Interview with Ted Wheeler | April 11, 2016

The past three mayors of Portland have all served only one term. The Governor resigned last year in disgrace, and one of our Congressmen resigned after sexual assault allegations and mental health issues. Portlanders are craving an effective leader. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has high hopes for his Mayoral run. But in order to understand Ted Wheeler and his plans for the city, we must learn about his track record.

“As State Treasurer, my primary responsibility is to manage the state’s finances. This means serving as the central bank for state agencies, issuing debt through bonds, and overseeing a roughly $90 billion portfolio of the state’s investments,” Wheeler tells us.

Wheeler is proud to say he “helped Oregon become one of the top-performing investment Portfolios in the country.” But even before Wheeler becomes Portland’s mayor (if elected), he hopes to accomplish a few more at his current post.

Establish ABLE Accounts which allow people with disabilities to save without endangering their social services benefits.

Institute Oregon Retirement Savings Plan “which will provide a simple option for people who don’t have a retirement savings plan at their job to be able to save for their own retirement.”

“Setting up a new investment pool for local governments to make long term investments with money they don’t need to spend right away.”

Although it is questionable whether this will be doable in the few months left for Wheeler before he is likely to assume the Mayoral seat, there are many more things that he would like to see accomplished at the city leadership post. Two out of the three things he discussed with me dealt with solving the homeless crisis.

“I’ve made the commitment that by the end of my second year as mayor, there will be enough shelter beds for every person sleeping on our streets (numbers show we [have] 1,887 people sleeping on our streets). We can prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place by offering renters more protections. I’ve proposed a Tenants’ Bill of Rights, which includes a Just Cause Eviction ordinance (similar to the 18-point ordinance in Seattle). I’ve also proposed a jobs plan called the 25 by 25, which outlines our city’s strategy to get Portlanders skilled for roughly 25,000 high-skill jobs that pay at least $25 [an hour].”

Born and raised in Portland, Wheeler understands the city, its needs and where the town is going. Although this city is plagued with issues like a housing crisis, a homelessness emergency, and low High School graduation rates, there is is still promise for our future as we continue to grow into a larger, more successful city.

“The city is at a turning point. We’re going from being a small city — some people even compare it to a very large high school — to a big city. About 20,000 new people are moving here every year. It’s [those] challenges that I want to make progress on as Portland’s next mayor.”

Wheeler attended the high school that my brother and I attend: Lincoln. He also received a bachelor’s in Economics from Stanford, an MBA from Columbia, and a masters in Public Policy from Harvard. But Lincoln left a lasting impact on him and his future life.

“The first elected office I ever held was actually as senior class president at Lincoln High School. The communication and leadership skills I learned through that experience serve me well, even to this day. Many of the people I met at Lincoln are still close friends of mine. Decades later, we still sit around sharing ideas with each other and talking about the things we care about.”

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