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Portland Mayoral Candidate Mingus Mapps Pledges to Help Parkrose

Mingus Mapps Portland Mayoral Candidate

Mapps Sees Area’s Rejuvenation as Key to City’s Revival
By Rob Cullivan

As Portland continues to struggle with issues like crime, homelessness/houselessness and fentanyl overdoses, Mingus Mapps, a city commissioner running for mayor, pledged to make Parkrose a priority.

“I’m really dedicated to getting this neighborhood and this city back on track,” Mingus told more than 80 Parkrose residents at a meeting November 9th at Rossi Farms. “Portland won’t be right until Parkrose is right.”

In his role as commissioner, Mapps oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Water Bureau, and the Bureau of Environmental Services. Elected in 2020, the former political science professor said if he was elected mayor, his priorities would be addressing the city’s houselessness, public safety, and economic recovery challenges.

Mapps is one of two candidates who have announced they are seeking the mayoralty. Durrel J. Kinsey Bey, coordinator of Youth Essentials, is the other candidate. Two-term Mayor Ted Wheeler announced in September he would not be seeking a third term. If elected, Mapps would be Portland’s first African-American mayor.

Parkrose Connection

Mapps stayed and took questions late after the event closed. Above (clockwise from the far left, Josh Bean (local business owner), Parkrose resident, Mingus Mapps (center), Randy Trowbridge, and Dan Haneckow (Photo: Joe Rossi)

During a brief introductory talk, Mapps noted his connection to the Parkrose area – he served as executive director of Historic Parkrose, a Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, from 2015-2018. “You folks made me who I am,” he told the audience.

By law, Portland mayoral candidates don’t identify with a party when running, but Mapps is a Democrat who has positioned himself as a moderate in the mayoral race. He noted, for example, that he did not lend his support to the “Defund the Police” movement following the months of street unrest that marked Portland after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. As an African-American father of two boys, Mapps said he has worked with other city officials to improve the police force, which is understaffed, following the unrest. Mapps noted ideally Portland would have at least 1,200 police officers on duty, but currently employs only 806, which itself is more than the department’s lowest total this decade, 789, in 2021. “It’s very important to me that we have a public safety system that is fair and effective,” he said, alluding to complaints of police racial profiling that led to the 2020 unrest across the country. “But it’s also important to me that when my kids call 9-1-1, a police officer shows up.”

Audience Responds

Don and Kat McKeever pose a set of questions to Mapps concerning public and employee safety at their store. (Photo: Joe Rossi)

On that note, police and city response to crime was clearly an issue for a number of audience members at the Rossi Farms forum. Don McKeever, a local grocery store owner since June of this year, shared horror stories about how criminals have hurt his business. Despite investing in extensive security measures, shoplifters on average steal about $200 worth of items from his store daily, he said, adding that he and family members employed at the store have been physically assaulted repeatedly when attempting to stop theft. He also noted his store routinely loses shopping carts to thieves. “We’ve burned through four fleets of shopping carts this year,” he said, adding the police response is too slow to be of any use to his store and its customers, something the thieves know. “They know the police ain’t gonna come, and they tell you that,” he said of the criminals, who hit his store at least five times daily. Mapps acknowledged the store owner’s frustration, reiterating his desire to hire more police officers if elected. “In order for you to stay in business, we have to give a better police response,” he said.

Another audience member talked about the impact of houselessness on Parkrose, and the proliferation of RVs and abandoned vehicles. Mapps, who oversees PBOT, said he’s made an effort to address the problem, but added that to remove an RV with people living in it, the police must be present, which complicates an already challenging issue. He also noted that PBOT is facing funding challenges as parking meter and gas tax revenues have decreased in recent years due to Covid lockdowns and the subsequent move of a number of folks to working at home, rather than driving downtown. Mapps also noted he wants dollars allocated to alleviate homelessness to both the city and county spent more effectively. He highlighted the city’s work on Safe Rest Villages, sites that offer alternative shelter to houseless folks, as an example of how he and other city officials are trying to address the city’s homeless camping issue.

Other issues people raised included the large number of fentanyl users in the city, a phenomenon that Mapps noted has led to hundreds of overdose deaths – reports indicate more than 500 people overdosed in 2022 alone – and that Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of minor amounts of street drugs, needs to be reassessed. Critics of the voter-approved measure contend it enabled a flood of fentanyl to flow into Oregon and made Portland, in particular, a magnet for fentanyl dealers. In a recent interview with PBS News Hour, Mapps addressed Measure 110. “I tell you, Portland managed to do this entirely wrong. We both decriminalized drugs, but we didn’t increase access to treatment.” Mapps has indicated he may support the recriminalization of some drugs, although he is not favoring a full repeal of Measure 110.

Audience members expressed a range of views regarding Mapps. At least one complained his office had not returned her calls to him about certain issues, but others said they appreciated his moderate stances, one woman in particular noting she liked the fact he was not among those who had called for defunding the police. A number of folks expressed concern about the area’s economic future, with one woman pointing out the area was better known for video lottery and massage parlors than sustainable economic development.

Donell Morgan (Executive Director of Elevate Oregon) poses a question to Mapps. Elevate Oregon mentors Parkrose students to stay in school and be successful. (Photo: Joe Rossi)

Donell Morgan (Parkrose Life Podcast episode 5), executive director of Elevate Oregon, a nonprofit youth services organization that works with Parkrose School District, said he came away from Mapps’s talk impressed with his commitment. He wants the city to consider increasing its commitment to partnering with youth services organizations like his, which are trying to offer young people an alternative to gang violence and other evils. Elevate mentors youth and offers them healthy recreational opportunities as well assistance in both trade skills and college admissions, he noted.

“I’m hopeful that the next mayor will see that our next generation has fallen off,” Morgan said. “I think the more kids have to do, the more stimulating things they have to do, the more successful they are going to be.”

Joe Rossi with his daughters Gabrielle and Genevieve
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