2021 Roadmap for Economic Recovery

February 2021

The members, staff and partners of the Portland Business Alliance, Greater Portland’s Chamber of Commerce, have developed a roadmap for recovery, offering a way forward for elected officials, public agencies, businesses, nonprofit leaders and community advocates to come together to get Portland’s economy back on track.
This plan aligns with our community’s policy priorities, our strategic plan, and is consistent with the goals developed by Portland’s City Council.
The roadmap offers the opportunity to build diverse coalitions. It also aligns with what surveys of voters and small businesses show are widely and deeply felt problems.
Our collective economic recovery relies on community partners staying focused and working together. This past year offered countless challenges and, in the months, and year ahead, we can’t afford to be distracted. Every action, every policy proposal must be weighed against the importance of keeping our economic recovery on a resilient and equitable track.

Key components of 2021 roadmap to economic recovery and building back a more inclusive economy:
Vaccinations: Mobilizing every resource to get Oregonians vaccinated as soon as possible. Nothing will do more to put Portland on the road to recovery than getting kids back in school, workers back in offices, restaurants and hotels reopened, and events back on our calendars.
Economic justice and shared prosperity: Continuing to prioritize Black Economic Advancement, economic equity for underserved communities like East Multnomah County, and programs to boost our downtown retailers and restaurants. The legislature must also target our workforce recovery strategies toward those who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look to build a more inclusive economy, we must develop concrete regionwide metrics to track and hold ourselves accountable to making real economic progress for Black Oregonians.
Be there for our Central City: Generations of Portlanders worked together to make downtown Portland one of the most vibrant and attractive central cities in America. It is one of our most vital assets and it is this generation’s responsibility to not just save downtown Portland, but make to it stronger and more attractive for future residents and visitors.
How can we make sure we advance this inclusive economic recovery as fast as possible?
1. Deliver core services essential to quality of life and livability.
Portland is dirty, and our standards have fallen too far. Trash litters our streets. Requests to clean up graffiti have spiked. The City’s delivery of these services – street sweeping, graffiti removal, and trash collection currently housed in the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, has been abysmal, even prior to the pandemic. The City of Portland should consider joining the vast majority of American cities by moving all sanitation services into its own bureau with its own director.
2. Supercharge housing production now.
In 2015 the Portland City Council declared a housing emergency that is still in effect. Portland residents continue to rate homelessness as their top concern. And as the 2020 Housing Affordability report showed, the region’s massive underdevelopment of housing is the foundational cause of this crises. Portland simply doesn’t have enough housing to meet the demand. This continues to keep upward pressure on rents and sale prices, a key contributor to Portland’s affordability crises. Learn more
In 2019 and 2020, The Oregon Legislature and Portland City Council took critical steps to update laws to facilitate more housing development. Now we need this momentum to continue. A catastrophic drop-off in new development permits has decimated the Bureau of Development Services, whose job it is to process building permits necessary to keeping our economic recovery on track. The city should do whatever it takes to avoid these cuts and take steps to transform Portland from being one of the most difficult cities in the nation to build housing to one of the best. This will create good paying construction jobs, modernize our infrastructure, and start getting housing prices under control across the region. More housing, including supportive housing, combined with stable rent assistance, are the essential elements to slowing the growth and eventually ending houselessness in our region.
3. Swift and efficient implementation of new homeless services funding.
Last year, voters across the region overwhelmingly supported the largest homeless services measure in the nation, with the strong support of the business community. These new business taxes will pump $250 million a year into outreach programs, addiction and mental health services, and rent assistance programs. We need these new programs to get up and running with a strong sense of urgency as they are able to expand services with these new dollars. Programs such as Portland Street Response, which will put trained outreach workers on the front lines of working with Portlanders experiencing crises on our streets, instead of police officers and firefighters. This program needs to be staffed and operating as soon as possible. The City of Portland should also fully implement its new camping and sheltering plan to provide a dry, safe place to sleep for every Portlanders experiencing houselessness.
4. Portland must be a safe and peaceful place for everyone.
Statistics show violent crime, most notably gun violence, is on the rise. In 2019, crime and public safety barely rated as a top concern of voters.  In 2021, it was in the top four concerns.
Local and regional public, private, and nonprofit leaders must come together to build a permanent coalition to stand against extreme political violence of all types and support the right to peacefully protest. On Jan. 6, 2021, the nation was exposed to what happens when we allow political extremism and violence to go too far. Portland has experienced similar extreme political violence for months. Extreme political violence requires sustained public rejection by the entire community if we are to bring it to an end.
We must come together to rebuild the trust between the Portland Police Bureau and our community. This can only happen if we root out institutional racism and authoritarian ideologies from our public safety agencies at all levels. The Alliance is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the voter approved police accountability measure, which will, among many improvements, create the forum to imagine the policies and practices that will make up the system of community policing we want for future generations. Not only must we reimagine our policing policies, but we must fully fund it. The reality is that the system we say we want will likely cost more, require more sworn officers, and more deputy district attorneys, not less.
5. No new taxes while we focus on making what we have work.
Last year, Portland voters were asked to consider measures that collectively would have increased taxes by approximately 40%.  Voters wisely rejected the largest of these, the poorly timed and constructed Metro transportation measure. But with approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in new dedicated taxes, Portland now has the distinction of having one of highest local tax burdens in the nation. We simply can’t afford anymore new taxes during this time of economic recovery. Additionally, most of these new taxes are dedicated to ambitious new programs that are just getting underway. By taking a taxes timeout, we will give our region time to recover and public officials time to successfully implement these new programs to deliver the services Portlanders were told they were voting for. We also have an opportunity to look at the totality of our local system of tax rules. Local and regional agencies have an opportunity to collaborate to align rules across taxes and jurisdictions. Doing so can bring in more revenue while making compliance more simple and less costly for taxpayers.