During Friday’s debate at Catlin Gabel, the students on the CatlinSpeak staff asked questions on topics ranging from the environment to the economy, but the event’s focus was aimed at what the next mayor will do for Portland’s youth. Though most of the students in the audience will not vote on November 6, both candidates did an admirable job addressing the issues that kids in the city currently face.
Although the mayor of Portland has no official authority over Portland Public Schools, both candidates presented strong opinions on how to use their influence to change the system.
Smith suggested lobbying the legislature to create a stronger relationship between City Hall and Salem. But, said Smith, “That won’t be enough. I do think that we can apply sort of the pulpit of the office to talk about this issue, and to convene other people.”
He also said he would work with schools, libraries, parks, private sector, and law enforcement to provide the youth with meaningful activities outside the classroom.
Hales noted the far-reaching effects the schools have in Portland. “The schools run through everything we are as a city. It’s our kids, it’s our economy, it even affects our crime rate, the quality of life in our neighborhoods, property values––it runs through everything that we care about.”
His plans to improve the school system include partnering with Portland Workforce Alliance, convincing parents to become involved, and lobbying the legislature for funding, as well.
When asked about the recently rescued TriMet Youth Pass program, both candidates agreed it is important to institute some kind of discount for students. Hales stated that his kids used the Youth Pass, and wishes to continue the pass and reinstate Fareless Square.
Smith also said that providing an affordable way for youth to get to school and move around the city was important, but he specifically emphasized extending the Youth Pass to districts east of 92nd Avenue to ensure that more youth have this opportunity.
Outside of education and transportation, Hales recommended establishing summer programs for at-risk children and employing teens. To decrease violence, he wants to initiate community policing, in which the officers personally know the kids in an area instead of viewing them as possible offenders.
Smith noted that Boeing and Intel have set up several educational programs for youth, and he plans to encourage other businesses in the area to set up similar programs. He also wants to create mentor programs for teens that focus on creating leaders, rather than solely focusing on discouraging gang involvement, in hopes to promote self-esteem. As for controlling gangs, he suggested the Summer Night Lights program, which dissuades gang violence by lighting up parks.
In the end, Hales brought the night back to the kids. In his closing statement, Hales specifically addressed the youth in the audience, saying, “I want us to be raising up the next generation of young leaders, some of whom I hope are here tonight…I can’t wait to have the opportunity to serve you if the voters give me the chance in 18 days.”