Business owners voice support for Gov. Kotek’s plans to improve Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Steven Lien has owned underU4men in downtown Portland for about 18 years. He has enjoyed it immensely, but he will admit it has not always been a walk in the park, especially in recent years. Lien points to fentanyl issues and vandalism. In fact, he dealt with some vandalism just this week.

“All of our flags in front of the store were ripped off, and just yesterday morning, the Mercantile had its windows broken out again,” Lien said.

It’s not going unnoticed.

This week, Gov. Tina Kotek announced she is heading up the Portland Central City Task Force to identify and address challenges in the downtown core. The task force will focus on clean streets, crime and vandalism, and homelessness, among other things.

RELATED: Gov. Kotek says she will convene task force to tackle Portland’s economic woes

“I’m appreciative of it,” Lien said. “I think shining the light on it here, because we’re the center of commerce for the state, I think makes a big difference statewide.”

“We’re behind the ball right now and we need to catch up,” Andrew Hoan added.

Hoan is the president and CEO of the Portland Metro Chamber of Commerce. Numbers provided by the chamber suggest that foot traffic in Downtown Portland has increased in each of the last two months when compared to the same time last year. Hoan is hopeful that Kotek’s new task force will bring even more people downtown.

“If there’s no progress, fine, we’ll find out really quickly,” Hoan said. “But when you have the state’s leader showing up in a real way, working with the mayor and businesses and cutting through the noise, we’ll see some serious results.”

RELATED: Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town vandalized

Echoing that sentiment of all people is one of Kotek’s challengers for head of the state. Betsy Johnson is beyond impressed that Kotek is taking a proactive approach to making Downtown Portland better. Johnson believes Kotek’s personal involvement will lead to practical, implemental and immediate solutions, but she does have one concern.

“This is a huge committee, and my only thought about it is that I hope as the governor forms up the big committee and all of the subsets, that she gets the voices of real business people,” Johnson said.

Johnson is referring to people like Lien, who actually emailed the governor to volunteer his services on the task force. No word yet on if the governor will take him up on his offer, but regardless, Lien is throwing his support behind the task force. He hopes whatever comes from it helps keep his business anchored at Southwest Park and Washington for another 18 years.

“Wouldn’t that be great? I’m optimistic. That’s why we’re still here,” he said.

It’s unclear who will sit on the task force. KGW has learned the group will meet once a month from August to October. The first meeting is slated for Aug. 22. Recommendations will be revealed in December. A spokesperson for Kotek’s office said a portion of the meetings may be open to the public.

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