Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Tiffany Koyama Lane

During the pandemic, you may have seen Tiffany Koyama Lane, a third-grade teacher at Sunnyside Environmental School, collecting signatures for the Universal Preschool measure at Laurelhurst Park or at the entrance to Mount Tabor. Thanks in no small part to volunteers like Koyama Lane (who personally collected over 1,000 signatures), this became Preschool for All, a ballot initiative that Portlanders overwhelmingly voted for in 2020. It was during this period of canvassing and talking to hundreds of Portland parents and kids about the importance of free, universal early childhood education that Koyama Lane got the nickname “Teacher Tiffany.”  A lead external organizer for the Portland Association of Teachers, Koyama Lane is now putting her organizing and leadership skills to good use by running for Portland City Council, District 3.  She and her husband, novelist and stay-at-home dad Tim Lane, live in Sunnyside with their two kids.

Will you introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running for office?

Tiffany: My name is Tiffany Koyama Lane (she/her). I’m a teacher and a working mom. I have two kiddos—a six year old and an eight year old. I’m running for City Council because my community has been asking me to for many years. As a teacher, I interact with all different sorts of families and hold space for all of them and have to find solutions that consider all the kids and parents and caregivers. A public school really is a mirror for the neighborhood, for the city and for what’s happening.

In 2021, a group of houseless people set up an encampment at Sunnyside School after their camp was swept at Laurelhurst Park. This was during the pandemic, before kids returned to in-person school. Some parents expressed concerns about a camp so close to school property—they worried about needles getting left near the playground, drugs, and other safety issues.

Tiffany: My official stance would be that we need to have a robust shelter system with options for tiny house villages. Those need to be expanded because they’re working. We also need a unified housing list so when people are moving into housing, instead of one person applying to 20 different management companies, there’s more of a centralized and streamlined approach.

I also do want to say that I acknowledge that it’s a really intense presence to have a camp at a school, on a playground. The parents and the people who were concerned—they have a right to feel safe. I don’t think that that should be disregarded.

Were you concerned?

Tiffany: I wasn’t. But I also would go and talk to those neighbors and they were positive conversations. And even before—houseless folks have been there for a while—and some of those folks would look out for kids and de-escalate people. A lot of the relationships have been going on for a long time and are friendly. I don’t think those are highlighted enough.

How do you feel about Measure 110—should it be repealed? How can it be altered to make it work more effectively?

Tiffany: I do not want to repeal Measure 110. The implementation has not addressed the vast underlying conditions, namely, the holes in our treatment services and the huge barriers to access. Recriminalizing drugs would not change those underlying conditions—it is not a problem the city can or should arrest its way out of. Any changes made to the law need to be done in collaboration with people who have on-the-ground experience of addiction issues. The majority of police are not equipped to do social work.

Multnomah County is in charge of homeless services. But it’s the Portland Housing Bureau that’s tasked with building more housing. What should the City be doing that it isn’t right now?

Tiffany: I believe in workforce housing and making sure that people can live and work in the same place. I’m very fortunate. We need to make sure we aren’t losing important members of our community—essential workers, teachers, nurses—because they simply can’t afford to live here. There are examples like in Oakland, California where they’ve got workforce housing for teachers that I think we should be looking at.

The SNA plans to interview other City Council candidates for District 3 who live in Sunnyside over the coming months.

Devin Boone

SNA Member

Author: Devin Boone

SNA Member