Steve Novick is running for re-election to commissioner position No. 4 on the Portland City Council. Here are his responses to Street Roots' 2016 general-election questionnaire. (Read other candidates' responses.)
1. What is your plan to end the trend of economic segregation and make housing affordable to all Portlanders?
I am deeply troubled by the history of the city’s development policies contributing to the economic and racial segregation of our community and the displacement of people of color and low-income families from our central neighborhoods. Indeed, I have been very vocal in the need to take advantage of any opportunity to transform the Memorial Coliseum to provide benefits to the African-American community that was displaced by its construction. I am hopeful about a number of steps we are taking to reverse this trend and provide for economically and socially integrated neighborhoods. I continue to champion requiring developers to include a percentage of affordable homes as part of new housing developments, and I am committed to working with Commissioner Dan Saltzman to finalize and implement this policy. I also support current work to help African-American residents move back into neighborhoods in North and Northeast Portland from which they were displaced. I am a strong proponent of the November housing bond to build 1,300 new, publicly owned affordable homes across Portland. We also need to continue the work to amend zoning regulations to allow for the addition of duplexes, row houses, garden apartments, and other smaller units into existing neighborhoods – creating more affordable homes and helping better economically integrate parts of our community.
FURTHER READING: Steve Novick takes Street Roots' pop quiz
2. Oversight of short-term rental operations such as Airbnb is abysmal and undermines housing affordability. What are you going to do to enforce current laws, and what laws do you want to see put in place to prevent abuses?
Portland is struggling with a severe housing shortage, and it is distressing if some of the scarce units that we have are being taken off the market for use as short-term rentals. We need to start imposing sharp penalties on Airbnb and other hosts whenever they list a property that is not permitted by the city. We also need to step up enforcement against hosts that do not live in their homes 270 days a year, as required by law. The second part will be difficult and require resources, because right now, I don’t think any mechanism other than dwelling-by-dwelling inspections is going to be entirely effective. If we do find that illegal rentals are removing affordable homes, however, it would be worth using some of the general fund that goes to the housing bureau to fund enforcement.
3. What specific policies are you going to put in place your next term to help struggling Portlanders?
In addition to investing in affordable housing and passing inclusionary zoning, we need to ban no-cause evictions. We also must address abusive, unpredictable scheduling practices that make it impossible for workers to arrange child care, juggle multiple jobs or take classes while working, and otherwise organize their lives. We need the state to pass reciprocal licensing laws so that immigrants with professional licenses from their countries of origin do not need to wait forever to be licensed here. And we need to continue making investments that make it easier for people in lower-income areas to bike, walk and access transit.
We need city government focused on helping lift up those on the bottom – not supporting those on the top.
4. By nearly every metric, people of color are overrepresented throughout the criminal justice system. What are you going to do to correct that?
The overrepresentation of people of color and other historically marginalized groups in the criminal justice system is an epidemic, and one that needs to be addressed at every level. In 2012-13, I worked with Judge Waller, the Sheriff’s Office, Lane Borg of Metropolitan Public Defenders, the DA’s office and the Citizens Crime Commission to get the county’s “justice reinvestment” initiative – redirecting resources from prison to prevention – off the ground. The city itself needs to establish a system to constantly review data on arrests to identify disparate treatment and take action to prevent it. I believe the city should reduce the Portland Police Bureau “drugs and vice” division, ending our involvement in the failed “war on drugs” that has largely been fought against people of color; and in 2013, I voted against rejoining the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which we know to have serious problems with transparency and accountability, as well as disproportionately targeting people of color – specifically of Middle Eastern descent. The most powerful actors in the criminal justice system, however, are district attorneys, and we need to elect progressive DAs who prioritize criminal justice reform. I would like to join with other progressives to outline goals we want the current DA to meet; if those goals are not met, we need to find and support a progressive candidate.
5. In addition to the issues addressed above, what do you want to fix in the city?
We need to transform the police force to meet the demands of a low-crime era, trading people with guns for people (whether housed in the bureau or elsewhere) who do not carry guns and act more as community-oriented social workers. We need to ensure that the fire bureau is reimbursed by medical insurance for the medical care it provides, which would free up funds for investment in housing and other services. We need to continue to add 911 staff to reduce the punishing workload our current staff suffers from. And we need to address climate change by investing in active transportation and transit and continuing our commitment to land use policies that make transit and active transportation more viable.
6. Why should people vote for you and not the other guy?
While Chloe and I are ideologically pretty similar, I have a long record of accomplishment in government, and as an activist – winning major cases at the Justice Department, playing a key role in defeating right-wing ballot measures, successfully advocating to increase the funding schools get from the lottery by decreasing the amount going to subsidize taverns, and making a difference for working families as a city commissioner. Admittedly, I was a little bit eager and impatient when I was first elected in 2012, and not always the easiest to work with, but I learned some very important lessons and over the past couple of years, by collaborating with community members and my fellow lawmakers, I’ve accomplished a good deal – including establishing a funding source to fix our streets, voting to pass paid sick leave for Portland workers, implementing our text to 911 program, and taking the lead in the fight to end abusive scheduling. I’ve demonstrated that I can get things done, and also that I will continue to grow and adapt to the needs of our changing city.