We're now getting to the point in election season where there's a candidate debate every other day on every issue under the sun. Last night's mayoral debate—featuring top candidates Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith—tackled a multi-faceted, always debatable topic that Portlanders love to talk about: The environment.
Put on by the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and moderated by OPB's April Baer, the evening debate drew in a hefty crowd of 200 or so folks. Candidate and notorious activist Tre Arrow tried to take the stage before kickoff, asking the audience "These are just the three richest candidates up here, do you want to hear from me?" The audience replied with an unanimous "No."
Tossed a slew of questions on hot button local enviro topics, the candidates' answers were expected but clever, keeping the audience at Benson Polytechnic High School's auditorium involved. But the true highlight of the event was the banter and snarky comments between candidates—a consistent crowd pleaser.
At one point, Smith, speaking on transportation efficiency, said "sometimes you can't just go to Home Depot, strap a fridge on your back and ride your fixie home." To this, Brady (strangely) said: "It looks like Jefferson needs a bike."
"I don't need a bike, I've got a bike," Smith snapped back. "What I do want is a New Seasons Market east of 42nd Ave." (Brady co-founded NSM). BURN! The audience loved this.
Brady also got some flac from Hales, who has a history of targeting the businesswoman. "This is not a job for a CEO," Hales said, hinting at Brady's upper management past. "Portland need a leader who knows how to work with people."
Low blows aside, the actual meat of the debate illustrated the commonalities and disparities between the candidates' environmental platforms. Here's a summary of their stands AFTER THE JUMP:
Charlie Hales LOVE PARKS. Seriously. I think almost every one of his answers came back to how the city's park system needs to continue expanding (especially into low-income, outskirt areas) and sticking to it's future goals of competition (Forest Park, in particular). Baer asked Hales what his "environmentally-bad guilty pleasure" was. His response? Using non-organic products on his lawn, triggering "Boo"s from the audience.
Jefferson Smith wants to collaborate with the community to tackle environmental issues. He's strongly against the Columbia River Crossing, both for its equity ("I know who's going to get asthma from the CRC, and it's not the folks in the West hills") and financial issues. Smith also is glued to the coal transport issue, wanting to target the local impact of air pollution by coal dust before tackling Boardman Coal plant itself. He also would like to a see a tighter transportation system with less traffic and shorter commutes. His guilty pleasure? Driving. Boring.
Eileen Brady want to be able to swim in the Willamette river without worrying about pollutants. She also hates the city's compost program, as it lacked an informative introduction. Brady would like to see an increase in bike boulevards throughout the city and extended out to the east. She also loves Occupy's candidate Cameron Whitten (really think you're going to nab his votes?) Her guilty eco-unfriendly habit is drinking out of plastic water bottles. For shame!