Felicia Williams on Housing, Homelessness, Compassion and Common Sense

Homelessness is a public health issue

This post is the third in a series based on our interview with Felicia Williams, City Council Candidate for Position 3. More on Felicia here.

Q: What steps will you take for low income families to get affordable housing?

Felicia: My neighborhood was hit hard by the condo conversions.  We lost approximately 500 affordable apartments to condo conversions.  We still haven’t gotten them back.

One of our neighborhood board members unexpectedly lost his job at Portland State at the same time the rents were skyrocketing.  I watched helplessly as the stress caused by housing insecurity took a toll on his physical health. He put his name on the list to get into the Rose Schnitzer Tower (HUD housing) but the waiting list at that time was five years long. Now the waiting list is closed.

Q: What would you do to prevent homelessness and ensure we have stable, healthy and adequate shelter space?

Felicia: Homelessness is a public health issue, but currently we only treat the shelter element and don’t fund the medical, addiction, and mental health issues that trap people in a cycle of homelessness. I’m opposed to the reliance on shelter when we should be prioritizing funding housing.

We need to balance our compassion with common sense.

Low barrier shelters are scary and that’s why people don’t want to go to them –  who wants to live in a six bunk room with a crack addict and a meth addict. I have a friend with cerebral palsy and when faced with going to a shelter, he checked himself into a psych ward rather than going to a shelter.

We need to prioritize housing over shelters – breaking the cycle of homelessness will require us to treat the underlying conditions that cause homelessness. Bottom line: Prioritize housing and public health.

Q: How can we create more affordable housing?

Felicia: Housing is a basic human need. We can create more affordable housing by utilizing a combination of 99-year ground leases, land swaps, and by developing currently underutilized city-owned land. Removing the cost of land will spur development and put the property back on the tax rolls, allowing the city to direct this revenue into a range of housing options at affordable prices. If there is any chance of creating more affordable housing in Portland, we need to start making City owned property available for housing, while at the same time retaining ownership of the land as a long-term public asset.

Q: What’s your position on Inclusionary Zoning?

Felicia: When the Community Alliance of Tenants contacted us to see if we would support the effort to overturn the Inclusionary Zoning ban at the state legislature, we agreed to consider it. Our neighborhood is 87% renter and we understood that any new buildings built under an IZ program would likely be built in our neighborhood; we could get our 500 affordable units back.  At the time, our board had a developer, several public housing residents, renters, and a couple of homeowners on it. In order to get a unanimous vote on the IZ letter, we agreed not to fight height in the Central City West Quadrant Plan. We understood that if Inclusionary Zoning had any chance of working, the buildings would need to go taller in order to pencil out.  For us, more affordable housing was the most important greater good.

Q: What can City Council do better to address the housing crisis?

Felicia: I want Inclusionary zoning to work, but if it’s going to happen, we need City Council to stop destabilizing the development market with ad hoc decisions, we need a formal housing strategy, and we need to make sure we are generating enough revenue to develop more subsidized housing in the 0 to 75% Median Family Income range.

Felicia Williams on How PDX Can Survive the “Big One.”

The best way to survive an earthquake

This post is the first in a series based on our interview with Felicia Willams, City Council Candidate for Position 3. More on Felicia here.

Q: We’re all a little freaked out by thoughts of “The Big One.” Tell us more about your campaign plank on “Emergency Preparedness.”

Felicia: We’ve all read the New Yorker article about the “Big One,” and have witnessed what happened with failed federal relief in Puerto Rico. When a natural disaster strikes Portland, we can’t necessarily rely on the federal government for a rapid and adequate response, so we need to get serious about preparing our city.

Q: Agreed … and we secretly suspect Trump would be glad to leave the Left Coast hanging. (joke) Seriously, what would you do to get us better prepared to survive an earthquake?

Felicia: The best way to survive an earthquake is to prepare for it.

Q: That sounds good, but do you have any specifics?

Felicia: Yes, I do. Here’s my five point plan that I will support as a Commissioner:

  1. Install an earthquake early warning system attached to both civil defense sirens and personal smart devices. This would give people up to two minutes to get to safety.
  2. Train additional Neighborhood Emergency Team Members (NETs) throughout our City and making sure we have NET teams in every single Portland neighborhood and high density apartment building.
  3. Develop Emergency Operations Plans for all of our K-12 schools.
  4. Make sure every family has Personal Action Plan.
  5. Test the early warning system and Personal Actions Plans annually.

Q: We’ve heard you did disaster work in the Air Force?

Felicia:  Yes, my concerns for emergency preparedness grow out of my work in Command and Control while serving in the U.S. Air Force.  I know what it’s like to directly coordinate high level responses to fires, gas leaks, plane crashes, tornadoes, and mass casualty events.  When a disaster strikes, it will be critical to have calm, experienced leadership guiding our response, and this is exactly what I will provide Portland.

Q: Sounds like you’ve been in challenging situations before.

Felicia: Each is unique, but we can take action so Portlanders can work together to get through a disaster. We can utilize the public-private partnerships that already exist throughout Portland to create neighborhood and community safety plans so we can survive a catastrophic emergency.

PDX Police needs adequate staffing

Portland Police Bureau Recruiting
We support the Portland Police Bureau’s request of funds for 93 additional sworn officers, and nine additional non-sworn professional positions. These requests support the Mayor’s key priorities of increasing public safety and police accountability, maintaining the City’s critical infrastructure, and enhancing livability. The bureau’s requests for additional ongoing resources will advance the bureau’s mission and goals to provide 21st Century Policing services, to support organizational excellence and inclusion, and to rebuild police units so they can better deliver community policing to all residents.

Staffing within the PPB has been a critical issue for the bureau for many years, and there are several factors that impact this issue: recruitment and hiring, attrition and number of officers.

There are the fewer officers in the bureau as there were a decade ago, despite a 10 percent increase in Portland’s population. This request would increase the number of officer positions by approximately 10 percent–on par with Portland’s growth.

Click here to tell city council to invest in adequate police staffing

The Portland Police Bureau continues to face challenges in patrol staffing, which has led to declining response times. In the last five years, total 911 call volume has increased by over 22%. These calls include a 97% increase in stolen vehicle calls, 64% increase in unwanted persons calls and a 32% increase in disorder calls.

Without an increase in staffing, the response time for these calls will only grow, threatening the safety of all Portlanders.

We urge constituents with any public safety concerns to voice their support for this proposed budget.

Your voice in this conversation is essential, and we urge constituents to either submit written testimony, contact city commissioners or attend one of the upcoming community budget events:
 
Community Budget Forums
April 17, 2018, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Roosevelt High School
6941 N Central St, 97203
Bus lines 44 and 75
Most testimony by random drawing

Budget Committee Hearings
May 10, 2018, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, hearing to receive public testimony 
Council Chambers, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave., Portland, OR 97204 
 
May 16, 2018, 2:00pm, Council Action to approve City Budget, testimony heard
Council Chambers, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave., Portland, OR 97204
 
Utility Rate Review
May 17, 2018 (first reading), 2:00pm, second reading May 23, 2018, time TBD
Council Chambers, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave., Portland, OR 97204
 
TSCC Public Hearing 
June 6, 2018, 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Rose Room, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97204
 
Council Action to Adopt Budget
June 7, 2018, 2:00pm
Council Chambers, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97204

KGW: PDX has turned into TentCityUSA

Portland deserves safe and livable streets and public spaces.
We believe that the issue isn’t housing status but behavior.
Nonetheless …

Survey: 34% of Portlanders may leave the city because of homelessness
KGW is tackling the issue with a recent survey and television feature: #TentCityUSA

KGW writes: Homelessness has such a significant impact on Portlanders’ daily lives that 34 percent are considering moving out of the city because of the issue, according to a new survey from DHM Research.

In addition, more than half of Portlanders are dissatisfied with the way the mayor and police bureau are addressing homelessness.

KGW commissioned the survey as part of a larger project about homeless tent camping in Portland. The project, Tent City, USA, launches Monday at 6 p.m. on KGW-TV and online at tentcitypdx.com.

DHM Research, a nonpartisan and independent research and consulting firm, surveyed 300 Portlanders representative of the city’s population, based on age, gender, race, education level and area in which they live. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent.

The results show that homelessness is highly visible. The average Portlander sees someone living in a tent and someone panhandling five times a week. Residents said they see drug paraphernalia and human waste or urine more than twice a week.

Read more here