Chamber unveils 2024 Policy Agenda

February 2024

Over the past five years, Portland has faced a cascading series of crises that have measurably damaged our city’s reputation and spurred the realization that the condition on the streets is simply not consistent with Portland’s values. After decades of growth, Portland began to lose population. With one of the largest unsheltered homeless populations in the nation, record levels of gun violence, open drug use, and record high taxes, Portlanders began to question our local government’s ability to meet these challenges.

In recent years, voters have sent a clear message that they expect our elected leaders to return to the basics and restore Portland’s greatest asset: livability. A new city council and county leadership were elected, pledging to address these issues. Our new Governor promised to address these same issues and clean up Portland. In 2023, this new generation of leaders with a clear mandate and shared agreement on their priorities got to work on this agenda. After a year of working closely with business and community leaders, Portland is making measurable progress. If we stay on track, Portland’s future will be bright.
Read on for a progress report on the issues and our policy priorities.

Progress on public safety and Downtown recovery

RAndrew Hoan at Auto Theft Press Conference.ecent statistics show that crime is falling across the board, with vehicle theft, retail theft and gun violence decreasing from 2022 levels. In April, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Mayor Ted Wheeler, and County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson announced a multi-jurisdictional vehicle and retail theft task force. Upon its formation, the District Attorney’s office found that prioritizing a crackdown on vehicle theft would lead to an overall drop in violent crime. This multi-jurisdictional approach is clearly making a difference.

December 2023 was Downtown Portland’s highest foot traffic month since 2019, and Portland’s Central City has seen an increase of 14 percent from 2022. In the spring, major police missions began clearing established fentanyl markets. These missions were followed by a $1 million investment from the city, county, district attorney, TriMet, and downtown hotels in two hotel security districts managed by Downtown Portland Clean & Safe. Governor Kotek directed the Oregon State Police to provide additional resources and the county increased the presence of transit police. This has led to a measurable reduction in calls for service downtown, and a measurable increase in pedestrian traffic.

Historic Tax Reforms to Spur Development and Encourage Businesses

Local elected leaders enacted historic tax reforms to improve Portland’s business climate. In May of 2023, Portland’s famously tax-friendly voters routed an initiative to approve a local capital gains tax to fund tenant legal services, with 80 percent of voters choosing to vote “no.” Local leaders also passed permitting and housing regulation reforms that have long been concerns of businesses and developers. Unfortunately, the national media completely missed the unprecedented vote and historic reforms.

Portland Begins to Reduce the Impact of Unsanctioned Camping


Governor Tina Kotek.

Over the last year, local and state governments made record investments to expand shelter space. This included a clear agreement to fund the city’s Alternative Safe Shelter Sites. In September, the Multnomah County Commission approved its largest investment in transitional shelter to date. The governor followed through on her commitment to clean-up Portland by announcing a citywide expansion of Central City Concern’s Clean Start program alongside contributions from County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. The Clean Start program provides full-time, union-represented public service jobs to formerly homeless Portlanders who complete a substance abuse program. With this new record investment in place, the city enacted a ban on unsanctioned daytime camping. The ordinance is currently on hold pending litigation. The city’s Alternative Safe Shelter Sites are showing real results, with new data demonstrating high rates of transition into housing. In October 2022, when the city first approved these shelter sites, they set a target of adopting a complete ban on unsanctioned camping by July 2024.

Governor Kotek Co-Chairs Central City Task Force

In August of 2023, Governor Kotek followed through on her promise to prioritize Portland’s health when she announced the appointment of a Central City Task Force. In partnership with the Oregon Business Council, the governor co-chaired the task force with Dan McMillan, CEO of The Standard, members of which included Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Metro President Lynn Peterson, District Attorney Mike Schmidt and dozens of respected business and community leaders. The task force gathered quickly and made recommendations to improve Portland’s central city in just four months. This dedication paid off, and in December, the task force announced its recommendations at the annual Oregon Business Summit. These recommendations are strongly supported by the business community and have been widely praised.

Our Priorities

In 2024, Portland’s public and private sector must continue to work together to keep our city’s comeback on track. The Chamber calls on all local leaders to support and enact the recommendations of Governor Kotek’s Central City Task Force. We strongly encourage local leaders to act on the following policy agenda in 2024.


Support Governor Kotek’s Central City Task Force recommendation of a three-year moratorium on new and increased taxes:

  • Collaborate with public and private sector leaders to identify tax reforms that prioritize stable funding for basic services over specialty taxes and reduce the overall tax burden.
  • Multnomah County should not consider the 0.8% increase in the Preschool For All initiative.
  • Advocate to slow the growth of taxes and fees by calling on all local governments to:
    • Require economic impact statements for any tax or fee increases and ballot measures.
    • Adopt an overall cap on fee increases in a fiscal year.


All local governments must collaborate to end unsanctioned camping in Portland:

  • Continue to make sheltering our unhoused population the top priority. We must fund enough indoor and designated outdoor shelters to provide every resident with a warm, dry place to sleep. Ban all unsanctioned Camping in 2024.
  • Secure funding and adopt an implementation plan for a 24/7 first responder drop-off sobering center with a system of referral to addiction and mental health treatment.
  • Advocate for Multnomah County to adopt a “time, place and manner” ordinance like that adopted by Washington County.
  • Continue to push for housing production deregulation and incentives as an economic development strategy to stabilize the cost of housing options.


Reinvest in public safety services at all levels of government to serve Portland’s population size:

  • Continue to prioritize reducing gun violence, vehicle theft, retail theft, and an enforcement of drug trafficking and open drug use regulations.
  • Work with state leaders to re-criminalize the public use of hard drugs.
  • Fund Portland Police and prosecutor staffing to meet national standards.
  • Increase investment in emergency response services like 911 and the Overdose Response Team.
  • Reform ambulance staffing policies to require one EMT and one paramedic per ambulance.


City leaders must urgently align all city bureaus to support the implementation of the Advance Portland economic development plan:

  • Implement City Council’s directive to consolidate all business permitting into a single department.
  • Develop action plans at all levels of local government to support development opportunities in the Central City, including the Broadway Corridor, OMSI District, New Albina, Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, Pioneer Place, and Keller Auditorium.
  • Support the creation of the Department of Small Business Services in the City of Portland, offering resources and cutting red tape for local start-ups.
  • Adopt the Central City TIF district and expand the Central City tax credit program.
  • Support the launch of a Clean Industry Hub and industry-led decarbonization planning process.
  • Expand funding for Clean & Safe, Portland Metro Chamber, Travel Portland, and The Square to continue to activate downtown’s public spaces.

Coalition Partners