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Mayor candidates split on homeless camping at City Club debate

Four of the candidates for Portland mayor split over Mayor Charlie Hales' policy to allow more homeless camping during the City Club debate on Friday.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey criticized the policy announced in February. They said it created health and public safety problems, and was hard on homes and businesses near the increasingly visible camps.

Portland State University urban researcher Sarah Iannarone called the relaxed camping policy a humane response to the affordable housing crisis, however. And community college instructor Sean Davis favored allowing the homeless to set up a self-governing community in the unused Multnomah County Wapato Jail.

A coalition of business and neighborhood organizations sued the city over the policy this week, claiming it violates state laws and city policies. Hales' office declined to comment, saying the city does not talk about pending litigation.

All four candidates said more affordable housing needs to be built to end the homeless crisis. Bailey, Iannorone and Wheeler said they support a bond measure for more affordable housing, while Davis also proposed charging out-of-state developers a fee to help pay for more.

The April 22 noontime debate was one of the most high visibility forum in the mayor's race, which has entered its final stage with less that a month to go before the May 17 Primary Election.

The four candidates agreed on many other issues, with only Davis saying he opposes the temporary 10-cent-a-gallon city gas tax that will appear on the primary ballot.

In their closing statements, Bailey and Wheeler stressed their prior government experience. Bailey represented a portion of Southeast Portland in the Oregon House before being elected to the commission. Wheeler was elected Multnomah County chair before being appointed and then elected State Treasurer.

In constrast, Iannarone said her urban planning job gave her a unique perspective on solving Portland's problems. And Davis said his previous experience as a military police officer and current involvement with a veterans facility gave him insights into problems faced by the city.