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Candidate proposes Youth Bureau for at-risk youth

Fred Stewart, a Portland realtor running against Commissioner Steve Novick, has proposed creating a Youth Bureau to provide after-school services and programs for young people between the ages of 8 and 18.

Stewart announced his proposal in a press release Monday. He says the city had such a bureau 40 years ago, and that reestablishing it would help at-risk youth.

"When we look at making our City safer and more equitable, we must consider the opportunities we provide for our youth," Stewart said in the release. "For 40 years, wealth and privilege have played too strong a role in determining the extracurricular pursuits of Portland’s children and teenagers. This is not just unfair, but deleterious. Kids with nothing to do are at a higher risk for dropping out of high school, pregnancy, drug use, and gang membership. As they suffer from these predicaments, society suffers as it struggles to help get them back on their feet."

Stewart said the bureau could cost $1 million to $ million a year, and should be run in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation.

"Some people might claim that Portland has better things to spend taxpayer dollars on than football, camping trips, crafts supplies, and costumes. Yet the cost of not engaging our youth is even higher. Day camp is cheaper than jail, and coaches are cheaper than cops," Stewart said.

Novick was not immediately available for comment.

Architect Stuart Emmons, another major candidate in the race, says he supports youth programs but questioned with a separate bureau is necessary.

"On this issue, I am absolutely supportive of Youth Programs. From my work in communities in Rockwood, Lents, and Northeast Portland, it became clear to me that our at-risk youth needed positive, enriching activities after school, on weekends, and during the summer," Emmons said.

"Before we add another program, we should carefully coordinate programs already in place at the County, and with schools, non-profits and communities of faith. Connect the dots to maximize the effectiveness. I am a major booster of drastically raising graduation rates for all our kids, and youth programs are very much a part of that. There are two Portlands right now, and I intend to be a bridge builder to help those being left behind, and helping keep kids from dropping out and going into gangs and in other negative directions. I want to give hope to our kids for a promising future," Emmons continued.

Six other candidates have filed against Novick so far. They include Michael W. Durrow, Joseph Puckett, Shannon Estabrook, James Bernard Lee, Suzanne Stahl, and Chloe Eudaly. The filing deadline is March 8.

The race will be decided at the May 17 Primary Election if any candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise, the top two candidates will face off at the November 8 General Election.