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Podcast: Building Inclusive Communities with Juan Carlos Gonzalez

Posted on March 6, 2020


Juan Carlos Gonzalez

Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Councilor
Oregon Metro
Bio | LinkedIn | Twitter


It does not happen by accident. Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez from Oregon Metro, the regional government for the Portland, Oregon area, joined the podcast to talk about his choice to run for office and how to build inclusive communities. He talked about engaging with residents to ensure local government meets their needs and a ballot measure for dealing with homelessness. Councilor Gonzalez also discussed how Metro is working on transportation and affordable housing.

Host: Kent Wyatt

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Episode Transcript

Kent Wyatt

This is Kent Wyatt from ELGL, co-founder and also City of Tigard Communications Manager. We are recording from Portland, Oregon. Today my guest is Juan Carlos Gonzalez. He’s the youngest and first Latino elected Metro Councilor in the history of Metro. For those of you who are not from the Portland area, just a little briefer on Metro. In general Metro is responsible for managing the Portland region solid waste system, coordinating growth of cities, managing of regional parks and natural areas system and just recently referred a measure to the ballot about homelessness and trying to help out that issue in the Portland area. So today what we’ll cover, we’ll cover the background influences of Juan Carlos, his campaign and what it took to successfully run for office. And then finally, equity, the equity lens. And many of our communities are trying to catch up in that area and I think Juan Carlos has some great insight and can help us with that. So, couple of housekeeping items, as you know ELGL is a membership organization. So if you’re not a member, feel free to join us. For students it’s only $20, for individuals $40 and that helps support the programming and events that we have.

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Kent Wyatt

ELGL 20 will be held in Portland this May and we will talk to Juan Carlos in a few minutes about some of his recommendations for the Portland area. Then lastly GovLove, the way we sustain ourselves is reviews from our listeners. So feel free to hop on iTunes and leave a five star review, those are always appreciated, and also shows appreciation for our guests who are spending time to come on and chat with us. So, without further ado, let’s get to it. How did we get here with Juan Carlos? For those of you in the Portland area, he was at the ELGL roadtrip event at the CN Hillsborough. You may remember his presentation. Secondly, one of our kind of OG’s of ELGL, Victor Sin is Juan Carlos’s Chief of Staff. So that made it a little bit easier and setting this up. So shout out to Victor, for all of his work in the past with ELGL and the great work he’s doing now with Juan Carlos. So all right, lightning round. We’ll go with a couple quick questions for Juan Carlos. First of all, since this is an audio podcast, there won’t be a lot of our listeners who will not be able to see you. Juan Carlos, who would you say is your celebrity look alike?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Uh, what’s up ELGL? You know, I don’t know man. I don’t think I have a celebrity look alike. You really really knocked me off my game with that one. Hey man, I would ask you who you think who do you think my celebrity look like is?

Kent Wyatt

You know, I it’s it’s that’s a tough call because I can’t get past your hair and how beautiful your hair is compared to mine. So maybe we’ll we’ll do a call out to our members to see if we can get a celebrity look like here for Juan.

Councilor Juan Carlos

All right, cool. I like that.

Kent Wyatt

So you are, you’re born and raised in Oregon. A Blazers fan. Full disclosure, my dog is named Michael Jordan. So I have many good childhood memories of the Bulls and Blazers playing. But from your perspective, if you could put together a Mount Rushmore of Portland Trail Blazers past and present top four, who would you put on that list?

Councilor Juan Carlos

I’d put Brandon Roy, Damian Lillard, Damon Stoudamire and Clyde Drexler probably.

Kent Wyatt

So you are not Rasheed Wallace is a no go for you.

Councilor Juan Carlos

Rasheed is awesome. He just he just fit in like he can speak to my heart. When, when you gave me that ultimatum and I had to come up with four names, those are the four names that came up. You know, no disrespect to Rasheed or to Bill Walton or or any of those amazing legends.

Kent Wyatt

Well, if you had to pick between UNC players who have played for the Blazers, would you say Rasheed Wallace, Ed Davis or Raymond Felton?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Definitely, Rasheed Wallace.

Kent Wyatt

Yeah, I’m a little, I’m a little bitter about Portland’s problems with Raymond Felton. That didn’t work out too well for the team.

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah certainly. That was ….

Kent Wyatt

So being in elected office, who are a few of the politicians that you looked up to either now or growing up?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, for sure. I definitely looked up to Governor Kitzhaber. I mean, he was really the driving force behind me wanting to study government in my undergraduate you know my undergrads and, and I’d say Barack Obama was definitely just like this, I remember watching his inauguration speech and just going like oh my goodness this is I can’t wait I can’t wait and so those are just moments I remember really vividly.

Kent Wyatt

Something that’s in the work at the City of Tigard that we’ve had a discussion about lately is is the word Latinx. What is your take on how, when that word should be used?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, I mean, the like how how our community identifies or how the Latino or the Latinx community identifies, I mean the, the words have been evolving as our, I think as our awareness and ability to embrace intersectionality continues to rise with time. Latinx is, is continuously being used as an all inclusive term you know, recognizing the inherent machismo within, within the Latino language. I would say that the term should be used, one it’s, it’s, it’s twofold for me. 1) it’s recognizing, like a degree of inclusiveness, but by using that word, you’re also communicating that you’re, you’re you can receive and your institution can receive and, and be kind of culturally responsive to the needs of that population. So it’s like it’s a delicate balance, I’d say, of wanting to be inclusive, but make sure that you’re ready to be inclusive as well.

Kent Wyatt

Great. And for those for our listeners, who will be coming to ELGL 20 in Portland, to get a flavor of some of the different cultures in the Portland area, what would be your recommendations on either restaurants or shops or exhibits that they should definitely have on their itinerary?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, for sure. I would totally check out the McMenamin Kennedy School on the east side. Altabira Tavern in the Lloyd district is amazing, which is one of my favorite spots. Most of everything on Burnside is pretty amazing. And if it’s during the summertime, right? Those are unforgettable.

Kent Wyatt

Yeah, great recommendations. So let’s get a little bit more to your background. I’m always curious about how folks get to where they’re at and for you, you were born in Forest Grove, raised in Cornelius, those are both suburbs of the Portland area and to now be in elected office and one of the first at Metro Latino office, elected officials. Growing up, how did you what were the influences that guided you to where you’re at right now?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, my, um, you know, my parents were always involved one way or another, you know, whether it was through, you know, our local church, or whether it was through community groups of other people that were involved. You know, I just, I just always found myself surrounded by people that were that were giving back and were trying to do something on behalf of the Latino community. So it was something that was really ingrained in me. I’ve had amazing, amazing people, amazing women around me that just have given me a perspective on on leadership and giving back. And that’s since I was a kid. And so when I when I moved back from, from college in DC, and I came back to Oregon, there was just there was just nothing else that really felt like a reasonable choice in terms of a career path than to do community development. And so you know, having the opportunity to do community development through Centro, which is an organization in Cornelius Oregon, it really allowed me to plug in even even deeper into into my community and to and to learn more about the levers available to make significant change. And, you know, eventually, the opportunity to run for office presented itself, which is a unique story in itself. But it was one that like, we we when I say we, I mean, my mentors, my family we thought about, because really, I really never wanted to run for office this early. I mean, I think most people, or at least I knew I thought I wanted to have probably more quote unquote, rich life experiences, so that I could, you know, be a better decision maker policy maker later on, but I’m really glad I did what I did when I did, and there’s been some amazing moments over these last fourteen months as as a Metro Councilor that I just I just I’m so glad that I was able to be at the table when when those things were being done. So,

Kent Wyatt

Yeah, I really want to take a dive into that gonna be reason for running. But I want to follow up on going to Georgetown, which for folks who don’t know is in Washington, DC. I grew up, I grew up most of my childhood in Northern Virginia and kind of a melting pot. You don’t even think about diversity because it’s all over the place. And for you having grown up in Portland, Oregon, one of the whitest places in the country, and then spending a number of years in Washington DC. One, what did you learn from being in such a different environment? And then two is last three, what made you want to come back here, and then one of those lessons that you took from from the DC area that you think can be valuable for us in Portland?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, I mean, so when I was growing up in, in, in like the Greater Portland region, I wouldn’t say that I felt the whiteness so much. I mean, definitely, in high school, there was a, there was a pretty big divide, but, you know, Cornelius is 50% Latino, Forest Grove is around 25 to 35% Latino. And growing up, I was just always around hundreds, hundreds of peers of kids my age, you know, my parents friends and things like that. So, you know, I definitely say that Greater Portland has really rich pockets of communities that, you know, support each other. And so, it wasn’t actually until I came back after college and I entered the professional sector that I realized how how white you know, the the region was. But DC, DC was really interesting, especially Georgetown. I mean, it’s kind of like a microcosm in itself of a lot of different social dynamics. I definitely learned in DC. One, I got to see wealth disparity firsthand. I mean, these these one of those cities where there’s a lot of wealth and a lot of power, but, you know, there’s also a lot of poverty. And I also got to learn at Georgetown about really like, there’s, there’s a whole set of, of people that grow up around the country with incredible privileges that just have completely different life experiences, different life trajectories, and are really smart to their credit. But it really it really was hard to learn the different values that you bring, but I think ultimately being able to recognize that, although I didn’t have XYZ, I still brought a tremendous value to the table and I’m glad I’m glad I brought that I’m glad I learned that by the time I graduated because I kind of had this confidence of, you know, I think I know what I need to do when I go back home. And that’s what and that’s something I learned. I knew I wanted to go back home. I didn’t want to work on international politics and I did not want to work on national politics, when I knew there was so much to do, you know, locally. And that’s just what that’s what’s always driven me back.

Kent Wyatt

So, going back a little bit to your background and your upbringing with your parents, were they, what kind of what kind of traits do you take did you take from growing up from your folks in and how to use those today, kind of what are their guiding principles that you feel like really have impacted your life?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Um, I’d say, work ethic and discipline from my dad. Um, he, you know, he’s an immigrant from Mexico. And he’s been working in manual labor his entire life and he’s had a he’s worked in landscape. For at least the last 25 years, I mean, all I ever remember of being a kid was like, after school or on the weekends going to going to work with my dad, trying to lighten the load of like all the things he asked to do. But, you know, it’s also him trying to show like the other side of the American dream of, of like, the the price that he’s paying, so that, you know, we take advantage of school and, and and like it wasn’t always like this, this romantic theme or anything like that because he would be really clear like, hey, if you don’t do well in school, I have a job here for you type thing. And so it’s always kind of funny, but he really wanted me and my siblings to do well. And as for my mom, you know, she she grew up in Mexico City and in a bit more of an urban environment in Mexico. So she had access to education. But, you know, when she was growing up, most of her family didn’t want her to pursue an education. You know, it was like, quote, unquote, not fit, a fit thing to do for women. And that’s really what led her to come to United States and just kind of that pursuit of education and freedom and and as long as she’s been in Oregon, she’s always worked on removing barriers for, you know, single moms or moms of color to continue to get their education. Because I know that she really had to fight through a lot of obstacles to be where she is. And so there’s always been like this revolving work ethic and discipline but never forget to look back at you know, other people have a harder other people have these barriers and, and we’re here to remove those. I say that those are, those are definitely the the things that I took away.

Kent Wyatt

That’s great. So you mentioned a few minutes ago that you know, in deciding whether to run for office, you talked with mentors and family and friends, specifically, we should turn when it came up or when you brought it to them as hey, I’m thinking about doing this, what’s their, what were their thoughts and feedback?

Councilor Juan Carlos

You know, I think my dad was kind of excited but he was, he’s like, this is great. My mom was not so excited just cuz I feel like my mom was worried of like, what that level of publicity or or you know politics can kind of be kind of scathing and ruthless and I think she was afraid of not being able to protect her  her first kid. But I know that they’re really proud. And it means a lot to have their support. But yeah, that’s that’s it. That’s what I’ll say.

Kent Wyatt

Well, as much as you’re willing to, cuz our listeners, some have run for office, some probably are considering it. In that phase where you haven’t declared that you’re running what what’s the thought process? Who are you talking to? What type of things are you trying to consider in whether to run for office?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, I mean, for me, it was all about talking to my community elders especially in the Latino community in Washington County. I mean, there’s, there’s a, there’s a really unique Latino community that has been around for decades. You know, when the first wave of migrant farm workers settled in Cornelius, they established Centro, they established Virginia Garcia which is a medical health center. And there’s just this legacy of creating when institutions aren’t churning. And there’s this legacy of leadership and of people that have done it. And for me, it was it was it was like really wanting to recognize all of their effort and not wanting to be, you know, naive, naive young person I guess that is just, you know, coming in and saying how I, this is what or this is, what my vision is, etc. I really wanted my vision to build off of all the work that has been done in the past. And so when I had the opportunity to check in with people there, I got really great feedback. You know, throughout my throughout my job, I in Community Development I also had the, had the opportunity to have a lot of partnerships and collaborations with other, you know, private sector leaders or elected leaders. So I was able to kind of establish a reputation, hopefully, you know, of being collaborative and being a problem solver and just really thinking outside of the box and working on behalf of my community unapologetically and with a lot of love. So, you know, those are it’s a combination of a lot of things because I had been working in that space for four years or so before I decided to announce I was running for office. But I was really grateful that once I did announce it, I felt like I was really embraced by a lot of people because I tried to do it. I tried to do it from a really values driven place and and also a really place based value system. So I mean, it’s kind of like give or take here and there, but I’m just so glad that I did it the way that I did it, and I feel like it gave me the opportunity to create a campaign, lead, now be a policy maker in the Portland metro area in a way that’s really authentic to who I am.

Kent Wyatt

In coming to that decision, what were the one or two things that, I don’t want to say fears, one of the one or two of the things that kind of kept you thinking the most about whether this is the right choice?

Councilor Juan Carlos

The right choice of the office to run for?

Kent Wyatt

Yeah, to run for office. You know, I’m sure there’s, there’s always you know, if you sit down and do a pros and cons list, what were the what were the two biggest cons or things that you thought, well, maybe these are a couple of reasons that I might not want to do this right now.

Councilor Juan Carlos

I mean, I think the biggest con was like, am I ready? You know, like do I do I have that expertise on land use, transportation, garbage and recycling and all these different things. Because I know I didn’t. I didn’t have that expertise, that the leadership and staff would at Metro. But I had the opportunity to work with a lot of Metro staff on projects. So I had a sense of how the community felt about projects and about, you know, how Metro could be better in terms of serving and involving community. So, you know, I kind of took a leap of faith there, but another reservation was also like, it really is kind of, like an intimately personal decision about, you know, like, if, obviously, if I run for office, like, I’m really going to commit to this, and this is what I what I really want to do. And there was just a sphere, you know, like I was saying, I was 25 years old when I went in, when I announced that I was running and, and you know, I love Oregon, but at that age, you’re also like, oh, you know, could I could I change my mind about where I want to be or where I want to do and what I want to do, and so that’s something that I was thinking about, because it’s four years, and then you run for re election and then Metro I have three terms for 12 years. So, you know, if I stuck it out for those three terms I’d be, it’d be 37-38, by the time I was done. So it felt like a really big life commitment, or at least a third, a third of my life had it been. And so that was something that I had to think a lot about. But it was never really a major issue because I felt a really strong calling.

Kent Wyatt

So going into the campaign, what was your platform? What was that vision that you had for the Portland area?

Councilor Juan Carlos

My, I tried to keep my, my platform broad in terms of like, the the driving principle was, as our region continues to grow, and as our demographics continue to change, I want to make sure that our institutions are ready to serve the communities of tomorrow. Because I don’t think that we are ready to serve our communities of tomorrow and a lot of ways I don’t feel that like our local governments are ready to serve our communities of today. And I think that we struggle in a lot of ways to, to reach a rapidly diversifying community with slightly different needs and nuance here and there. So I think that our institutions are going through a lot of growth, and I think that’s something that we’re going to talk about on the call today as well in terms of, you know, how we can, how we can take strides towards that, but that was that and then my main policy priorities were working on climate change through to transportation investments, really increasing the supply of affordable housing. And of course, we’ve, we’ve had the opportunity to work on on on most of those things and, and really create meaningful investments in the hundreds of millions in terms of how hopefully we can guide this region to be continue to be a great place, a different place from so many places in the country, and I think that’s what we love about it. So I’m really proud of that. And, you know, the next few years it’s going to come down to how we implement it. And I think that’s where the fun that’s what the sort of the really fun work begins.

Kent Wyatt

So you teed it up nicely. Let’s, let’s talk about it. And, ELGL is trying to improve government as much as possible. We certainly realize that realizes that there are challenges. Some of them are similar throughout the country, some of them specific to different areas, but as long as you can, honestly, as you can answer as a follow up, why are why aren’t we as local governments ready to serve our communities right now?

Councilor Juan Carlos

I think that there’s that there’s a lack of understanding. And I think that’s, that is the most, that’s the lightest way to put it. You know, I think that there is a lot of there are a lot amazing, amazing government employees that really want to make a difference. But I think there are, you know, systemic barriers, policy barriers in place that sometimes make it hard for those, those employees to, to engage and to, and to be responsive in the way that they would like. And I’m hoping that that, you know, resonates with some of the listeners in terms of in terms of what they feel in their job sometimes. I mean, government can, can be known to be bureaucratic and clunky and, and a lot of ways, we don’t have the right tools. You know, the systems that that that we have were built to, to oppress some and benefit others. And that in itself is a journey to even have the ability to admit that for a lot of folks. So, you know, having the ability to go on that journey, and having the ability to deploy strategies to undo that journey, to undo that harnet that’s been present for decades or centuries. You know, that’s, that’s where the real meaty the real rich equity work is is at. And I’m really excited that Washington County passed their framework this week. And I’m going to be there to make sure that we try everything we can that is successful.

Kent Wyatt

I don’t think you would get any disagreement from our members on that, on the statement about where we’re at, but in terms of what we should be doing, so for us, for the cities who are, let’s just say, I think the most most of our listeners probably work for organizations where we’re probably at the beginning stages, hopefully, at least at the beginning stages of developing communities that are more inclusive. From our from our view as a local government, what are those things that we should be doing to build that within our communities?

Councilor Juan Carlos

I would say create opportunities for community leadership to guide the process. And then create meaningful opportunities to see through those recommendations. Do internal systems change work, get the right, get the right training, get the right framework in place, make sure that your community is is supporting you as you develop this, you know, these equity plans and equity strategies because, you know, when you create that level of ownership externally, it creates a really fantastic accountability opportunity for the electeds as well. So I would say that, you know, lean out and lean in as much as you can. And ultimately, just remember that it’s a journey, but you really do have to have a willingness from people in your organization to take that step because it’s going to be very difficult, but it’s going to be really rewarding. And, you know, there are a lot of people that really specialize in this work, you know, in the consulting space or, or whatnot. And I think that getting people like that on your side and having the opportunity to start conversations can be game changers.

Kent Wyatt

So how do you, how do you avoid something being or maybe it legitimately is tokenism? In some conversations that I have been in recently, you know, I hear people say, well, that, that they’re really that’s just tokenism what they’re doing. From your lens, what is what is tokenism? And then secondly, how do we avoid that as government?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Tokenism, that’s the, I’d say, tokenism is really using something or someone or a a community in a way that’s not authentic or genuine. It’s kind of like, you know, some might say you know, checking a box or, you know, inviting a few folks to be able to say that we did this or we did that without really committing to the long term change and working to realign systems that, that distribute power differently among communities and, and allows communities to scale up to make meaningful contributions on different issues. It can, it can it can become tokenism very quickly, which is why I think it’s so important that you know, you work with people that that kind of have an understanding of how these processes can work. But, you know, if you don’t have the means to go out and hire someone like that, I think creating, creating a committee or processes, community leaders, your community members, and then you know, beginning to lay out ground rules and expectations, mutual expectations and then having government slowly work on delivering on those things and, and and really having it be a two way street. That’s how you avoid that. And I feel like that’s where our local governments really struggle to find the capacity staff wise or willingness wise to really to go that to go that extra step.

Kent Wyatt

Are there governments out there that you’ve heard of, or even been a part of that you think are headed in the right direction or doing things that we should model after them?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Um, you know, I I’d be lying if I didn’t say Metro was doing some amazing work right now. You know, I think Metro is doing a lot of leadership work around this nationally. And that’s popping up in a lot of different ways. I definitely encourage folks to look at what Metro is doing. And Metro, you know, is implementing a lot of the best practices of what the City of Portland in Multnomah county has done. But I really do feel like because of perhaps because of the way our portfolio is structured in terms of different policy areas we are able to focus on, we’ve been able to do really effective at creating really meaningful ways for communities to engage and to take advantage of the resources available. And I know that as Washington County begins to develop their strategy, it’s going to be a really great opportunity. I’m hoping that, that they, you know, learn from our mistakes and take our best practices and are even better.

Kent Wyatt

So we’ll include a link in the recap for this podcast of what you guys are doing because I would concur. You guys are kind of leading the way especially in this region. Now that you’re at Metro, what else do you want to see them do or what are some of your initiatives that you’re trying to move forward?

Councilor Juan Carlos

You mean initiatives where we’re trying to move forward….

Kent Wyatt

Specifically as it as it goes to fostering, you know, inclusive communities.

Councilor Juan Carlos

I’d say we’re doing a lot of work across a lot of different lines. I mean, we have a construction careers collaborative and we’re working with the over a dozen jurisdictions to pull together our billions of dollars of capital projects to create a pipeline of workforce workforce opportunities for women and people of color. And then kind of creating those requirements on on our public projects. And, and it’s really amazing. I encourage folks to look it up in some of our recent bond issuances. We have some of the most explicit calls out for racial equity that you know, has ever really been seen in that kind of document, especially in our Parks and Nature Bond that we recently issued for $475 million. And there are some really amazing pilots you know, in terms of community ownership on on land acquisition and restoration projects. There’s there’s different work with our, with our local native communities around first foods. We are doing work with our local tribes around decolonizing conservation and really trying to, to work on on on on our conservation strategies in a way that really that really embraces historic practices here in the Portland metro area. That’s just, you know, one field of work. We’re doing a bunch of amazing work in garbage and recycling, in terms of recognizing where service disparities exist and really investing big time into community education, around recycling. We are doing some pretty awesome work around transportation, and we have something for the November ballot, but you know, we were carving this anti displacement strategy that is built into the development, the development of every major corridor that we put money into. You know, this is like a at least gonna be like a $6 billion measure. So, you know, like, it’s just the depth and the scale of the work and is great. And I think my favorite thing about it is that all of our community based organizations throughout the region, have helped us build it, have held us accountable to it. And so that when we implement it, there’s going to be a real ownership in terms of seeing it through because we are taking a lot of risks in terms of what local governments have historically and traditionally done. But, you know, there’s that there’s that element of the people that have crafted it, the people that have been at the table, there’s just this passion, this connection to it that, you know, so many of us feel like it can’t fail so it won’t fail and, and it’s that mentality that that makes me excited. As a as an elected official, you know, my my rule of thumb is like, I try to communicate to staff, go out there innovate, go make history. And you know, that I don’t want to get in your way. I don’t want to be an elected official that gets in the way in terms of being as forward thinking as we can. And of course, you know, I’ll step in and I’ll try and be as responsible as I can, with the public’s dollars and, and, and so forth. But I really feel like my calling was to be elected to, to push the limits of how governments can and should serve communities and we’ve been seeing some amazing, you know, returns on those commitments, so it’s awesome.

Kent Wyatt

Yeah. One, that was that was a great commercial for why folks need to come to Portland for ELGL 20 like the stuff you guys are doing is incredible. And then secondly, like I can just tell like the passion your voice just picked up throughout the that answer, so it’s super cool to see how excited and passionate you are about those topics. One of the other ones that many of our communities are facing and this is something just recently that you guys have been debating and taking on is supportive housing services for the homeless. Can you tell our listeners what the kind of what you’re what Metro is hoping to do with this, with the what type of solutions would come from this measure?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, we we’ve been working with advocates and regional champions on solutions for homelessness. And this was another space where advocates were really great at articulating the depth of the crisis that we have here in the Portland metro area and, and really the steps necessary to take to do something significant that’s never been done before. And I feel like what we refer to the ballot for me is just that. You know, once the measure passes in May it’s $250 million a year, for 10 years. That’s the program. It’ll be the single largest investment in homelessness in the history of Oregon. Obviously, the history of our region and per capita, I’m willing to wager the largest investment in the history of our country. You know, since the 1980s, or 1970s, the federal government has slowly chipped away at, at programs and resources aimed at, you know, either public housing or homelessness services, and all the different ways that those services manifests themselves. And so when you look around the country, every single major metro area that has a growing homelessness crisis, you know, this, this isn’t by accident, it’s by design, and it’s a result of historic disinvestment. So when we when we had the calling to step up, you know, we worked on that quite a bit. And, you know, we have this vision of, of functionally ending chronic homelessness in Greater Portland and supporting families that are on the verge of homelessness, not just helping family, households and individuals that are living on the streets, but people doubling up, people living in their cars, which are often really hard to count. But you know, we do have this really visionary ambition of wanting to say, from here on out, no, no child that ever grows up in Portland or in the Greater Portland area will ever look on the streets, see a tent and think that’s okay. And that’s normal in the in the wealthiest country in the world. So, you know, when you look at it in that way, it just, it’s really exciting and it’s a really important opportunity to step up. And, you know, the way that we crafted that policy was, was definitely looking at hiring. Income Oregonians, at wealthier Oregonians to step up and to fund the problem. And so we’ll have an opportunity to vote on that in May. I think that it’s some incredible policy incredibly progressive tax policy. We’re asking, you know, our wealthiest businesses and our wealthiest earners to, to step up and be front and center in terms of how we address this.

Kent Wyatt

I think taking a regional approach is really the only way to go in a problem like this. And on a somber note, if you are coming to ELGL 20, and from the airport to downtown, or wherever else you’re staying, like you will see tents, you’ll see might see them right off the interstate. You can definitely see them from the interstate. It’s, it’s eye opening. I have two kids, a 10 year old and eight year old and you know, they constantly comment about why is that tent over there, what’s happening over there and it’s it’s gotten a lot worse in the 12 years that I’ve been out here and it’s good to see that government is stepping up to at least try to provide some solutions to that. So commend Metro for that work.

Councilor Juan Carlos

Yeah, it’s gonna be great.

Kent Wyatt

Yep. So we didn’t we didn’t we didn’t wrap it up on the campaign. I want to go back to that for a second. We headed down there and took a quick detour. But so the campaign, if you’re out there listening to this on your morning run or morning commute and you kick it around, hey, maybe I should run for elected office, Juan Carlos, what are those resources that you needed to run a successful campaign?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Well, you know, I definitely had to fund raise quite a bit. But I also had the opportunity to, you know, rally my friends that had different skill sets, whether it’s graphic design or photography or website design. And you know, one thing about running for office is that even if you don’t have anything or your master plan for how you envision your campaign going, just the fact that you’re putting yourself out there, and you’re going out into the into, and you’re going to go out into the universe and put out your energy. Oftentimes, there are the most unexpected people that that will join your team and join your movement. And will step up with, you know, either monetary resources or volunteering or, or whatever. I mean, it’s, it’s amazing. It’s, it’s one of the most unique life experiences I’ve ever had to date, if not the most, and a lot of times I miss it a lot of times I don’t. But, you know, that’s what I’m saying. It’s when I talk to people about it, it’s kind of like a snowball effect. You know, you start off with a small snowball. And the farther that you go, your network slowly grows, your endorsements slowly grow and that turns into something else. And that becomes another opportunity and then you’re at a forum and then you know, people want to support you and your base slowly grows and you have to start somewhere. So don’t be afraid to just start.

Kent Wyatt

So I’ve done some extensive research on your Twitter account. So I feel like account I feel like I’m able to diagnosis but I think you’re addicted to canvasing. Like they’re your love and joy in these pictures that I see, maybe it’s just for show. Like the smiles and seemingly just the energy that you get from canvassing is like none other and something that I think I don’t know if I would get that same energy. Like is that something you look forward to, knocking on doors and getting to hear what people say? And does it still bring you energy?

Councilor Juan Carlos

I mean, yeah, I love knocking on doors, but it’s funny you say that because I mean, you know, like I I have my my core group of friends and of course, my allies and other elected officers across the region. And like, it’s funny you say that because they have knocked way more doors than me. So I’m just like, I don’t knock nearly enough doors and it’s all perspective. It’s all perspective. But, um, no, I know I definitely try and and bring my value to people that are running for office. You know, and if there’s someone that’s running for office I you know, over the last few weeks I’ve gotten dozens of people reaching out to me about wanting to have a call, wanting to have a coffee, wanting to earn my endorsement, wanting to learn about how I did it the way I did it, you know, really wanting to take that leadership opportunity in that leadership step and you know, it’s really exciting you know, at the national level there’s so much stress and anxiety etc, etc, about about politics and you know, rightfully so in a lot of ways. But there’s just so much magic happening at the local level. And the magic can sometimes be excruciatingly painful but sometimes it can be just like these moments that that are that are unreal. And for people that have had the opportunity to serve in elected office, I think they’ll know what I mean. And for people that do want to run for office, and are yearning for that feeling, you know what, when people ask me is that everything that you thought it would be? I always say, it’s everything I thought and more. So

Kent Wyatt

What’s the strangest canvassing experience you’ve had?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Um, there was one time that I was canvassing in Bethany Hills, one of the wealthier parts of my district, and I knocked on the door of this massive house, and, and a person came out in the robe, you know, it is like kind of the morning they were drinking their coffee. And we’re talking and I found out that they were like the owners of one of the most, you know, famous brunch spots in Portland that I had just been at the day before. And so we just talked for like 30 minutes. And that was just like, really memorable.

Kent Wyatt

Right on. So you got elected, obviously, then you start to serve. Can you talk about what it, what it felt like to walk into your first Metro meeting as an elected official?

Councilor Juan Carlos

It felt really nerve wracking because, you know, you don’t want to say something dumb, [Laughter] or sound on the record or, you know, with all these smart people around you. But, you know, that’s 14 months ago. Just yesterday, you know, this year, I’m the Deputy President, so I, our President is in DC right now. So I got to run the work session yesterday and it was like a three hour work session. And, you know, I didn’t even blink twice about it. So it’s just, things happen so fast and, you know, in a space where there’s so much demand for leadership, if you’re just willing to kind of stick it through you’ll find opportunities to to have your voice heard and to elevate other voices.

Kent Wyatt

I know you’re, you’re in it. Now you’re serving but do you realize or have a sense of the history that you’re making to have, especially for the Latino community to have somebody from that community serving? I look at it even through it through a gender lens with my two young daughters and hoping, you know, they look through, they have the ruler of presidents and they’re all white guys. And they were excited for the possibility that might change last time and just like the disappointment on their face and me realizing like the importance of, you know, they really need to see somebody who looks like them and, you know, has some of those experiences in office. Do you feel any of that being kind of the trailblazer from the Latino community at Metro?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Oh, man, that’s, that’s a big question. Honestly, I wish I could tell you yes, I just, I I’m just like everyone else, you know, I show up every single day. And I try and do my best for the people that that that I grew up with and the community that I grew up with around and of course, all the other communities that want to call this place home in the future. But I don’t I can’t say that I feel like I’m, I feel that every day or every week. You know, there are moments where you have big votes where you are first up to the ballot that has never been but been done before. And certainly those moments are really great and unique in themselves, but I can’t say, you know, more than that.

Kent Wyatt

Yeah. Well, I mean, I think there’s lots of said just just for your presence there, and some of the things that you’re committed to and advocating for are pretty powerful. Was there, what was the biggest surprise or shock after being elected and being involved in some of the meetings, anything that you weren’t expecting or things went differently than you would have thought they would play out?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Um, every day. [Laughter] you know, there’s that there’s a spontaneous thing you know, about like, I just kind of have to be there. When you’re about to have a really big vote or a really big conversation, and, you know, when your peer comes up to you, and it’s like, I think I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can, you know, do this or I think I have to call this thing out, or I think I have to reverse or I have to call for this amendment, you know, like these make or break moments where you’re like, okay, well, we really can’t do that right now. You know, that’s a conversation for another time, and let’s talk about it then. But, you know, in those moments, you know, like, you just kind of have to be there. And they’re, they’re pretty great.

Kent Wyatt

I will wrap up with two final questions. So you do work for a community organization. You’re also a Metro Councilor. What has that, has balancing both of those been tough?Is there conflict of interest at times, what’s been the transition for that?

Councilor Juan Carlos

Um, there’s definitely times where, you know, I feel like there’s, there’s conflicts of interest. But I’ve had really great people around me to help them set boundaries and, you know, just like anything that you do in life, you always have to try and create boundaries. All in all, I feel like, you know, the opportunity to work in community development, and then had the opportunity to work at an agency that cares so much about community development and invest in community development is that both of my roles really, really build off of each other. And I think that they helped me be so much more rooted and the work that I’m doing and to help me be a lot more effective. So that’s something that I don’t want to change. And, you know, there’s one thing that I haven’t been able to do is find that work life balance, because there’s always so much work to do and in either space, but you know, I signed up for it and I’m really happy doing it and, you know, all my other peers are kind of in the same boat as me because we’re just so hungry to to step up right now, because we don’t want you know, we don’t want people to get left behind. And that’s just a really beautiful thing to be able to surround yourself with people that care so deeply.

Kent Wyatt

Do you want to get a head start on 2024 and declare your candidacy for President?

Councilor Juan Carlos

No, that’s not me. No, sorry.

Kent Wyatt

Well, that was a short answer. So well, if you can put in a few good words for Tigard, we always appreciate any help we can get. I know, our elected officials very much enjoy working with you and the staff at Metro. So really, really have brought a great dimension to this region. So we thank you. Thank you for that work. So our final we like to take out and end each episode, our award winning producer Ben Kittelson likes to play the song selection of our guests. So, Juan Carlos, what song should we end this podcast on? Any song you want.

Councilor Juan Carlos

Can you play, it’s a song it’s going to be a Norteno song from a Mexican band named Tigres del Norte.  So Tigers of the North but just in Spanish. And it’s and the song is called De Paisano A Paisano. So it’s like compatriot to compatriot. And I can, I can email you the song later but I would really appreciate that.

Kent Wyatt

Yes, and yeah, well, appreciate your time and appreciate our listeners joining us for another episode of GovLove. You can check us out on Twitter, on the web, feel free to listen to one of our I think over 200 episodes that we have in our catalog and keep adding to those and supporting by listening and also leaving reviews for us. This has been another episode of GovLove.

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GovLove is looking for your feedback. Please visit Govlovesurvey.com and tell us a little about you and what you think about the podcast. Hearing from you will help us make GovLove even better. That’s GovLovesurvey.com Juan Carlos, thanks for your time today, man.

Councilor Juan Carlos

All right, Muchos Gracias everyone, have a great weekend. Have a great day, wherever you are, when you’re listening to this.


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