Portland mayor announces ‘Safer Summer PDX’ initiative to curb gun violence

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 9:52 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - On Tuesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the newly appointed team to lead Safer Summer PDX, an upcoming action plan to prevent and address gun violence over the summer months: Shareef Khatib, Julian Massenburg, and Kandel Ashley.

“The summer months historically see a tragic surge in gun violence in Portland and across the nation,” said Mayor Wheeler. “In order to effectively help address the problem at-scale, we must take coordinated action with experts and the local community. I am proud to welcome this distinguished team of professionals with a wide range of experience in strategic violence prevention. Together, we will continue to work to save lives and make for a safer Portland.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, Khatib has over 13 years of experience leading and implementing counter-violence, social, and democratic transitions in complex and dynamic environments and has managed counter-violence project teams in several countries.

Portland-native Massenburg has been working on the Communications Team in the City’s Office of Management and Finance since 2013. In 2021, he assisted with forming the City’s new Division of Community Safety.

Ashley, also a Portland native, has been working in the Mayor’s office since 2021 as the Constituent Service Director. Before coming to work for the Mayor he spent 5 years working with youth and young adults at NAYA, (Native American Youth and Family Center) who were at high-risk of becoming involved in gang or gun violence.

The press release goes on to say the team will work with Portland’s Community Safety Division and sets the foundation for an upcoming Emergency Declaration focused on reducing gun violence. The Mayor’s Office says it will continue working with the Portland Police Bureau, City Council, community groups and service providers to ensure a unified approach to this issue.

This comes after the Mayor’s Office has been speaking to community members on ways to address the gun violence in Portland. Back in March, The No Hate Zone hosted an event in Dawson Park after the 3rd homicide there in recent years, giving North Portlanders a platform to call on city leaders to step up, and take action against gun violence.

Founder of “The No Hate Zone,” Sam Sachs, put out a call to action to the Mayor.

“I come before you with these men in solidarity, to demand and request three things from Mayor Ted Wheeler, city council, county council and state officials and everyone in our community,” said Sachs back in March. “The first of those demands is that Mayor Wheeler declares a state of emergency in the city of Portland around gun violence.”

On Tuesday, Sachs said he was grateful for the announcement.

“He heard them, he listened to them, and now he is taking some of their initiatives and their ideas and supporting them both financially and with the backing of the city,” said Sachs. “Putting together a group of men to specifically focus on those things. I’m grateful and hopeful right now, the two things that come to mind.”

Sachs was one of several community members who went to the Mayor’s Office with ideas and initiatives to curb the gun violence.

“Some of the things we had talked about was investing $10 million into the Black community, initiatives that are specifically focused on grassroots efforts,” said Sachs. “Reaching out to the people in the community that are impacted the most by gun violence. One of the things we suggested is a group called Connected that John Canda that started several years ago walking in this very park every Friday. I’m not sure where that’s at but I know that it is getting a lot of attention to being that model back and take it throughout the city to other parks and community spaces.”

Sachs says the announcement of Safer Summer PDX shows the impact community members can have on major issues and that The No Hate Zone will be advising the initiative this summer.

“I think of of the things we have talked about is if there are ten shootings a day, can we get it down to five?” Said Sachs. “Can we get people to make different choices? It’s really about conflict resolution rather than using a gun or violence to resolve those conflicts. My hope is that those involved in gun violence will feel like they have other options and avenues,” said Sachs. “My expectation is that there will be more focused, collaborative efforts so the government, city, the county will be working together with the community to support the community, specifically Black men and women and letting them kind of take the lead, supporting them and saying what do you need, how can we help? That’s my expectation and hopefully the gun violence drops dramatically.”