What Career Politicians Don’t See


The reason this city is the best in the country is because anywhere you go in Portland people are following their artistic passions. You have writers, actors, musicians, dancers, brewers, cooks and so much more. Our art is more important than money and that is the true reason Portland has been placed on the top of the top ten lists across the country. Because of this hundreds and thousands of people are moving here. As a result, rents have gone up, old small houses are being replaced by big new ones, and people who have been paying a reasonable rent are being evicted so landlords can charge more. It’s supply and demand. Now the creative and unique people who made this city so great can’t afford to live in the city they made great. This city has a definite wage issue.

What we need to understand is that the issues we’re facing as a city aren’t as simple as the other candidates are making it out to be. Houslessness is a huge issue and we need to move Portland toward a real solution and not just put a bandaid on it. The city has vowed to spend 30 million dollars toward fixing the problem by spending 10 million on “650 shelter slots” and housing for “homeless residents with emphasis on the mentally ill.” But this isn’t a problem we can simply fix. The majority of our homeless are people living in cars, on other people’s couches, garages, in other temporary conditions. I spent hours talking to the houseless on the streets and at Right 2 Dream Too and the number one reason I heard from them as to why they’re on the streets is no-cause eviction. Now this turns into a housing issue.

I have many married couples who are my friends and they all have to live with roommates or other couples in order to pay rent in the city. Even single people are living in houses with more people than rooms. Sooner or later, they end up leaving. Ethnicities responsible for giving neighborhoods their character are pushed out because they can’t afford to live where they grew up. On my street alone in the last five years nine houses were torn down and twelve giant houses were built in their place. Now we have a gentrification issue.

The city wants to keep its identity but instead of fostering and encouraging the diversity, the creativity, and the community that truly makes Portland what it is, it spends money to try to buy character. We hire artists from out of state for our art like the “Inversion +/-” on SE Hawthorne by a Seattle artist, the bus stops on my street on NE Alberta, or “Streetcar Stop for Portland” by an LA artist. The Regional Arts & Culture Council gets it right a lot of time as well. For example, look at Forest for the Trees, but the people who can’t or don’t get grants are squeezed out and we lose creativity, diversity, and our community. I’ve seen it on NE Alberta Street in the last seven years I’ve lived here. We chased out all the artists who created Last Thursday and the city took it over and turned it into a money-draining mess no one wants in their neighborhood anymore. It used to be a stilt walking, clowning around, local musicians, local art, community driven event, but now the beauty of it has faded to the point where we can barely see what it once was. Now it’s a culture issue.

The politicians keep it simple and break these up into separate categories and then come up with solutions that sound like slogans like 25 by 25 job strategy or a vague idea like creating a Bureau of Small Business and Economic Empowerment The 25 by 25 plan isn’t one written by Wheeler. It’s modeled off an older state plan that is modeled off a Colorado plan that is 30 years old. Who knows, maybe it will work if we can find the funding. As for adding another bureau to our already 35 plus? That means hiring new people while the Development Services are undermanned. We went from 330 people to 160 from 2008 to 2011 and we haven’t hired them back. These are the people who build the homes we so desperately need and having the workforce cut in half means the process to build is increased exponentially and this means an increased cost to the property owners, construction crews, and developers which of course means increased rents. What about the police force who were forced to have a hiring freeze years ago and are now forced to work ridiculous overtime because that’s more cost efficient than hiring new officers. Bailey wants to create a new bureau but in a time where we can’t fix our roads, staff other bureaus, or hire new police officers?

This isn’t a set of separate issues. This is one big, living, breathing city. And the problems we’re having can’t be solved by someone who doesn’t accurately represent the people who live here. The career politicians don’t understand that all the issues we’re facing happened under their watch. Both Wheeler and Bailey have been in Oregon politics for ten years each. While they tout their experience making policies I talk about my experiences on the ground solving problems. The only way to really move Portland toward a solution is to have someone in City Hall that shares the same priorities with the real people who live here. I’m not running because I want to someday by governor or move to a higher office or to make a name. The city comp plan (2035 Comprehensive Plan) which is a road to our future is being finalized now and it estimates 800,000 more residents moving here in the next twenty years. I’m running because I live here and I will be living here for those twenty years and the mayor we elect today will help shape what type of city Portland will become.


By Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the the Ted Talk Book The Misfit’s Manifesto (Simon and Schuster), Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the movie, and much more.

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