Jan 2, 2024 - News

Key Portland issues to watch in 2024

Illustration of "2024" written on four sheets of paper on a corkboard.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Out with the old, in with the new!

What's happening: Here's a short list of key events and trends we expect to affect Portlanders in 2024.

Why it matters: Anticipating developments ahead of time can help you stay on top of the context and impact of current local issues.

Here's our short list:

☑️ Portland elections: Three people are officially running for mayor so far — plus 38 candidates across four new voting districts are competing for the 12 seats on Portland's expanding city council.

  • Most council candidates are not well-known public figures — understanding who they are and how they might govern will be a big story all year.
  • While there's no primary — this election is not until November — Portland's new city management structure takes effect in July.
  • A city manager — Portland's first — could also be hired sometime this year.

⚖️ Multnomah County elections: The hot fight on the local May 21 ballot will be for district attorney, with incumbent Mike Schmidt facing a challenge from within his own office, from senior deputy DA Nathan Vasquez.

✏️ The search for a new school superintendent: Two weeks after Portland Public Schools teachers settled their first-ever strike, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced he is leaving in February.

  • The new district leader will play a key role in setting local priorities — and pushing lawmakers to revamp state education funding.
  • The school board plans to appoint an interim superintendent before Guerrero's departure, with a permanent hire by June.

🏘️ Housing and homelessness: After years of pursuing different philosophies to end homelessness, threats by Mayor Ted Wheeler to withhold funding, and a critical audit last year, City of Portland and Multnomah County officials agreed to overhaul the joint homeless services office effective July 1.

  • Among their goals is cutting unsheltered homelessness in half within two years.
  • Meanwhile, the legal challenge to Portland's daytime camping ban is moving forward and could be settled this year, and some recommendations of the governor's task force on revitalizing downtown should get test runs.

Allowing the public use of certain drugs could get rolled back and addiction treatment could get more money — depending on how lawmakers respond to pressure to revise Oregon's first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization laws.

  • The legislature meets for just five weeks this year, starting Feb. 5.

🎨 Public arts funding is likely to change dramatically this year, with the city government re-absorbing many responsibilities it had long outsourced to a regional council.

  • Officials are also due to decide this year whether to move or renovate Portland's biggest performing arts venue.
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