As county commissioner, you represent interests of persons with mental illness, providers of services and county staff. Which is your primary constituent?
I am running for Multnomah County Chair because the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening in our county because there aren’t enough living wage jobs and many have not benefited enough from the economic recovery. Poverty in Multnomah County has nearly doubled in the last 11-years, homelessness in Portland has increased by 10% in the last two years, and both of these realities indicate the County is not doing enough to help people get out of poverty and help more families make ends meet. Top priorities on which I am actively campaigning, include:
• Pushing for the creation of more living-wage jobs (which the county can do in a number of ways) and increasing access to job training for County residents, including the unemployed, underemployed and youth;
• Increasing county support for our public schools, including the expansion of SUN Schools, which I co-founded, and more social services in the schools. This includes mental health care for students and parents;
• Strengthening the safety net by creating more very low income supportive housing, and clean and sober housing, with community-based and peer-to-peer mental health care counseling integrated into it.
As County Chair, my foremost responsibility is to all the people of Multnomah County, especially those left out and left behind. Persons with mental illness deserve to be treated with dignity and they need a champion to increase the funding for mental health treatment. This is one of my top priorities for several reasons:
• My family, faith, and experience as a Jesuit Volunteer and community organizer have all instilled in me a belief that every person has value and dignity and that we are all better when we include everybody in our community;
• I have always been a champion for the underserved, and few in our county are more underserved than persons with mental illness, yet I fear that treatment has not been widely enough available and county leadership has not held itself accountable for doing a better job;
• We cannot address growing homelessness and overdependence on incarceration without directly dealing with mental illness and addiction issues. The reality – confirmed by US Department of Justice – is that many people with mental illness in our community are either on the streets or in jail. That’s wrong, and it’s inhumane.
Eds. Note – After an election filing deadline, supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland query all area candidates of contested races about issues important to us and post the responses to our web site. Queries and posting do not imply endorsement; the organization does not endorse candidates. Spelling and typographical errors are amended because we abhor text errors. See all candidate responses at Candidates 2014.