Few City Hall pairings have been as joined at the hip as Commissioner
Nick Fish and the Portland Housing Bureau. In his tenure on the City Council,
Fish has been the architect of the city’s current housing and homeless operations,
a defender of the social service safety net and the champion of multiple
affordable housing initiatives serving veterans, seniors and families.
But with Mayor Charlie Hales’ recent bureau shuffle, the
housing bureau now belongs to Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Fish assumes control
of the Bureau of Environmental Services, the Water Bureau and the Regional Arts
and Culture Council.
Street Roots spoke to Fish briefly about the change:
“It is bittersweet. We’ve had a great run these five years.
I’ve had a chance to work with a stellar team with the bureau and great
community partners, probably outperforming during the toughest recession in our
I’m very proud of what we accomplished and we did some
really important work. Now it’s Dan Saltzman’s term to take the baton and
continue to push the environment. The work is not going to get easier. There
are spending cuts at the state and federal levels, leaving fewer dollars to
invest. And there’s a growing need in the community, and questions: How do we
get the region involved in affordable housing? How do we reinvest in affordable
housing and how do we continue to remove barriers to Housing Choice? These are
big complex issues. I just feel very fortunate to work with so many talented
people and be apart of so many success stories. And I will continue to be a
champion for affordable housing.”
Do you think you will stay involved with housing and
homeless issues and how so?
“I’ll definitely still be involved. Through the Bureau of Environmental
Services, we have a slice of the sustainability agenda, including green homes.
Through elders in action, I’ll be working on how we make housing both
affordable and accessible to older adults. Just as a legislator, one vote out
of five on the council, I’ll be making sure housing gets fully funded every
year, including the safety net, and continuing to invest TIF (tax increment
financing) and other resources in new affordable housing in our community.”
Do you leave feel differently about housing and homelessness
issues after these five years?
“I came to this job with a lot of history in the movement,
but I learned a ton in this position. And I’ve never worked with so many
creative and resourceful people. Having been in the trenches, I have even
greater respect for the work that people do.
A lot of it’s not very glamorous, and most people don’t know
how hard it is to put together these development deals, it’s almost a miracle.
There are few things in life more rewarding than being dedicated to a movement
that everybody should have a roof over their head. It’s been a joy and an honor
to be a leader in that movement.”