Hales says he will put heart and soul into job as mayor
By Mindy Cooper/ The Portland Observer
Mayoral candidate Charlie Hales describes his moving to the city of Portland more than 30-years-ago as a choice that mattered, much like his current run for mayor. “I love this city,” he said.
“I know I have the skills, the experience and passion this city needs right now,” Hales said, in an interview with the Portland Observer. “I want to put my heart and soul into this.”
Hales left city government in 2002. He was midway through his third term and took a job as a streetcar consultant. He said it was a time where he felt he had accomplished a lot on the City Council, but also a time of personal change as his kids were going off the college and he was making plans for a new marriage.
Hales said he has no political ambitions beyond being the mayor of Portland.
“The big fall push is on,” he said, less than two months before the Nov.6 vote-by-mail election.
His number one priority if elected mayor, he said, was to make the city a place of opportunity for everyone.
“We need a good leader,” he said. “Portland has changed from a town to a city and demographically in a huge way.”
Nearly half the kids within Portland Public Schools are minority youth, he said. “And we are a better city because we are so diverse.”
Hales added, however, that the inequalities minorities face within the city must become a main priority.
And education, he said, would be his first focal point.
“Adequate stable funding for every school—that is not too much to ask,” said Hales, who said he believes lawmakers in Salem, including his opponent in the mayor’s race, State Rep. Jefferson Smith of East Portland, have failed to uphold their responsibility to residents.
“If I’m elected mayor, our first job would be adequate school funding,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s not our department.”
He also said he would give extra attention to those who need help and inspire good leadership and additional funding, a combination he said can “do great things.”
One way to increase equity within Portland would be to increase job opportunities and technical training for youth, he said. “We need skilled workers.”
The equity agenda also needs to go all the way to the top, said Hales. “But if the equity agenda is going to have real clout, it needs to be right at the mayor’s side.”
Hales also emphasized his goal to catalyze more diversity amongst city leaders. While at City Hall, he sees himself as a mentor to develop new leaders of color for positions in the city, he said. “We can do that deliberately.”
This includes more people of color within the Police Bureau. He said police recruitment is falling short on looking for local hires.
Although some officers truly believe in community policing, Hales said there are not enough of them, which consequently divides the house. “But if we set expectations, we will be a community agency,” he said.
One goal would be to change how the bureau deals and partners with the community, by increasing the number of officers who live within their working neighborhoods.
He added, while he respects the work of Chief of Police Mike Reese, he said officers within Portland need a mayor and command structure they respect, and a police bureau that will connect with the community.
When addressing the current fiscal state of the city, he said Portland’s city budget is wounded, but not in a dire condition. He said, however, there is too much funding in overhead and administration, and the current city council, he believes, has run up too much debt.
“This will be a challenge,” he said. “We have two blinking yellow lights. There is too much overhead and too much debt.”
He also said he is opposed to coal going through north and northeast Portland neighborhoods, and he plans to put pressure wherever it’s needed, even though he realizes the fight might not be an easy one.
But Hales said he is optimistic positive changes can and will be made if he is elected mayor. “I wouldn’t want the job if I thought I would be presiding over the decline of Portland,” he said.
Although he is proud of the work he did as a commissioner of the city, this time around, he said there will be many differences in how he connects to the local community. “I’m going to have the discipline of getting out of the building and talking to people and not just rely on staff,” he said. “Count on me to be accessible.”
Hales also would like to have city council meetings at night and out in the various communities occasionally, perhaps monthly, in an effort to increase the voices within Portland neighborhoods. “We have got to have leadership,” he said.