor of Portland since 2017. He started his second term this year after narrowly winning the 2020 election. Prior to serving as Mayor, Wheeler was the Oregon State Treasurer and also served as the Chair of Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners.

#portland #oregon #gunviolence #homelessness #livability #communitysafety

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

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