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Governor Tina Kotek answers questions from Think Out Loud host Dave Miller on pressing issues from housing to addiction treatment .

Governor Addresses Housing, Measure 110 and Portland’s Central City

Governor Kotek answered questions for nearly an hour this week on OPB’s Think Out Loud program, redoubling her call for increased housing production, urging steps to reduce street use of fentanyl and predicting an action plan to revitalize downtown Portland.

The first-term governor said she has visited 32 of Oregon’s 36 counties, which she pledged to when taking office.

Here are takes from her interview:

Housing Production
Kotek has called for 36,000 additional housing units per year, an 80 percent increase from current production levels, to overcome the state’s chronic housing shortage. Economists have identified a shortage of housing as a main driver for high levels of homelessness.

“We are on track to talk about the ideas that will get us there. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think that would happen in the first year. It might even not happen in the second year, but we can ramp up if we put more resources and tools on the ground to get to that type of construction level.”

Kotek conceded her unsuccessful legislation relaxing urban growth boundaries to provide land for housing “maybe went too far”, but she said action is needed to ensure affordable housing is built. “I would say to every Oregonian out there who loves their land use system that we have to be willing to adapt under the crisis that we are in. And so I hope everyone will look at those things and say, ‘OK, that’s a reasonable thing to do for a limited amount of time to deal with the fact that we have a housing crisis in our state.’”

“We have a climate crisis that we are addressing, and I think housing production done well – which means different types of housing that can exist within our current land use system – is part of solving for climate change here in Oregon… We can’t have the state we want if people don’t have a place to live. I don’t think it’s an either-or conversation.”

Measure 110
“I don’t think the measure got it right…Measure 110 does need some fixes, and I’ve been really up front about that. I’ve been talking with legislators about the unintended consequence of Measure 110 and what it means for public use of things like fentanyl and meth. We need to fix that.”

“I don’t want to just throw an idea out there to say, ‘This is how we’re going to fix it.’ I’m open to conversations. I don’t believe that just completely undoing it is the answer, either. And I think that’s where most Oregonians are – they’re like, ‘Well, we’re not sure we voted for the right thing, but we still think it’s a public health issue, and we need to go after people who are doing illegal things.’ So we’re trying to do a number of things to address it.”

“We do not have enough inpatient residential treatment. When someone is ready for recovery and they need a place to go, we don’t have that. That’s a workforce issue, that’s a physical location issue. That’s one of the things I’m particularly focused on, to make sure that people have a place to go when they are ready to recover.”

Kotek said she approved Oregon State Police assisting Portland police in dealing with drug dealers and street drug use.

Portland Central City Task Force
Kotek said an action plan will be ready by December. “We have to see progress. It’s not okay to just talk about the problem.”

“What Oregonians and Portlanders are going to see is clear statements of, ‘Here’s the problem, here are the action items, here’s who’s going to be in charge and here’s what it might cost to do that.’ That is our framing, whether it’s community safety, or livability, or homelessness, or tax structure or just, what do we want downtown to look like? What’s the future of Portland in the central city core?”

“It’s going to be both private and public partnerships. It’s not just going to be a big ask of money from the state. That’s not the approach we should take. There might be a need for some resources, but what’s the private sector going to do? People volunteering, what do they want to do? This is their city, it’s our city… We all have to be in it together.”

“If Oregonians believe we need a stronger set of tools around quorum, then I would be supportive of that.”

Legislative Walkouts
“Nothing in the law at the end of the day will be foolproof for keeping us from walkouts. This is about the relationships you build, how you treat each other, how you treat folks who aren’t in the majority. I think we have work to do there.”

“If Oregonians believe we need a stronger set of tools around quorum, then I would be supportive of that… I think we also haven’t seen the true consequences of what voters passed [Measure 113]. People are going to lose their jobs, I think, at the end of the day, because that’s what voters asked for. I think people are going to think twice the next time they do it.”