• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Hardesty and Gonzalez clash over homelessness and crime in Portland

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Oct 1, 2022

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and her opponent, businessman Rene Gonzalez, agreed on one point during their Friday debate: the city is not well placed.

Both candidates for city council in the November ballot pointed to the proliferation of homeless camps and an increase in gun violence and drug trafficking as symptoms of a struggling community. But the similarities ended there.

In November, Portland voters will choose between two candidates with starkly different visions of how to tackle the city’s most pressing issues of homelessness and crime. Gonzalez, a centrist lawyer, took a “tough love” approach to the city’s issues, calling for more police and the prosecution of low-level crimes. Hardesty, the first black woman elected to the Portland City Council, earned a reputation as one of the region’s most politically progressive elected officials and outspoken police critic.

In a debate hosted by the Portland City Club, their competing visions took center stage.

Gonzalez called for more police, bigger shelters and tougher prosecutions for low-level crimes such as catalytic converters and auto thefts. Hardesty said she wants to continue the progress she made during her first term and allocate more funds to homeless self-managed camps and public safety programs that don’t involve the police.

Learn more about the contestants’ competing platforms below:

Roaming :

Both candidates said they wanted to see more funding for shelters.

But they varied on the types of shelters they wanted to see. Hardesty called for a “radically different” approach to spending with more effort to create camps like Right 2 Dream Too, a self-managed camp in Portland. Gonzalez called for the creation of various types of shelters, including high-barrier shelters and large shelters potentially using land owned by Metro or the city.

The idea of ​​large shelters has cropped up several times over the past year and has proven controversial among homeless advocates who warn they will be difficult to manage humanely.

Equally controversial in Portland is the question of how to respond to people who refuse the offer of accommodation. Gonzalez said Friday that people who refuse to be housed should face “criminal justice if they don’t move.” He expressed frustration with the city’s perceived leniency in addressing the camps that have sprung up on the sidewalks in recent years.

“We gave away the commons to a small part of the population,” he said. “You have a right to be outraged about this. You have a right to demand that the city clean these up.

When asked how she would deal with people who refuse to shelter, Hardesty said she would tackle the reason they refuse, such as not wanting to leave their belongings or their pets.

“What is the barrier that we can help them break down? ” she says.

Crime:

As for improving public safety, Gonzalez detailed a simple to-do list: more support for the police and more officers.

“At a high level, we need a bigger police force in the city of Portland — a responsible, but well-resourced police force,” said Gonzalez, who was endorsed by the police union. from the city. Hardesty is suing the union after members of the police bureau and the union leaked information wrongly implicating him in a hit-and-run.

Gonzalez also called for the creation of a city court that would deal with some of the low-level crimes plaguing Portland, such as thefts of catalytic converters and autos. He criticized Hardesty for imposing $15 million cuts to the police bureau’s budget during the 2020 protests, which he called a “historically bad decision.”

Hardesty countered that no police officers have lost their jobs due to budget cuts and that there are currently 100 vacancies that the police office has not filled. She also pointed out that she voted for the city’s latest budget, which she said gave police offices the biggest funding yet.

“I just want to dispel the myth that a police officer lost his job during my time on city council,” she said.

Instead, Hardesty said, she pushed to reduce police workloads by creating the Portland Street Response, a non-police response for people in crisis. The program sends unarmed first responders to 911 calls related to people experiencing homelessness or mental health crisis.

“We continue to fund the police,” she said. “We need more than the police.”

Gonzalez said he supports the Portland Street Response, but isn’t sure if it should be expanded further. He also called out Hardesty for moving slowly to implement the police oversight board she championed, which voters approved by vote in 2020.

Other

The two answered questions on Friday about their financial missteps.

Earlier this month, Gonzalez was fined $77,000 by the city for accepting a reduced rate on rent from a property management company owned by a campaign supporter. He appealed the decision earlier this week, but was overruled by the program director.

Gonazales said Friday that the fine was the result of “disagreement in the interpretation of the regulations,” but that the campaign would pay if it lost its appeal.

Hardesty asked a question about her credit card debt, which she called a “personal flaw.” She said the debt resulted from funding her first consulting campaign on her credit card and she was slowly paying it off.

Both candidates were also asked directly about their stance on the charter reform measure, a sweeping move to fundamentally reshape the city’s government and electoral structure. So far, both candidates have mostly stayed out of the fray.

Asked directly about their position, Gonzalez said he would likely vote no on the measure but wanted to see what ideas Commissioner Mingus Mapps, a vocal opponent of the proposal, would put on the table in the coming weeks.

Hardesty declined to say her position, saying she wanted to let voters make up their own minds.