Multnomah County Commission District 1
1. What racial/cultural/ethnic identities do you claim?
Zimmerman – I consider myself of Caucasian descent. I work to always be conscious of how my racial identity affects my assumptions and perceptions, as well as recognize my own privilege when discussing racial or cultural difference.
Meieran – I identify as a Jewish white female of Eastern European ancestry.
2. What are the root causes of racial inequities in Oregon?
Meieran – Unfortunately, Oregon has a long history of racial inequality and exclusion dating back to the mistreatment of Native Americans by white settlers, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the displacement of black Oregonians after the Vanport flood, and much more. Subsequent lack of investment in employment, health, education and housing have led to ongoing and worsening racial disparities, even as the proportion of minority populations in Oregon is increasing.
Zimmerman – The roots of inequality begin with choices made even before the state was created – property and exclusion rules written into our state constitution and other founding laws. Those founding inequalities have been compounded by decisions over the decade that had disparate racial impacts – intentional or not – whether it is urban renewal in Portland, mandatory minimum sentences, or even the structure and funding of our educational system.
3. There are over 800,000 People of Color in Oregon, and growing. Generations of racial exclusion, exploitation and divestment have historically marginalized communities of color from the political process. What steps will you take to engage communities of color?
Zimmerman – I will continue opportunity for our youth to be involved in their local government through the Youth Summer Works program. I intend to broaden how we hire workers to ensure our minimum qualifications do not continue a pattern of exclusion. I will find culturally specific program providers to round out the county’s work. I have a commitment to pursue restorative justice work, and to root out racial disparity in the work of the county – such as the in the treatment of prisoners in County jails.
Meieran – I realize the first (and most crucial) step to engaging communities of color is to ask people from these communities themselves how I can most effectively engage with them. I will continue to reach out to community leaders and my friends in diverse communities to get their input as to how to best engage, and I will act on their advice. I will ensure the voices of people of color are an integral part of all policy discussions and implementation.
4. What leadership actions can APANO count on you for in response to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobic and other comments that demonize and stereotype Oregonians?
Zimmerman – I will be public and vocal in calling out intolerance and bigotry towards Oregonians. There is no place in our discourse for such behavior and it must be adamantly opposed at every turn. Where there is action to be taken, I will be firm in taking action and keeping people and programs accountable.
Meieran – I will publicly endorse pro-equality legislation and ballot measures, oppose anti-equality proposals, actively advocate at state and local levels to fight discrimination, and work with diverse groups to identify potential solutions. Having had many family members murdered in the Holocaust, I do not take xenophobic messages lightly, be they against the LGBTQ community, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, or other ethnic minorities. We must combat the rhetoric of hatred that has become all too common.
5. Asians, Pacific Islanders and communities of color are historically under-represented in civic life. What would you do to create or expand culturally specific (i.e. Asian/Pacific Islander, African American, Native American, Latino/a, etc) leadership and civic engagement programs?
Meieran – As described in response to Question 3, first I will solicit the people from these communities for their advice. As Commissioner, I will convene, engage and partner with communities of color, immigrant and refugee organizations, nonprofit and advocacy organizations, healthcare organizations and others to ensure our systems are working together and meeting the diverse needs of our entire community.
Zimmerman – I am committed to strengthening and improving how the county engages our minority communities. The county has many opportunities for civic engagement through our Office of Community Involvement, our budget committees, and our Citizen’s Involvement Committee. We need far better engagement and participation on these boards to help the county do its work better. Active participation and real outcomes shows our volunteers their time makes a difference. I also commit to finding increased opportunities for our programs to provide culturally specific assistance and enrichment as an important tool to increased leadership opportunities.
6. What are your solutions to the Housing Crisis facing Oregonians?
Zimmerman – We need a major investment in affordable housing creation to meet the growing demand and limited supply of affordable homes. I am glad the County is working with Home Forward and others to secure a new investment through the November bond measure- dedicated funds for housing is critical. But there is more we can do. We need a major investment at the state level in affordable house. We need to create a market that does not force evictions and enormous increases in rent. Multnomah County will implement local inclusionary zoning policies to help create mixed development and neighborhoods with affordability. And we need to do more to support family wage jobs that can help poorer and middle-class families afford homes in the communities where they work and send their kids to school.
Meieran – There is no single solution to the homelessness and housing affordability crisis, just as there is no single reason why people are homeless, or how they become homeless. We are all at risk of becoming homeless, and can be one paycheck or medical bill away from losing our home. What I do support is a process to addressing the issue, and a wide range of approaches to address the different causes. I support Multnomah County Chair Kafoury’s efforts to address the issue by involving all affected individuals and devising solutions. We must involve people who are homeless or at-risk of losing their homes, developers, non-profits, landlords, and tenants’ rights groups to work together in devising a solution. And we must collaborate at the local and state governmental levels to work toward a common goals, rather than duplicating efforts and wasting resources.
7. Communities of color have identified a significant lack of culturally specific centers in neighborhoods where they are concentrated. What steps would you take to support new investments in culturally specific community spaces and infrastructure?
Meieran – I strongly believe that culturally specific spaces and infrastructure are essential to the health of our communities. I recently attended the Asian Health and Services Center Annual Community Health Fair. I believe the Asian Health & Services Center is a model for creating an integrated cultural center that supports and is supported by the community it serves. The Portland Mercado is another great example. I would like to partner with community leaders to support and expand these types of opportunities more throughout Multnomah County.
Zimmerman – I strongly support these efforts. Part of our lessons learned at the County is that our programs are only effective to the degree people use them. We need to ensure that service delivery includes cultural competency and culturally specific strategies for engagement. Community centers like NAYA and the Q Center demonstrate the impact of offering that safe space where members of a particular community can access a range of services in a supportive environment. Multnomah County can help groups like APANO solidify and secure community center spaces in areas like the Jade District, the Soul District, and the Rosewood Neighborhood. These projects are best if they rise from the community instead of being directed by the government.
For more information on these candidates, please visit their website:
Eric Zimmerman: www.ericzimmerman.org
Sharon Meieran: www.votesharon.com
To get involved in APANO’s civic engagement work, please contact Kathy@apano.org or call 971-340-4861.