For the spring 2018 primary election, RACC distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for Portland City Council; Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington County Boards of Commissioners; and Metro Council. Each candidate was asked five questions on March 13 or 14, and given the opportunity to respond by March 30 when this story was first published. RACC will continue to publish responses from candidates even after the deadline has passed.
Here are the responses provided by Andrea Valderrama, running for Portland City Council, Position 3. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?
AV: I am very proud that as a David Douglas School Board member, we have worked to keep the arts in classrooms throughout that school district. It is unfortunate that we are the only Portland school district which has kept arts in their classroom, there is a need to fund arts in our schools and will work for that when elected. My family and I are also lucky enough to attend a number of performances in Portland each year.
RACC: Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life. Yet there are a number of pressing needs in Portland that often compete with arts and culture for attention and investment. How would YOU describe the importance of arts and culture in our community, and what should Portland be doing to support this sector?
AV: A city without a vibrant arts and cultural scene is a drab city with no soul. I believe that as community leaders and ambassadors for the city, City Commissioners have an obligation to celebrate and promote our artists. Although, as you say, other pressing needs compete with arts and culture for investment, I would not join those who regard the City’s minimal General Fund investment in RACC as a frivolous “pet project.” I would like to see the City explore ways to use lodging tax revenue to support the arts. Beaverton is using lodging tax revenue to support a performing arts center. The tax is designated for tourism promotion, and some hoteliers objected to Beaverton’s action – but arts investments do indeed support tourism. One thing the City can do is encourage the State to be a better partner on arts and culture issues. The State should use lottery funds to support critical investments in the arts, recognizing that arts investment is economic development. Another way Portland can be more supportive of the Arts is by increasing the supply of creative spaces and making them more accessible for arts organizations.
RACC: The region’s affordability is a serious concern for everyone in our community. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable for artists, nonprofit arts organizations and arts-related businesses?
I support Commissioners Fish and Eudaly’s 22-point plan to preserve and expand affordable arts space. Portland is in a Housing state of emergency, and every day more Portland individuals and businesses are more on the verge of displacement and housing instability. I’ve been there –and I know how difficult it is to get back on your feet after experiencing homelessness. My strategies for bringing housing and creative spaces for affordable for Portlanders, nonprofits, and businesses include: 1. Increasing the Supply of Affordable Housing & Creative Spaces 2. Stabilizing Rising Housing & Commercial Leasing Costs 3. Displacement Prevention & Mitigation (Wealth Creation).
INCREASE THE SUPPLY OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING & CREATIVE SPACES
Bringing affordable housing and creative spaces to all Portlanders is going to require a combination of new development, supportive housing, revenue reform, securing new shelter space and making current shelter space permanent, tenant protections, displacement prevention and mitigation tools, and finally, support for homeowners. As Portland grows, the supply of affordable housing becomes more urgent, and we need to ensure that the supply conversation doesn’t center around new multifamily rental construction at market rate but rather, new construction specifically for 0-60 MFI households, preservation of our current affordable housing supply, and acquiring buildings and properties that have been land banked instead of constructing new.
STABILIZE RISING HOUSING & COMMERCIAL LEASING COSTS
It would also be a top priority of mine to urge our state delegation to lift the preemption on rent control and just cause eviction standards so that we can directly stabilize rising housing costs. I am proud to have worked on the City’s mandatory relocation assistance ordinance this year, mandating that landlords in Portland pay relocation assistance to tenants experiencing rent increases of 10% or more and tenants being evicted for no cause. In my elected capacity, I would continue to advocate for similar tenant protections including landlord registration, broader screening criteria, and security deposit reform, policies that could help minimize the impact of rising housing costs. Lastly, I am very interested in championing a policy that would subsidize nonprofit organizations and local businesses if their commercial rent increased over 10% in the past year.
DISPLACEMENT PREVENTION AND MITIGATION
The housing crisis that the City of Portland is currently experiencing is also an affordability crisis, and we must include strategies that generate wealth prevent displacement of not just individuals, but of our local nonprofit organizations and businesses. This includes providing subsidies during and after construction, providing educational opportunities so that businesses can adapt to a changing consumer base, and policies that support both the business and worker.
RACC: The city’s Arts Tax is disliked by some, while 62% of voters approved it. Thanks to the Arts Tax, every K-5 student in the City of Portland now as an art, music or dance teacher, and dozens of nonprofit arts organizations are expanding access to the arts by providing free and low-cost arts experiences for Portland residents. What changes to the Arts Tax, if any, would you want Portland City Council to consider?
AV: I am concerned by the fact that under the Arts Tax, someone who makes $30,000 a year pays the same $35 tax that is paid by someone who makes $1 million a year. I am also concerned that the Arts Tax has not brought in as much revenue as projected; the practical effect of that has been that although the tax has been a boon to schools, it has been of little help to actual arts organizations. I would support asking the voters to change the Arts Tax to a more traditional income tax in which people pay in proportion to their income, and as part of that restructuring I would ensure that it brings in enough money to meet its original goals. I also am concerned about the fact that the City Council sold the Arts Tax to voters with an unrealistic promise that administrative costs would be less than 5%. That is another reason to send the measure to voters again, without such an unrealistic promise. I am confident that voters, having seen the value of the Arts Tax, would re-approve it in a revised form. I would also consider allocating some of the new revenue to displacement mitigation of arts nonprofits and businesses. Any changes would of course need to be discussed with the Arts Community.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for the City of Portland that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
AV: Some other priorities that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations, and arts educators in our community include:
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & WEALTH CREATION
As someone who sold my own original music CDs out of the trunk of my car to pay my way through college, I’m a firm believer in supporting artists in the development of their business and artistic talents. In the City of Portland, I know that we can do a better job of doing this by providing the resources and spaces for our aspiring and established artists to share their talents and earn enough to continue to thrive in this city.
I’m also passionate about providing our youth with the opportunity to access to the arts, not just through their school but through their community. Portland City Council can do this through partnering with local nonprofits and schools to subsidize internships or arts lessons, and then leverage those skills learned by providing opportunities for youth to perform at various city events.
Lastly, I am particularly interested in ensuring the stories of the many cultural heritages we have represented in the City of Portland are not lost, and that we are lifting up those organizations and individuals who are carrying on their cultural traditions through their celebrations, festivals, performances, and languages.