John D. Toran, an undergraduate student at PSU, is running in the upcoming elections for a state representative position in the newly formed Oregon House District 45, which stretches from the Alameda neighborhood east to Parkrose, covering much of the former House District 19.
Toran will soon receive a bachelor’s degree in real estate development from the urban studies program. Toran considers making sustainable and affordable systems of housing one of his major priorities, as well as assuring clean air and supporting light rail.
He would also like to “give tax credits for lenders such as mortgage and real estate agents for homes below the market rate,” as the process for such homes is often difficult and lengthy, shutting some people out of the market.
Health care is another major issue for his campaign. He supports universal health care statewide, and is interested in finding a viable plan for such coverage. “Everyone is entitled to health care,” Toran said.
On the university level, he would like to add dental coverage to the university health insurance plan.
Toran also has much faith in the public schooling system, citing that “every diploma I have ever received is from the Oregon public system,” and that he hopes to “attract the best and brightest minds” to PSU. He has been impressed by the urban studies program, stating that he has a “supportive disposition” in aiding the school for funding and other issues, but will remain hands-off in the specific use of those funds.
However, Toran does feel a need to “close the education gap,” especially for African Americans, and hopes to serve them as much as possible.
After graduating from Grant High School in 1993, he moved around the country for several years, including a stint at Hampton University in Virginia, which then led him to Phoenix, San Diego and Houston, one of the largest medical centers in the world, where he learned about health care, its costs and its effects on doctors.
In 1999 Toran returned to Portland and to his old neighborhood because of a family illness. Soon after, had an epiphany that made him want to give rather than receive.
On November 26, 2000, he was serving as an independent election observer in Haiti, where Aristide had just won the presidency, and celebrations were happening in the streets. Ironically, it was also the day that George W. Bush was awarded Florida’s electoral votes, as Toran watched the reaction of human rights advocates, which, to say the least, was not exactly celebratory.
Toran served as a Tri-Met community relations officer for the Interstate MAX line as well as a liaison between the organization and the Oregon legislature. He stated that he “was always intent on business as a way to help the community,” which is why he started an affordable housing consulting company.
When asked about the controversy of the Interstate MAX because of fears of gentrification, Toran found the issue to be “personal.” Some members of his own family who grew up in the Irvington area are now unable to afford to raise their children in the area.
To help prevent this, he finds it necessary to “allocate a certain portion of urban renewal funds for affordable housing” and to make sure that such plans did not “veer away” from their original intentions.