Portland Mayor Urges Kotek, Oregon Legislators to Assist During Next Session

Portland Mayor Urges Kotek: During the forthcoming session of the Oregon State Legislature, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will be seeking Oregon Governor-elect Tina Kotek and the state legislature for assistance in resolving what he considers to be the city’s most pressing problems. Tuesday’s meeting was the occasion for Wheeler to present Kotek with his prioritised list of items.

Portland Mayor Urges Kotek, Oregon Legislators to Assist During Next Session

Among these, Wheeler notes the city’s homelessness issue, a scarcity of public defence attorneys, traffic enforcement, changes to civil commitment and mental health treatment, and more needs in housing, policing, and health care.Β At the top of the list, Wheeler requested that Kotek proclaim a state of emergency over the epidemic of homelessness in Oregon.

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He stated that by making this declaration, Portland would be granted permission to deploy emergency management or catastrophe resources, such as enlisting the assistance of the National Guard to assist in setting up the authorised camping areas that were described in his own plan for the city.

Wheeler made the initial presentation of his idea in October, which called for the prohibition of street camping and the relocation of homeless individuals to three huge tent encampments. It was approved by the Portland City Council, with the sanctioned camp element being altered to six smaller sites; however, the proposal does not yet contain specific camp locations or sufficient cash to carry ahead.

When speaking to Kotek, Wheeler added that an emergency declaration could enable Portland to purchase supplies from a FEMA-subsidized disaster supplies list. Wheeler also suggested that the state legislature should allocate direct funding to each city in Oregon for the purpose of enabling city leaders to address homelessness response and prevention.

Kotek Statement About Homelessness

Kotek has stated that she intends to declare a state of emergency over the issue of homelessness, and she has even criticised Governor Kate Brown for her failure to do so. A declaration of an emergency was one of the few issues on which it appeared that all of the candidates for governor of Oregon prior to the election in November appeared to agree. In addition, Wheeler submitted a request to the legislature of the state of Oregon to alter the standards of treatment for persons who suffer from serious mental illness.

Portland Mayor Urges Kotek, Oregon Legislators to Assist During Next Session
Portland Mayor Urges Kotek, Oregon Legislators to Assist During Next Session

Evan Watson, an investigative reporter, was featured in the investigative series “Uncommitted” this year. In it, he discusses that Oregon’s standards for civil commitment, also known as forced mental health care, are high. As a result, the state’s system may fail to provide treatment to people with severe symptoms of mental illness.

Family members such as Brenda Gardner have stated that the current system fails individuals such as her son Eric who have refused mental health treatment. This creates a cycle of temporary detentions and releases without sustained care, which family members such as Brenda have stated is a failure of the system.

Gardner stated, “As far as I’m concerned, the situation with the homeless is equivalent to an open-air mental institution.” People who should be living in mental hospitals or in assisted housing with a case worker who checks on them instead choose to live on the street and are treated like animals by others around them.

Wheeler wants the legislature to reduce the standards for civil commitment during the upcoming 2023 session, which is a much quicker timeline than what is outlined in the work of an Oregon Judicial Department workgroup that is currently reviewing state standards in order to potentially recommend changes ahead of the 2025 session.

If the requirements for civil commitment were lowered, it would be simpler for people to be compelled to undergo mental health treatment, which is a barrier that is now set rather high in order to preserve the civil rights of individuals.

Wheeler stated that these improvements should be coupled with greater community mental health treatment initiatives in order to prevent individuals from being sent to prisons, emergency rooms, and the Oregon State Hospital, which is now at capacity.

Wheeler Request to Oregon State Police

Wheeler next called for assistance on Portland’s roadways in the hopes of catching unlicensed drivers and auto thieves, which was the next item on his wish list. He made a request that the Oregon State Police assist Portland with traffic enforcement throughout the course of the following year in order to cut down on the number of people who were killed in traffic and the increasing number of people who stole cars.

Wheeler submitted a proposal to the court level for pay equity and other resources to be made available to public defence attorneys.

In the course of our investigation series titled “Injustice,” our investigative reporter Kyle Iboshi shared multiple perspectives from Oregon’s broken public defender system. These perspectives demonstrated how there are not enough attorneys to represent low-income defendants, which can cause cases to be postponed or thrown out entirely.

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Willy Chotzen, an attorney for the public defence, remarked that it was challenging to have an excessive amount of work to complete. “Being aware of what the best practises would look like but lacking the time to implement all of the changes that would benefit both my clients and my cases”

On his wish list, Mayor Wheeler included a few more funding demands, such as state assistance for the creation of affordable housing, new funds and capacity for police officer training, and extended eligibility for Medicaid funding.

Tina Kotek, the next governor of Oregon, kicked off her listening tour throughout the state this week and outlined her top three objectives, which are the provision of mental and behavioural health care, early childhood education, and housing.

The beginning of the legislative session for the year 2023 is on January 17.

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