(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today delivered her State of the State address, which expands on the vision she set forth in her 2021-23 budget to build back a more just and equitable Oregon in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, historic wildfires, and a long overdue clarion call for racial justice.
“We must recognize that going back to the ‘way things were’ will not move us forward. Every difficult turn of this past year has only proven this point, further exacerbating existing disparities for Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Tribal communities,” said Governor Brown. “The first step to creating opportunity is recognizing that racism is endemic to our systems, impacting every part of our culture and our economy. I am committed to ensuring that the world we build as we emerge from this last year is a more equitable one.”
Governor Brown’s speech highlighted key policy and budget initiatives focused on helping Oregon rebuild, including:
- Proposed investments to expand access to affordable health care;
- Broadband expansion statewide to ensure that every single school across Oregon is connected to the internet;
- Support to help communities create response plans and fire evacuation routes so that they’re better equipped for future fire seasons;
- More than $10 billion invested in K-12 schools and early education so that Oregon can close the opportunity gap and build an antiracist curriculum that is honest about the past;
- $250 million in affordable housing, homelessness prevention and rental assistance; and
- Prioritizing criminal justice reform.
The Governor added: “We cannot continue to operate with two systems of justice in our country. One that benefits the wealthy and harms the poor, and one that endangers the lives of Black people going out for a jog or wearing a hoodie—or one that lets white supremacists storm the U.S. Capitol undeterred. Oregon is evolving, out of necessity and out of hope. Our policies and practices are changing as we do more listening to those who’ve been most harmed. Together, these are the steps we must take to begin the work of dismantling racism.”
Throughout the speech, the Governor lifted up local voices, including Dr. Antwon Chavis, a pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s hospital who has lived the pandemic through Oregon’s children’s’ experiences.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that comprehensive distance learning is not working for a lot of kiddos, and it’s not a long-term solution for our kids,” said Dr. Chavis. “As pediatricians, we can all think of examples of children that are having to log in to distance learning from the parking lots of their school because they don’t have high-speed internet at home, or kids with ADHD or Autism that just are not able to engage with a computer screen all day long. We have families that are refugee families, with single parents, and the children aren’t able to engage in their own distance learning and understanding of the education system, and the parents can’t help them either because of language barriers. The pandemic overall is disproportionately impacting families of color, and I am worried because I feel we are at significant risk of really widening the racial disparity of educational outcomes.”
The Governor also interviewed Chief Rainbow Plews, the Upper McKenzie District Fire Chief who lost her home and fire station in the Holiday Farm fire. Chief Rainbow’s grit and determination in the face of obstacles tells a narrative that too many Oregonians are familiar with during the recent devastating wildfire season. Oregonians across the state came together this past summer in the face of historic wildfires — and now are trying to rebuild their communities, together.
Paul Solomon, the Executive Director of Sponsors Inc, and Reyna Lopez, Executive Director of the PCUN also joined Governor Brown’s State of the State. Paul highlighted criminal justice reform and the importance of reentry for many formerly incarcerated individuals. Reyna showcased the impacts of the pandemic on communities of color in Oregon. Both are members of the Governor’s Racial Justice Council, whose work is focused on helping Oregon build back a better and more just and equitable Oregon.