Interview with Dan Saltzman | November 21, 2015

In the city of Portland, there are five city commissioners-one of which is the Mayor. These city commissioners pass laws, discuss the future of the city and manage the city’s bureaus.One of the Mayor’s duties is to assign bureaus to a given commissioner. The commissioner then oversees that bureau.

I sat down with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
“The three bureaus I oversee are the Housing bureau, the Fire bureau, and the Development Services bureau. They are each very different. It makes for an interesting job. A lot of meetings I have are with people who need money. The city budget is around two or three billion dollars, but a lot of what we [the commissioners] can spend is restricted to around 500 million dollars.”
One of the greatest issue Saltzman faces is affordable housing. As more and more people move into the city of Portland, the supply grows slower than the rapid growth of demand. Portland’s urban growth boundary prevents sprawl, leading to higher density and fewer housing units. This allows developers to charge high prices for their units.
“We are undergoing a boom in multifamily construction. Unfortunately, not enough of this is affordable. It is up to us through the Housing bureau or through developers and nonprofits to produce more housing at lower costs.”

Saltzman has been a strong supporter of the legalization of weed. He is also the author of what is labeled as “The Green Light District.” Today’s legislation states that there may not be two marijuana shops within 1000 feet of one another. Saltzman tried to pass a law to allow a cluster of shops in the central city. One argument in favor of Saltzman’s legislation is that by allowing a high concentration of shops in the city, people won’t be using marijuana out in the neighborhoods where people are living and instead making the green light district a destination to both smoke and buy in a more confined area outside of where people are living. However, Saltzman has other arguments.

“It could be a tourism play. We are going to see green tourist coming to Portland and wanting to enjoy recreational marijuana. I felt like we should lighten it up a little bit. The central city is where people work and come to recreat. It is designed for people to live, work and play.”
Saltzman goes on to share his views on marijuana and the future of drugs in our city.

“I think the fault with the city’s approach to regulation is that we are treating this like alcohol. It is premised on a false notion. Marijuana users are much more relaxed and mellow {compared to those using alcohol}.”
Saltzman says that if he had a choice between the legalization of weed or alcohol, he would legalize weed.

“Alcohol is much more impactful on some one’s health than marijuana is.”

The Green Light District Bill failed in a four-to-one vote (the one yes vote being Saltzman’s).


“Lack of affordable housing and lack of a good incomes are both things that are putting people on the streets. There are not a lot of good paying jobs. We need more middle class jobs. We also have a lot of minorities and families that are homeless. We have to make sure we aren’t taking a one size fits all approach. There are unique solutions working with minority groups as opposed to the stereotypical white homeless male.

Want to know more about the bureaus?

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