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Ted Wheeler Climate Policy

2020 Mayoral Election

The 2020 Portland mayoral election was held on May 19th, 2020, and November 3, 2020. As no candidate received an absolute majority, a runoff election between the top two candidates was scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Mayor Ted Wheeler, the incumbent, won, becoming the first two-term mayor since Vera Katz in 1996. Officially endorsed by Basic Rights Oregon, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, and UFCW Local 555, Wheeler had the advantage of being the only candidate with governmental experience. Facing Sarah Iannarone and the write-in campaign of Teressa Raiford, both running on more progressive policy, he relied heavily on his base and familiarity with voters, as well as plans for COVID relief.

In the last months of his first term, Wheeler was criticized for his handling of racial justice protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd in May. This inspired many of his supporters to look for new leadership. In the May primary, Wheeler was only able to hold just shy of 50% of the vote, leading to a runoff election facing Iannarone. Iannarone was presented strategically as a progressive alternative with promises to address the issue of racial justice in Portland. In the runoff, Wheeler won by a somewhat small margin, with 46.2% of votes compared to Iannarone's 40.77%.

Climate Policy

Wheeler's website reads, “The threat of the climate crisis has been a top priority of mine throughout my time in elected office.” In his last term, he committed to transitioning our city to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050 and helped limit Portland’s reliance on single-use plastics. Additionally, the city joined the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge to tackle transportation and energy-related emissions. While Portland has been praised both nationally and internationally for its commitment towards reducing emissions and creating green space, it’s evident that Ted Wheeler as mayor has not done enough. It took years of urging from activists around the City to even have a Climate Emergency declared. It was one of the demands of the September 20th Strike and finally put into writing July 1st, 2020.

Mayor Wheeler released a statement with the Declaration. He says, “[T]he truth is that climate change doesn’t impact us all in the same way. Our frontline communities, including Portland’s Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, are being hit first and worst by the impacts of the climate crisis, and Portland’s youth will be facing the consequences of today’s decisions for the rest of their lives.”

Wheeler campaigned on a variety of promises, both in response to the pandemic as well as continuations of what he hoped to address in his first term. Most notably, his website pledges to ensure “[A] pandemic recovery centered in climate action and equity to ensure that we build back better and create a more resilient community”. What this will look like in terms of policy remains to be seen.

Additional promise related to climate and green spaces include:

  • Public safety system reform that reflects our community’s values and is responsive to calls for transformational change

  • A healthy, sustainable parks and recreation system

  • Continued leadership in the clean-up and re-opening of the Willamette River as a community gathering place

With the ways that Oregon has been affected this year by the climate crisis, including raging wildfires throughout the summer and visibly emerging and existing inequalities exacerbated by the climate crisis, it is up to the Portlanders to hold their mayor accountable.

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