Oregon Newly Sworn-In Governor Proclaims A Homelessness Emergency

Oregon Newly Sworn-In Governor: At her inauguration on Monday, Oregon’s new Democratic governor, Tina Kotek, indicated that one of her top priorities will be to alleviate homelessness. She also announced a number of initiatives designed to do just that.

Kotek promised on her first day in office that she would sign an executive order to expand housing buildings and declare a state of emergency for the homeless. She made the announcement during her inauguration speech at the state capitol in Salem. She also advocated for an urgent $130 million commitment to getting homeless individuals into homes.

Oregon Newly Sworn-In Governor Proclaims A Homelessness Emergency

Kotek stated, “Picture an Oregon where nobody needs to sleep in a tent on the street.” There is a new beginning today, and Oregon is worth fighting for. “Our state’s reaction must meet the severity of the humanitarian disaster we are confronting,” she continued.

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For a long time, Oregon was unable to solve its housing crisis or the related issues of homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health. Housing and Urban Development data show a rise of almost 22 percent in its homeless population since 2020. According to federal statistics from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it also has the highest drug addiction rate of any state and ranks worst in access to mental health care.

Oregon Newly Sworn-In Governor Proclaims A Homelessness Emergency
Oregon Newly Sworn-In Governor Proclaims A Homelessness Emergency

After the closest gubernatorial contest in Oregon in a decade, in which Republicans struggled to end the Democrats’ decade-long hold on the state, Kotek made a promise to bring the state together. During her first year in office, she aims to travel to all 97 counties in Oregon.

She promised to “strengthen relationships across the state” as part of her “personal pledge” because “governing is about serving Oregonians – all Oregonians.”

The Republican caucus of the Oregon House of Representatives extended their congratulations to Kotek in a letter and expressed their hope that the governor’s office and the legislature “can co-exist for the benefit of all Oregonians.”

It is apparent that the partisan division between Democrats and Republicans gives no value to the citizens that elected us, the letter read, citing the challenging campaign for both the Executive and Legislative branches as evidence.

Tina Kotek Plan For Homelessness

According to Kotek, her first executive order will mandate the building of 36,000 new dwellings annually, an increase of 80% from the norm.

Her proposed $130 million in emergency funding aims to get homeless people into homes within a year. Kotek urged lawmakers to move swiftly, and she expressed hope that the session would yield a larger, more all-encompassing housing and homelessness package in addition to the first investment.

The bills follow a major spending package passed by Oregon lawmakers last year, which included $400 million to combat homelessness and housing.

Kotek is taking over for term-limited Democrat Kate Brown, who was widely reviled for her tough stance during the recent coronavirus pandemic. Both are progressives and outspoken members of the LGBTQ community, and the two worked closely together during their terms as speaker and governor. But as the governor race wound down, Kotek tried to distance herself from Brown and her dismal approval ratings by painting Brown’s administration as weak on homelessness.

In the three-way campaign for governor of Oregon in November, Kotek prevailed over Republican Christine Drazan, a fellow former state legislator, by a margin of just 4%.

In 2022, Kotek resigned from her position as a state representative after serving there since 2006. She spent nine years as a speaker, making her Oregon’s longest-serving speaker, and solidifying her position as a powerful political figure in the state. She gained a reputation for her ability to broker compromises and bully legislation through the Oregon House.

It was during Kotek’s tenure as a speaker that the first statewide rent control statute in the United States has enacted thanks to the Democratic Party’s overwhelming majority. In addition to her work on gun storage legislation, she has also advocated for criminal justice reform and paid family leave.

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On Monday, legislators were sworn in as well. While Democrats maintained control of both houses of the legislature in November’s election, they were unable to secure a simple majority due to losses in key districts.

In winning her election, Kotek follows Massachusetts’ Maura Healey as the first out lesbian to serve as governor in the United States.

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