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Portland commissioner-elect Carmen Rubio seeks to be collaborator on City Council

On Straight Talk, Rubio reflects on making history as first Latinx member of Portland City Council.

PORTLAND, Ore — Portland voters made history in the May primary electing the first Latinx member of the City Council.

The executive director of the Latino Network, Carmen Rubio, won the Council seat, Position 1, with 67 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff.

The seat is currently held by Amanda Fritz who did not run for re-election.

Rubio was a guest on this week's episode of Straight Talk and told host, Laural Porter, she is incredibly grateful to the voters of Portland for their trust in her.

"It's shown me that the issues that propelled me to run resonated with voters, and that they care about those things, too," she said.

Rubio's campaign focused on housing affordability, making sure every person has a place to call home and taking care of working families struggling during the pandemic.

"Portland is a special place," she said. "But it's not working for everyone."

Rubio, the granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico, was born and raised in Hillsboro. She said the latest numbers show 12 to 13 percent of the population of Multnomah county are Latinx residents.

She expects that number will grow when the 2020 census is complete.

Rubio said she's honored and humbled the community recognizes the importance of having all voices included and represented in city government.

"I'm excited to get started and see what the City Council looks like, and all the things we can do together," she said.

Rubio called the current Council the most racially diverse to date. And with two council seats, and the Mayor's race headed for run-offs in November, it could become even more diverse.

"I know that's going to create better policy and better opportunities in the community," she said.

Rubio worked for the late City Commissioner, Nick Fish, during his first year in office. She calls him a mentor, and said he encouraged her to run for City Council when Amanda Fritz announced she would not seek reelection.

"He really believed in me and saw me being effective on Council, even before I was at the point where I saw myself being able to do that," she said.

Credit: Carmen Rubio

Rubio said she thinks of Nick Fish often and she hopes to follow the example he set.

"I want to make him proud. What he really valued was collaboration. The ability to listen to all sides and to meet with everyone, and treat them with dignity and respect. And those are things I absolutely will take with me going forward in my first year," she said.

As for what bureaus she'd like to head, Rubio said her first choice would be the Housing Bureau. She said she comes from a background with lived experience with housing instability. Her family moved multiple times when she was a child. She said she knows how disruptive that can be to people's lives.

"That's the same story I hear over and over again. Not just in my job at the Latino Network, but also from voters," she said.

She wants to make sure all parts of the community have affordable and safe places to live.
She'd also be interested in the Water Bureau, and the Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

During her campaign, Rubio was the first in her campaigning to strongly advocate for a change in Portland's form of government. She would like to see Portland change to a system with a city manager, and more commissioners who are elected by district, rather than at large, as they currently are.

"As this pandemic hits, we are feeling the impacts differently. We will be stronger, and we will have deeper understanding if our residents know exactly what commissioner they can go to for that focused attention," she said.

Rubio has a vision for the city where all residents can thrive. She pledged to work hard every day to make sure the city and the council live up to their values.

"We are an incredible city and we have much to offer," she said. We will make it through this pandemic intact, better and stronger."

Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and Monday at 4:30 a.m. It's also available on podcast.

Straight Talk with Laural Porter Straight Talk with Laural Porter I love the impactful conversations that Laural leads. I always walk away with a new level of understanding a topic. This podcast makes aware of my local politics and conversations and makes me feel smarter after listening.

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