Senate District 23 reflects the future of the state of Oregon more than any other.
Senate District 23 is the most diverse senate district in Oregon by every measure of income, race and ethnicity, with its new China Town emerging along the 82nd Avenue of Roses corridor, and its International District along NE Sandy extending out to Argay Terrace, with its high-income, its middle class and it’s low-income neighborhoods side by side.
Oregon is changing
More and more, the rest of Oregon will look like us, and we should take this opportunity in this Senate race to harness the strengths, the riches, the strong currents of change that our many cultures working together can bring forth.
I am uniquely suited to carry our Senate District and our state forward as we adjust to who we are becoming.
Small business and job training
Nearly every business located in Senate District 23 is a small business, and small businesses and the employment they offer are the backbone of the Oregon economy.
We need to see more investment in supporting small businesses and job training for family-wage jobs right here in our community.
Education: Pre-k through graduate school
I see Portland Community College’s Southeast campus as the key to the long-term vitality of east Portland, providing training opportunities that lead to family wage jobs and serving as a critical civic hub that benefits the entire city and county.
But there are long waiting lists for these classes. I was present on the day the SE campus opened, and it was already at capacity. The ESL, nursing, welding , First Responder (EMT) and other classes are long full, with only 1 in 8 nursing students able to get in.
The state faces the challenges of a nursing shortage and an aging population.
I fully support the bond measure that PCC will put before the voters in November, and I will champion investment in the entire pre-k through higher ed education continuum.
I will work to strengthen the links between PCC and its Marshall, Madison and Parkrose High feeder schools, using the guidance and resources made available with the passage of Senate Bill 300, Senator Gordly’s landmark Expanded Options bill, that provides opportunities for high school students to get on a college track by taking vocational or other academic courses not available in the high school.
I cannot speak about education without noting that the students at Jefferson High and other area schools have no band and no advanced placement classes, and that is a responsibility that this entire city shares.
Nor can I speak without noting that in Parkrose School District alone, more than 198 students strive to gain an education with the added burden of homelessness.
Affordable housing and access to credit
I walk my dog daily through my Parkrose neighborhood, and as a Realtor, I am struck by the increasing number of homes for sale that lie vacant, each with its own story.
These vacant homes are to me the clearest signal that Oregon will not escape harm as the mortgage crisis destroys access to credit for our middle class and low-income households. I will work hard for you to increase state investments in affordable housing.
Oregon Health Plan and the uninsured
Cuts to the Oregon Health Plan hurt more residents of Senate District 23 than in any other senate district in the state, and I was among them.
My personal experience of homelessness, hunger, uninsured illness, and clinical depression, my experience as my elderly and fragile mother’s sole caregiver make me uniquely suited to address these issues in our community, and from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, I will work hard to expand access to the Oregon Health Plan to cover the uninsured among us.
Veterans, military families, Iraq and Afghanistan
As the father of two Army National Guard soldiers first ordered deployed to Iraq more than five years ago, I am fully aware of the damage to our nation, our state and our community and the costs military families are paying in this longest and most mistaken war our nation has ever endured, a war that has cost me both of my sons.
The Oregon Senate has no counterpart to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and this results in the stranding of important veterans and war-related bills at the same time that we require open-ended sacrifice from the families of the troops we send into combat on the other side of the world.
I am calling for the establishment of a new Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to work jointly with the House, and I will serve there, ensuring that we are responding as a state to support these families in crisis.
Senate District 23’s environmental issues
Senate District 23 has its own unique environmental challenges. There is noise and pollution from airport operations. Air quality is a serious concern for those of us who live near freeways and rail lines, which intersect the district in many places.
There is much older housing contaminated with lead paint. There are hundreds of homes where former meth labs operated that have not been properly decontaminated, and families are living in them not knowing that they are at risk.
On the legacy of Avel Gordly
I have had the great good fortune to work for and learn from one of Oregon’s greatest public servants, one of the great ladies of our state and of our time, Avel Louise Gordly.
With Senator Gordly’s retirement, Oregon loses its most tireless and effective champion for underserved populations, for seniors and people with disabilities, for those living with mental illness, for access to health care, for children and families who have fallen through the cracks in the system, for justice for every person, and for taking principled, straightforward stands simply because it is the right thing to do.
I will commit myself to living up to her legacy and do my very best to honor her confidence in me in my service to you.
I delivered an abbreviated version of this speech at the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association Candidate Forum on March 25, 2008.