Host, Dr. Don Baham, interviews guest about how and why he chose to become a political public servant in pursuit of his desire to be of service to his fellow citizens. Fred appears to personify dedication to progressive ideas and action.
By Fred Stewart
Law enforcement should play a more active role in addressing Portland’s homelessness crisis.
Over the last few months, I’ve talked to Portland voters and found that one issue on everyone’s mind, regardless of where they live, is the problem posed by the city’s homeless population. Portlanders are upset about the lack of a strategic plan on how to deal with the ever-growing homeless population and the societal effects of having people living on our streets and in our parks.
City Hall must do more to shelter the homeless and to address the factors that led to their homelessness. However, there is also a step to solving our homelessness crisis that City Council currently neglects: policing. To reduce crime, our police must be allowed to make further contact with our homeless.
After a shooting at a homeless camp last month, the Mayor issued a statement that, in my opinion, sums up his lack of vision and problem-solving skills on this issue. Mayor Hales said, “This particular incident highlights that our homeless population are among our most vulnerable to being victimized by criminals, regardless of whether the criminal lives indoors or out. It’s why the City has been aggressively working to find safe places for people to sleep in the short term and to get back to the safety of a permanent home as quickly as possible.”
The Mayor’s comments would suggest that he understands that homelessness is a challenge that the city must face from many angles. Unfortunately, his actions don’t match his words. Right now, City Hall is pretending that the growth in our homeless population has no effect on crime. As the recent shooting reveals, we cannot continue to act like more homelessness in Portland will not require more policing to mitigate its impact. So, let me help Mayor Hales understand how to help solve the problem, not surrender to it.
Here is what I think will happen. As wanted people are arrested, criminals will hear that the cops are engaged and looking for people with warrants and will thus move out of Portland. As runaway minors are identified, some of that segment of the population will leave–hopefully to return home. With more information on these runaways, the City will be more able to help address their needs, both in terms of social services and the justice system.
The goal should be to actively engage, not to ignore. Homelessness is not a crime, but there are criminals among our current homeless population that must be stopped. We owe it to Portland to make sure we weed out the bad so they don’t prey on the good. The mayor’s current policy is like a three-legged table. Without active law enforcement as a fourth leg, it is unusable.
Recently I was walking in the Pearl District with my friend and advisor, retired PPB Captain CW Jensen, when we were solicited for money by a homeless man. I said that I would not give him money, but I would pay him to answer a few questions. He quickly agreed. I found out he was from San Diego. When I asked him why he would leave such a great climate for rainy Portland, he said that they arrest people down there, and everyone knows that Portland has better benefits for the homeless than San Diego and that our cops don’t hassle them as much. That was worth every cent of the three bucks I handed him.
It is well and good that the City of Portland provides compassion and care for its homeless population. At the same time, we must not neglect the law enforcement needs of our city when dealing with them. Citizens, churches, and business owners should not be forced to have their homes, facilities, and storefronts used as beds, toilets, or trash cans by the homeless. In particular, we should work to weed out criminals from within their ranks, which will certainly happen if we investigate street campers for outstanding warrants.
By refusing to allow law enforcement to even engage street campers, the City is making it easier for criminals to prey upon its citizens, both within and outside the homeless community, and this makes Portland a worse place to live, visit, and do business. That is not compassion, it is complicity. As a Portlander of 39 years who loves our city and its values of generosity and respect, that saddens me.
I will lead the City of Portland in developing the type of Police Bureau that will reflect the values of the people of Portland. We are one of the safest cities in the United States, and we can do better. ~ Fred Stewart
Fifty years ago, our grandparents came together to decide how the Portland Police Bureau would change and develop over time. They epitomized civic engagement through their involvement with numerous agencies in our city and their governance. The decisions that they made affect us today because they shaped the attitudes and policies of the Portland Police Bureau and its response to changes in technology, society, and Portland’s cultural landscape. These decisions have helped us make real improvements to our police force, but some of the policies and practices that they developed half a century ago are outdated and simply do not work.
Today we stand in a similar place where our grandparents stood some fifty years ago. We are trying to design a police force of the future and are working to improve the decision-making process that will impact the lives and liberty of our children and our grandchildren. The choice we have before us is between a humane, socially-engaged, and responsive police force that respects citizens as it protects and serves them, and a militarized, high-tech, “Robocop” police force that might protect us, but also threatens some of the liberties we all enjoy.
What will the police force of the 2060s look like in Portland? That is the question we must answer. Our answers to this difficult question and the changes we make as a result will have a serious impact on the lives of our descendants. We owe it to them, to the people who will inherit Portland, and, of course, to ourselves, to make these decisions carefully and in an inclusive, democratic manner. These decisions must live up to the principles of self-government and liberty that were handed down by our Founding Fathers and defended by our grandparents–principles that will preserve a finer way of life for our grandchildren, and for their children as well.
That is why I propose a Police Visioning Committee made up of community leaders, business leaders, and retired police officers to help us answer the important questions that face the Police Bureau. This Police Visioning Committee will brainstorm ideas and methods that will help ensure a police force that respects and protects citizens and upholds the people’s civil rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
Some of the questions that must be answered by this committee include:
Deciding how our Police Bureau needs to change and evolve will not be an easy process because there are so many important dynamics to consider. Some police methods are time-honored, highly effective, and should not change, while other police methods and training procedures should be examined with new eyes, in hopes of updating them.
It was not easy, to develop and sustain good leadership for the Portland Police Bureau when it was established in the 1870s, and it was not easy in the 1930s when advances in technology and changes in society required that Portland leaders once again reform the Bureau’s practices. It was not easy when changes were instituted in the tumultuous 1960s, in response to all the political and social unrest and civil rights reforms that transformed our country. The changes that resulted from that formative era shape the Portland Police Bureau of today.
We cannot shirk our responsibility to overhaul the Police Bureau simply because it is not easy. Instead, we must make these decisions together with all citizens who hold a stake in the future of Portland. This is what the Police Visioning Committee needs to address, for the betterment of all Portland citizens, here and in the future.
I urge all Portlanders who genuinely care about our city to support and participate in this process. As we make the decisions and lay the groundwork to provide our descendants with a Police Bureau that is humane, diverse, effective, and committed to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Portland, we need community involvement and engagement to make that actually happen.
Portland needs a Police Bureau that will uphold the ideals of American policing: to protect and serve, while creating and maintaining positive relationships with community members of all races, all classes and from all parts of the city. My goal is that twenty five years from today, all Portlanders will consider the Portland Police Bureau the best police force the city has ever had, and celebrate its engaged, committed, and friendly officers who genuinely care for all Portland’s people.
By Fred’s Campaign Team
SUBJECT: Economic Experience
COMMENTS: Fred has a substantial amount of experience in the world of real estate and banking. He has presided over 1000 real estate transactions and 2000 mortgage transactions over his 25-year career as a Realtor. He also has a strong background in banking, having worked for five years with one of Australia’s largest investment banks, Macquarie Ltd. With a strong understanding of how the housing market works and a focus on North and Northeast Portland, Fred can speak firsthand to the changes occurring in Portland’s economy. Fred’s economic understanding of Portland would be highly invaluable at City Hall.
SUBJECT: Community Involvement
COMMENTS: Fred has taken an active role in the community he calls home. After reviving the King Neighborhood Association, he was elected its President in 1990, an office in which he faithfully served for nine years. Under his leadership, the King Neighborhood Association went from a dead organization to one of the most active Neighborhood Associations in all of Portland, with a board noted for its diversity of backgrounds. As a Realtor who sold homes near his own, Fred worked not just to make money selling properties, but to build, shape, and preserve a community that he and his neighbors could be proud to call home. This degree of community involvement reflects a civic spirit currently lacking in City Hall.
SUBJECT: Commitment to Social Justice
COMMENTS: Fred has long been an advocate for social justice in Portland. Of particular interest to Fred has been the issue of law enforcement and how the police interact with citizens. By serving on the Portland Police Bureau’s Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee (PIIAC), he worked to hold the police accountable to the people and helped ensure fair, impartial analysis for all parties involved in investigations. At the same time, he served on the Police Bureau’s Budget Advisory Committee to ensure that Portlanders’ tax dollars were being spent well. Yet Fred’s passion for social justice is not limited to police issues. He has long been an advocate for LGBT rights in Portland, going back to his hard work on the No on 9 Campaign in 1992. Finally, Fred has fought in his capacity as a Realtor to keep Portlanders in their homes. During the Great Recession of 2008-10, Fred coordinated with dozens of people who were at risk for displacement and homelessness, and, at no personal profit, worked out arrangements to keep them in their neighborhood homes in North and Northeast Portland. All of this points to Fred’s willingness to take leadership roles in fighting for Portland’s most vulnerable people.
SUBJECT: Experience with Everyday Portlanders
COMMENTS: Fred turned a seedy strip club in North Portland into a neighborhood bar called Shanny’s Tavern. It was a good place, and patrons enjoyed its homey environment and friendly owner/bartender. The beer was good, too—Fred was an early adopter of Portland’s renowned microbrews. As its owner, he employed up to ten people at a time, and paid a wage that was well above the market standard. Even after he left the bar business, he maintained his focus on building relationships as a Realtor and as a community activist, and counts people from a great variety of cultures, neighborhoods, political stances, and socioeconomic levels as his friends and confidantes. As a candidate, Fred has still has been known for his openness to talking about the issues and listening to people’s hopes and concerns. Chat him up next time you see him out and about, or give him a call—he’ll talk to anyone, anytime.
SUBJECT: Appreciation for the Nitty-Gritty
COMMENTS: Fred knows what it takes to be a City Commissioner. His service on the Metro Future Vision Commission is a testament to his ability to apply personal experience as a Portlander and professional expertise as a Realtor and banker to making the City of Portland a better place. On the Commission, Fred dove wholeheartedly into the details of urban planning, from traffic engineering to population dynamics, and by listening, researching, and asking questions, he helped the Commission. Fred has a lot of good and bold ideas, like instituting land banking in Portland, or mandating micro-generation of power on newly-constructed buildings, but he recognizes that any good idea is rooted in many layers of research and analysis. Unlike many on the current City Council, Fred only proposes ideas that he knows to be airtight, and refuses to offer “feel good” solutions that accomplish only superficial change.
Steve Novick’s Gas Tax is “Regressive and Unnecessary”
Says Fred Stewart, “I see a pattern.”
Fred Stewart, candidate for City Council, announced today his opposition to the ten-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax proposed by Steve Novick, his opponent in the primary election on May 17.
Stewart said, “The time is long past due for the City of Portland to adopt a ‘Fix it First’ approach to our city streets.”
“The truth is,” Stewart asserted, “that Commissioner Novick has demonstrated a less-than-common-sense approach to maintenance of our city streets. He is, after all, charged with running the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The Bureau has a budget of $325 million in the current fiscal year. The Bureau has 750 employees, including 95 engineers, and a personnel budget of $50 million. Yet, despite this huge operation and budget, Novick has budgeted only $8 million this year for repaving city streets. Common sense dictates that the City re-prioritize the budget to ‘Fix It First’ before we consider any kind of tax increase.”
Stewart added that, “Steve Novick has been looking for more money for transportation projects by saying the City couldn’t afford to catch up on its repairs because it has under-spent on repairs in past years. But the truth is, in the three years that Novick has run the Bureau, he has chosen to under-spend on repairs when he clearly didn’t have to do so, given the size of the Bureau budget.”
“Moreover,” Stewart said, “Novick spent a couple of years promoting his regressive street fee to give us more transportation money for pet projects like the freight projects on Columbia Blvd. and on the South Waterfront, each of which are priced at $10 million. He didn’t even plan to take his big new street fee to Portland’s voters, but the rest of City Council wouldn’t go along with him. And then he waited in hopes that the State Legislature would fill the City’s transportation coffers, which, of course, it didn’t do.”
“I see the gas tax and the street fee as extensions of the same failed policy–trying to fund our street repairs without first addressing how we allocate our existing funds. Like the street fee, the gas tax is regressive and unnecessary. And it’s guaranteed to be passed on to Portland consumers and small businesses.”
Stewart further remarked, “I would point out that, of the additional $64 million this Novick gas tax will provide over four years, some $28 million would not be spent on maintenance, but on more of his pet projects so he could raise more campaign money from the building trades and highway contractors.”
“I see a pattern,” Stewart added. “This gasoline tax will hurt the locally-owned Portland gas stations because many of the users of our city streets will choose to buy gas outside of the city limits in order to avoid the tax. This is just like the back-room meeting Novick engineered to pay his boss, Mark Wiener, for lobbying for Uber, a multi-billion-dollar corporation. This deal hurt the locally-owned taxi cab companies and their drivers, just as the gas tax will hurt our gas stations and truck stops.”
“When Portlanders go the polls,” Stewart said, “they need to remember what Steve Novick said when his street fee proposal was challenged. He said, and I quote, ‘If people don’t like what I do, they can vote me out.’ That may just be the best idea he’s had yet.”
To my dismay, I will not be attending the Portland City Club’s Candidates Forum for Arts and Culture tomorrow at Portland’s historic Armory. It appears to me that people with my background are not welcome at this event.
The organizers had little use for a candidate like me, raised in Portland and already deeply involved in my community, and the format of the event shows their lack of interest in serious policy discussions. Rather than engage all candidates for a longer forum, which could help get as many ideas on artistic and cultural issues out as possible, the few people actually invited will be mostly limited to sound-bites over the course of the 90 minute event.
Portland’s vibrant artistic and cultural currents are of great importance to me and I look forward to discussing them with anybody who wants to hear my perspective and share their own with me.
Link to the Candidates Forum for Arts and Culture: http://www.pdxcityclub.org/calendar_day.asp?date=1/26/2016&event=373