Oregon News

Betsy Johnson creates a stir by calling Portland the ‘City of Roaches’

Share this article


Oregon Capital Bureau

An independent candidate for Oregon governor has a new moniker for the state’s most populous city: “the city of roaches.”

Gubernatorial candidate and former senator Betsy Johnson made the comment to a New York Times editor, referring to Portland’s battle with homelessness and crime.

Her statements appeared in a June 28 newsletter that explored Oregon’s political landscape as a barometer of potential Democratic losses nationwide. The newsletter included an interview with Johnson.

“You can see the deterioration of the beautiful City of Roses, now the city of roaches,” Johnson was quoted as saying, riffing on Portland’s moniker.

Johnson, who is running as an independent candidate in the November election, is one of many candidates who has zeroed in on Portland as an example of failed policies or action.

“Betsy made a quip about the city of Portland which resonates with a lot of people,” Jennifer Sitton, Johnson’s communications director, told Pamplin Media Group Tuesday. “What Betsy has been saying for months is that Oregon cannot succeed if Portland fails and, as detailed in the NYT piece, only 8% of residents think that Portland is on the right track.”

In a campaign speech on her website, Johnson accuses Gov. Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Johnson’s Democratic opponent, Tina Kotek, of bridging the urban-rural divide by unifying Oregonians in “mutual frustration with their leaders and their government.”

“Right now, Portland is failing,” Johnson said. “I don’t think any problem demonstrates the need better to change Oregon’s politics than the failure to solve homelessness on our streets.”

She stressed getting unhoused people into shelters utilizing police, addiction treatment services and mental health services. “Democrats are right that we need compassion, services and housing,” Johnson said in a campaign video. “But Republicans are also right that we need more personal responsibility, accountability, and no more tent cities.”

But critics say Johnson’s latest remark about Portland was callous, equating unhoused people with vermin that need to be cleaned up, rather than humans in crisis.

“Unfortunately her comments are very reminiscent and in some cases identical to comments we’ve heard that dehumanize whole sets of people,” Marisa Zapata, director of Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative. “It goes beyond an oversimplification, but it completely erases their humanity. It’s deeply upsetting to have somebody using that language to describe people who are living their lives the best they can. It’s especially upsetting to have someone who’s been in a position of leadership in our state talk about future constituents this way.”

Zapata noted that the term “cockroaches” has been used historically to demonize marginalized groups in society.

The city of Portland, along with economic and tourism groups, has been actively involved in campaigns to bring shoppers and tourists back to downtown Portland and help businesses crippled by the pandemic and repeated vandalism.

They say Johnson’s comments aren’t helping.

“It’s easy to articulate the challenges Portland is facing,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “We need a governor who will partner with us to help find solutions and fight for Portland — not disparage and write us off.”


Comments are closed.

Lane County Libraries The Power of Partnership throughout Lane County Oregon

graphic: Classifieds

GARAGE SALE: Tell folks about your upcoming garage sale here.

LANDSCAPING SERVICES:  It’s that time of year.  Let everyone know what services you have to offer.

JOB OPENINGS: Need to let the community know that you need help. Post your job openings here.


OFFICE SERVICES AVAILABLE:  Copying, Scanning, Emailing & Faxing Services are now available at The Herald’s office in Oakridge.
CLICK HERE for details.

graphic: Classified Ad Posting is Now Available - For Sale • Help Wanted • Landscaping • Rentals • Homes for sale • Repairs • Remodeling • and More! - Post your classified ad with us today.

Follow H58H on Social Media

The calendar is temporarily disabled due to a rendering error. Please reload the page.