Local Governments Must Change Course to Fix Their Policy Crises

By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.

Things are not going well in the Portland region. The region’s residents, voters, taxpayers, and businesses complain about rising crime, spreading homelessness, increasing traffic congestion, and a general decline in livability. Local officials try to tell us things aren’t that bad and that they’re on top of things.

But they are that bad. Just look at all the emergencies they have declared over the past few years. Portland has declared a housing emergency, several homelessness emergencies, and—just last week—a gun violence emergency. Multnomah County has declared racism to be a public health crisis.

These are all areas that are under the control of local governments. But their emergency declarations demonstrate their inability to keep these crises under control.

Willamette Week reported that just a few years ago, city-declared emergencies were related only to natural disasters. Today, policy failures count as emergencies. Portland and Multnomah County vowed to “end” homelessness 17 years ago, and now it’s worse than ever. Gang violence has been a problem for more than a decade, which is why Portland established the now-disbanded Gang Violence Reduction Team in the first place.

Simply declaring a series of emergencies will do nothing to stop the policy-made crises facing the region. Our local officials need to confront their past failures and change course to enforce public safety and restore the city’s livability. Don’t let these emergencies go to waste.

Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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