PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek announced members of her new Portland Central City Task Force on Tuesday as part of an effort to revitalize Portland’s economic future.

Kotek — who co-chairs the task force with The Standard CEO Dan McMillan — said the task force will develop a plan “that will advance Portland’s role and an economic engine for the state by serving as a great place for business, residence, education, arts, entertainment and shopping.”

With nearly 50 people named as task force members, the list includes elected officials such as Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici along with Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

The task force also includes business and community leaders from Travel Portland; Legacy Health, Portland State University; the Portland Trail Blazers; US Bank; the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; Mother’s Bistro and Society Hotel.

Portland Central City Task Force Members

Governor Tina Kotek, State of Oregon, Co-Chair
Dan McMillan, CEO, The Standard, Co-Chair
Senator Ron Wyden, US Senate
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressional District 3
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, U.S. Congressional District 1
Representative Janelle Bynum, Oregon House District 39
Representative Rob Nosse, Oregon House District 42
Representative Tawna Sanchez, Oregon House District 43
President Lynn Peterson, Metro
Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County
District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County
Mayor Ted Wheeler, City of Portland
Oscar Arana, Native American Youth and Family Services
Candace Avalos, Verde
Kimberly Branam, Prosper Portland
Jessie Burke, Society Hotel in Old Town
Kimberly Cooper, Fortuna Group
Kathryn Correia, Legacy Health
Graciela Cowger, Schwabe
Patrick Criteser, Tillamook County Creamery Association
Ann Cudd, Portland State University
Nicole Davison León, Hispanic Metro Chamber
Stacey Dodson, US Bank
Brian Ferriso, Portland Art Museum
Ernesto Fonseca, Hacienda CDC
Robert Gootee, Moda Health
Erin Graham, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Stephen Green, Business for a Better Portland
Dewayne Hankins, Portland Trail Blazers
Nkenge Harmon Johnson, The Urban League
Andrew Hoan, Portland Metro Chamber
Duncan Hwang, Metro Council, and Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
Renée J. James, Ampere Computing
Cobi Lewis, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon
Nolan Lienhart, ZGF Architects
Jim Mark, Melvin Mark
Jan Mason, Mackenzie, Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon and Greater Portland Economic Development District, Chair
Jeff Miller, Travel Portland
Andy Mendenhall, Central City Concern
Lance Randall, Black Business Association of Oregon
Curtis Robinhold, Port of Portland
Lisa Schroeder, Mother’s Bistro
Alando Simpson, City of Roses Disposal & Recycling
Vanessa Sturgeon, TMT Development
Michelle Weisenbach, Wells Fargo Commercial Banking, Greater Portland Inc Chair
Charles Wilhoite, Willamette Management

Kotek said additional leaders will be invited to join committees within the taskforce for regular meetings that will focus on community safety, neighborhood livability, housing and homelessness and taxes for services.

After the task force’s first meeting on Tuesday, Kotek and McMillan held a press conference — noting after the group develops its revitalization plans, they will present their recommendations at the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit in December.

“This not just a big conversation where people just get to vent and study something. This is an opportunity for folks across the city of Portland to come together and come together with action steps in five main areas that will then be presented at the Oregon Business Summit in December,” Kotek said.

The governor added, “there’s a sense of urgency in this group. We are here to make progress, build on good things that are happening and be every clear that at this moment, we can’t just talk about things, we have to do things and have very specific steps to make progress.”

Some local businesses wonder why more discussions about problems in the city is needed right now.

“There’s just one big eye roll. Like, stop talking let’s do something. They’ve been talking about it forever it seems like, and nothing is happening so, I want some action,” The Fossil Cartel Owner Susan Landa told KOIN 6 News. “They’ve been talking about it forever it seems like, and nothing is happening so, I want action.”

“Same story, different sound,” Portland Outdoor Store owner Brad Popick added. “Everybody wants something to be done much faster than it’s been going.”

“What are immediate steps you all or this task force can take to help reverse the trend of downtown to help these businesses? What I would say is stay tuned, this isn’t a year long process,” Kotek said during the press conference. “Let’s look at the money we have, can we use it differently? Can we do things differently right now to improve things because when you see progress, when you see success, you get more progress, more success so we’re very focused on making things happen.”

One hurdle Portland faces is a steadily growing office vacancy rate.

The latest data available from commercial real estate firm CBRE says in the second quarter of 2023, nearly one-third of office space is vacant– a sizable increase from 2022.

During the task force meeting, Mayor Wheeler also submitted his own recommendations for maintaining clean streets; addressing homelessness; increasing community safety and boosting economic development in the city. Wheeler is also asking for nearly 100 Oregon state troopers to be stationed downtown.

While Kotek said she is aware of Wheeler’s asks, she noted, “one thing we need to remember is no one government — whether it’s the City of Portland, Multnomah County, or the state, or even a governor or mayor — is going to solve all of the challenges facing downtown Portland.”

“If it were just up to government, we are not going to be successful. We need every Oregonian, every Portlander getting behind being part of the solution so we can get ahead of this,” Kotek said.

Watch Tuesday’s press conference in the video below.

Kotek announced the Portland Central City Task Force on August 9 as a way to revamp Portland’s economy.

The governor said she was partnering with the Oregon Business Council to gather local elected officials and business and community leaders to “tackle issues impacting the economic future of Portland’s Central City.”

“It’s no secret that downtown Portland has faced an onslaught of challenges in recent years that have tarnished some of the characteristics that people love about Oregon’s largest city,” Kotek said in a press release. “Growing pains turned into crises, exacerbated by a global pandemic, and now concerns about Portland have become a statewide economic issue. It’s time to look forward, bring together diverse voices, and focus our energy on developing concrete and equitable solutions. I want to thank everyone who believes in Portland and is committed to building a brighter future, whether you’re a member of this task force or doing great work elsewhere.”

The governor said she started the task force “in response to a clear mandate” from Portlanders and Oregonians to address issues in the city.

This article summarizes aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.

Article first appeared in KOIN on August 22, 2023.

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