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Chair's Blog

New board leadership announces priorities for 2015-16 August 2015
By Mitch Hornecker

I hope everyone has been enjoying a beautiful, and unusually warm, Pacific Northwest summer. As you may know, the Alliance board elected a new set of officers in July and I am privileged to assume the role as your new board chair. After 22 years as a downtown business lawyer, I became an owner in the construction business and am now the executive vice president for Howard S. Wright Balfour Beatty Construction, one of the Northwest’s oldest general contractors. I look forward to leading the board this year, supporting your needs and continuing our work to make the Portland region a great place to live and do business.

In the coming year, the board will continue its focus on preserving and growing middle-wage jobs. Our Value of Jobs reports have shown that Portland-metro needs to be accessible for companies that generate quality jobs so middle-income families can thrive in Portland. And our most recent work that looked at the fast-rising cost of housing stressed that family-wage jobs are more important than ever before.

Another important piece of the board’s work this year will include advocating for solutions to homelessness and community livability issues.

Many of us on the board have become very concerned about the number of people living and panhandling on our streets, sidewalks, parks and open spaces. We feel it is not humane for men, women and especially children to sleep outside where their safety and health is compromised every night. We’re also seeing its affect on Portland families and visitors, who want to feel safe using our public spaces, and small business owners whose customers and employees must navigate Portland’s sidewalks. We can do better than this.

More than fifteen years ago, I helped found New Avenues for Youth, a local outcome-based program serving homeless and at-risk youth, because I was alarmed at the sight of young people living and struggling on our streets. Like many of you, I wanted to be part of the solution. While New Avenues and other homeless service providers have had tremendous successes, this summer especially we seem to be overwhelmed by more people than ever in need of mental health services, emergency shelter and long-term housing and employment.

You may have seen our homeless and street livability campaign, which includes a public petition urging Mayor Charlie Hales and members of Portland City Council to prioritize ways to better serve people who are on the street. We’ve taken on a bit of a different approach, calling on the community – not just our members – to express their concern and urge city leaders to act. The petition’s response has been overwhelming and indicative of the thoughtfulness that defines Portlanders. More than 2,700 people have spoken and agree with the need for the city to prioritize this issue. As we urge action, we are more than willing to be at the table and work with city leaders to find the right solutions. In the meantime, we will continue to make this one of our top advocacy priorities until we see action. If you are concerned about this issue, too, I encourage you to sign the petition and share it with your networks.

Sign the petition:

As a member of Portland’s business community for many years, it is with great honor that I have the opportunity to lead this organization over the next year. With your ongoing support and involvement, I know we can continue to make an impact to strengthen our business community and improve our region's quality of life.
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