In this all-hands-on-deck moment, we need greater urgency and accountability. There is a crisis on our streets. Houselessness is a long-term problem across Multnomah County, made enormously worse by the pandemic. It requires immediate action to address the humanitarian crisis happening all around us. Voters have generously stepped up to fund affordable housing, shelters, and supportive services. Our community deserves a leader who will put these dollars to good use and move people into shelter, housing, or safe rest sites as quickly as possible. As a County Commissioner, I helped establish a Good Neighbor Agreement between a new shelter in the Foster-Powell neighborhood and the surrounding community. Beforehand, many community members and business owners were opposed to the shelter. After eight months of listening sessions and public input meetings, the Laurelwood Shelter and surrounding neighborhoods and businesses signed a Good Neighbor Agreement, built on newfound trust between businesses, residents, and the new shelter. As of the start of 2022, the shelter has housed 1,000 people and seen 300 move into permanent housing.
We face an epidemic in gun violence, nowhere more so than my east Portland district, and we need immediate interventions to break cycles of violence. I’ve fought to invest in community-based organizations that have deep relationships with those suffering the brunt of this epidemic. We need to continue expanding the capacity of community-based organizations to do the work necessary to reduce gun violence, domestic violence, and the perpetuation of incarceration. And I will maintain the additional funding allocated in October 2021 in the District Attorney’s office to ensure the timely investigation and prosecution of gun violence crimes, and will continue to build a coalition-based model on this issue.
The climate crisis is humanity's greatest threat, one I work hard to address regardless of my role in government. I’ve shown time and again what proven advocacy and sustained effort on this complex and imperative issue can yield. To date, I have: championed passage of Oregon’s groundbreaking Coal to Clean bill, a first-of-its-kind law to transition off of coal-fired power while doubling the state’s commitment to clean electricity by 2040; led the fight to pass the state's Clean Fuels standard; pushed TriMet to commit to a timeline for the phase in of electric buses; and passed the County's #100by50 resolution, which commits our county to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and 100 percent clean transportation and home heating energy by 2050. But we must do more to stave off the worst impacts of climate change and adapt to a warming planet. I have the experience and track record to lead the way.
There are few accomplishments I am more proud of than championing Preschool for All. This program, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2020, will provide free, universal, quality preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds in Multnomah County. We built Preschool for All by creating a broad coalition of parents, educators, businesses, and advocates. Importantly, we centered the voices of parents with the least access to quality preschool. As County Chair, I will continue using this approach to ensure this program meets its growth targets and cost expectations, provides a diversity of enrollment options for families, and achieves universal status in 2030.
As the COVID virus continues to evolve, we will need to evolve with it, and I will continue to keep our county informed, while doing what is best to protect our community from the deadly and economically damaging impacts of COVID-19. As someone who has worn a mask, socially distanced, quarantined when potentially exposed, and been vaccinated, I understand the frustration many feel as some in our community continue to refuse to comply with common sense public health recommendations. Knowing that keeping our public spaces safe and accessible was critical to our community’s ability to function, I supported requiring vaccinations for Multnomah County employees and businesses requiring similar mandates for their employees. I support Multnomah County’s vaccine incentives and partnerships with school districts to ensure the safe reopening of our schools. I also know that communities of color and low income communities continue to face the brunt of the public health crises in our region, and I will fight to address equity and public health issues as your Chair.
As a County Commissioner, I represent Multnomah County at numerous regional transportation tables. I was co-chair of Metro’s Transportation Task Force, which presented our region with a transportation measure focused on improving safety, expanding transit and multimodal transportation options, reducing carbon emissions, and enhancing reliability in our region’s most underserved areas, including east Portland. I’m proud of the grassroots work and coalition building we did to present a measure that would have moved our region forward on transportation and equity. Unfortunately, regional voters voted down the measure amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Which means we have more work to do. The same goals that drove that initiative - safety, transit, equity, reducing emissions, and improving reliability - will remain my primary goals and the priorities I will fight for as your Chair.
January 22, marked the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. It may be the last, if the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, therefore overturning Roe. In these troubling times when 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court is bent on overturning 50 years of legal precedent, it has never been more important for leaders at the local and state level to step up and take every possible opportunity to preserve a woman's right to control her body.
As a lifelong supporter of reproductive justice, I know that there is much work to be done; Roe alone has never been enough to ensure people, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and people working to make ends meet, can get the care they need when and where they need it. Throughout my career, I have championed policy, programs, and legislature to advance reproductive rights, and I will keep fighting. As County Chair, I will continue to defend and advance access to safe and affordable reproductive care for our communities.
Oregon ranks dead last when it comes to rates of mental illness compared to access to care. We rank second in the nation when it comes to rates of substance abuse, and last among states when it comes to access to care. Dead last. The consequence of untreated mental illness and substance abuse is too often chronic homelessness (where we rank fifth). In order to address homelessness, we will need to dramatically improve our mental health system and addiction treatment services, which will be a top priority for me as County chair.
Community safety goes beyond law enforcement, it requires us to address the root causes of social conflict in order to prevent instances of violence and conflict. As a state legislator and county commissioner, I’ve fought for these upstream efforts, including by raising the minimum wage and developing Preschool for All. As Chair, I will continue to advocate for these critical actions we can take to build safer communities, while also focusing on addressing the significant public safety crisis our community currently faces.
Paid for and authorized by Friends of Jessica Vega Pederson, PAC ID 15330
Top Contributor: IBEW Local 48 Small Donor PAC, PAC ID 21625.
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