It's endorsement week at the Mercury. That means, for the next few days, we'll be releasing endorsements in one or more selected races here on Blogtown. Think of it like a slow buildup to the unveiling of our pick in this year's mayoral race, which won't be revealed until the paper hits newsstands later this week.
Today, we announce our choice in the race for Portland City Council's Position No. 4. Which race will it be tomorrow? Come back to find out.
The guy who’s held the seat for the past 10 years, retiring Commissioner Randy Leonard, has already anointed him. Portlanders preferred Jeff Merkley over Novick in their 2008 primary race for the right to take down former US Senator Gordon Smith, and many still remember him fondly. And Novick has raised vastly more money than the less-experienced and lesser-known candidates who’ve thrown in against him.
But more important than any of that? He’s flogging a pair of brilliantly compelling reform proposals that deserve to be taken for a test run at Portland City Hall and in the Capitol—and he’s got the right friends in high places (like Governor John Kitzhaber) to make it happen.
The first is a plan that would tackle the region’s tangle of public safety and mental health budgets and then, presumably, untangle them. Novick says Salem should give local governments like Portland and Multnomah County a set chunk of cash for public safety and let everyone get together to prioritize how much should be spent on front-end treatment (which is cheaper) and how much should be spent on jail beds and prison stays (which are ridiculously expensive).
Novick’s other plan would see Portland, which already runs its own health insurance program, invest in its special health clinics and health coaches for high-cost workers—a way, eventually, to keep costs down. He’d even let private companies buy in.
Beyond those big ideas, Novick is likely to emerge as the council’s leading voice on police accountability matters. He’s one of the only candidates in any of the races to wonder why our city’s Independent Police Review office doesn’t do more of its own “independent” misconduct investigations. He’s also willing to talk about scary ways to raise transportation funding: street-paving fees that vary by neighborhood and variable-price parking meters.
It would’ve been better if a well-funded rival had taken on Novick—forcing him to sharpen his pitch to voters. But two opponents do deserve special mention. Jeri Williams, a sex-trafficking survivor and a person of color from East Portland, brought real power to our discussion of issues like cop accountability and equity. And Mark White, a Powellhurst neighborhood activist and the former co-chair of the city’s defunct Charter Review Commission, effectively made the case that we do, in fact, need real charter reform in Portland.