Portland Mayor Kate Snyder gives a State of the City address Monday, recapping work done in 2020 to meet council goals and help businesses and residents through the coronavirus pandemic, Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Faced with the local impacts of a global health pandemic three months into Mayor Kate Snyder’s first year in office, 2020 didn’t turn out as positively as she envisioned upon her inauguration in December 2019.

But Snyder was optimistic Monday in her first State of the City address, thanking city officials, councilors and community organizations who have helped residents and businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.

“The state of the city is this: The city of Portland is working hard. The city of Portland is responding to unforeseen and unforeseeable challenges. We are working together. Your city government is working collaboratively, and I recognize we have work to do regarding public engagement that feels meaningful and inclusive of all Portland citizens,” Snyder said.

The city, she said, has successfully re-imagined outdoor dining, handed out loans to help small businesses and started a relief fund for renters. After local protests in June following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city formed a Racial Equity Steering Committee to look at systemic racism in Portland, with an initial focus on law enforcement.

The City Council, she said, has made progress on four goals it outlined in December: increasing access to safe and affordable housing, reducing homelessness, increasing public transit infrastructure and passing a city budget that addresses the tax burden placed on residents.

The council’s work will add close to 900 units to the city’s housing stock on Cumberland and Washington avenues and on Brown, Valley, Middle, Grant, Hancock, Randall and Douglass streets, she said.

Throughout the pandemic, Snyder said, the city has increased space available for the homeless at the Oxford Street Shelter, Portland Expo, Family Shelter and at area hotels. It also has begun to address the demands of those at the homeless encampment on the steps of City Hall over two weeks in July and August. The new homeless service center planned for Riverside Street remains a top priority for the council, but will need partnerships regionally and across the state to happen, she said.

“The sleep out demonstration brought to the fore so many issues of critical concern, and while the encampment dispersed after a couple of weeks, the issues and lessons are top of mind for the council and city staff as we continue our uninterrupted services to meet needs,” she said.

Meanwhile, the City Council’s adoption of a city budget with no tax increase for residents, at the unusual time of mid-September, resulted in something that has not been seen in a generation.

“Holding the tax rate flat is especially significant given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the hardships experienced by so many city residents and businesses,” Snyder said. “Although it was a process filled with many difficult decisions, the Finance Committee led an extended (fiscal year 2021) budget review process which, for the first time in nearly 25 years, resulted in no increase to both the city and the school portion of the mil rate.”

There is much work to be done on city goals in 2021, which will be another tough year as city and economy rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic, but Snyder said there is reason to be hopeful.

“As I look around, and assess the state of our city, I see a lot to be optimistic about,” she said.

 

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