There are a record four open seats on city council this year, including for mayor, and we interviewed almost every candidate running to fill them. This is one in a series.
NOTE: all of these interviews were conducted before the Covid-10 outbreak.  

Ozzie Gonzalez, running for Mayor of Portland

“Art makes life worth living and it is what I will utilize to bring Portland together. “

What’s the most pressing problem facing Portland and what are you going to do about it? 

Homelessness—it’s a mental health crisis, an addiction crisis, a financial crisis, and a public health crisis all rolled into one.  Sweeps are ineffective because there is nowhere for people to go to. Meanwhile, our public spaces degrade, tourism plummets, and neighborhood streets become littered with debris.  People are screaming for attention out there and we need to intervene! I have met with businesses, churches, non-profits, and city clean-up crews—they all want to be part of a solution.

The first thing I will do is work with communities to designate sites throughout Portland.  I will work with churches, neighborhood associations, and designers to create pop-up service facilities that meet people’s basic needs in a rapid response format. Bathrooms, lockers, showers, personal hygiene, and temporary respite shelters will complement a kiosk for people to connect to short-term labor assignments, on site services, and for direct referrals to outside support services.

How would you define a successful term in office? 

Our City’s success depends on us solving tough problems together, so my first definition of success is how often I can arrive at solutions with all sides at the table.  In order for us to address issues like policing, climate change, homelessness, and residential infill, we need to have all sides at the table until a solution is found.

My other indicator of success is representation—how well the agency reflects the City it serves.  I expect the City to represent it citizens demographically, geographically, physically, and linguistically with the public dollars that are spent throughout the City.  I know there are many neighborhoods that have been ignored for a long time and I will make sure they get the attention they deserve also. Representation will be my metric.

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

Between learning about my 19-year marriage, my job as Naturalist Ranger in Montana, or the year I spent living off the grid while studying environmental science in college, it is my life as a performing artist that gets the biggest surprise.  I sing, I dance, I act, I play guitar, and once-in-awhile I do all those things on stage for paying audiences.

Art is my source of joy, inspiration, emotional release, and it’s what keeps me motivated to fight for positive change every day. Art makes life worth living and it is what I will utilize to bring Portland together.