No doubt you saw a pair of reports last week by the Oregonian's Beth Slovic on mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith's dismal driving record since 2004. The O's stories, however, only got to part of Smith's history of license suspensions and didn't include his responses to questions about whether he drove while his license was suspended, whether he had insurance or not, and why, at one point, he waited two years to reinstate his license.
At the Mercury's request, Smith's campaign turned over a list detailing Smith's driving record going back to the early 1990s. (Here's a DMV guide on infractions, if you're interested in comparing things.) Smith also answered some of those lingering questions that he hadn't when Slovic was asking. He says he likely drove, unknowingly, when his license was suspended. Especially during the last suspension, which his campaign says he didn't learn about until reporting his car stolen. He says he probably let his insurance lapse, and that's why he was cited for not having proof. As to the long gap, he blames it on not having the money and maybe also not being attentive to things he ought to have been minding.
Smith, who's heading out for a vacation, submitted the following statement along with those answers and the list, all of which will follow on the jump. Smith clearly would rather be talking about his ideas for the city but must've decided the hubbub over all this wouldn't go away unless he took the tough step of admitting he made a mistake and confronted any lingering concerns head-on.
I have an embarrassing driving record. When I first got into the race for mayor, a reporter did a story on it. It became more clear then that parts of my life would become the matter of public discussion — no matter how much we might think those things are related to policy or governance. There are a lot of things I’ve done in my life that I’m proud of; my driving record is something I am not proud of. I take it seriously and I’m sorry for it.
I freely and frequently acknowledge that I am imperfect. This is one of my flaws and has been an embarrassing blindspot. I also have strengths, and I think those strengths (including an occasional willingness to recognize my weaknesses) will make me a good mayor for our city. And ultimately, I hope this race will be not about the past—and not about me—but about the people and future of Portland.
I want to be clear about my driving record, even though it’s uncomfortable. So here it is:
6/6/1993 - Improper Left Turn
10/25/1993 - Suspension - Failure to pay fine (rescinded)
6/27/1994 - Speeding - 95 in 55
3/17/1995 - Failure to renew vehicle registration
3/28/1995 - Failure to pay fee
3/28/1995 - Failure to deliver vehicle documents on transfer
4/2/1995 - Speeding - 69 in 45
5/17/1995 - Speeding - 80 in 65
6/19/1995 - Improvement Letter - Step 1 driver improvement letter
9/9/1995 - Suspension - Failure to attend hearing (rescinded before going into effect)
10/22/1995 - Speeding - 80 in 55
5/30/1996 - Improvement Letter - Warning - step 2 driver improvement course
7/20/2002 - Speeding - 52 in 35
12/30/2002 - 12/31/2002 - Suspension - Failure to attend hearing
1/28/2003 - Failure to carry proof of insurance
1/28/2003 - Speeding - 75 in 50
9/13/2003 - Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
12/19/2003 - Adult driver improvement restriction - Based on 3 moving violations within an 18 month period, driving privileges restricted for 30 days to prohibit driving between midnight and 5 a.m. except to and from, or for, employment.
1/4/2004 to 4/6/2004 - Suspension - Failure to attend hearing
3/24/2004 - Driving while suspended
4/6/2004 - License reinstated
4/8/2004 - Improper right turn
6/29/2004 - Suspension - Driver suspended for 30 days (vacated)
7/9/2004 - Suspension - Driver suspended for 30 days based on receiving 4 or more driver improvement violations within the 24 month period preceding the date of record review under the driver improvement program (reinstated 6/20/2006)
7/15/2004 - Suspension - Driver suspended for 30 days based on receiving 4 or more driver improvement violations within the 24 month period preceding the date of record review under the driver improvement program (reinstated 6/20/2006)
9/1/2004 - Suspension - Failure to appear in hearing
9/7/2004 - Suspension - Failure to appear in hearing
6/20/2006 - License reinstated
1/11/2009 - Speeding - 40 in 25
3/31/2009 - Failure to obey traffic control device
1/12/2010 - Improper display of validating stickers & failure to carry proof of insurance
5/14/2010 to 1/20/2011 - Suspension - Failure to pay fine
8/20/2010 - Car stolen
8/25/2010 - Fine paid
1/20/2011 - License reinstated
Here's Smith addressing the questions on not having proof of insurance:
As for proof of insurance, the safest assumption is that it had lapsed, and I am more than willing to concede that. My memory on this stuff is nowhere near picture perfect. But I wasn’t dealing with important personal stuff.
Here's Smith on whether he drove without a license in good standing:
I did not knowingly drive with a suspended license (but I did in fact drive with a suspended license). It was part of the same blindspot for some important personal matters. I should have known better.
On the very long suspension, from 2004 to 2006:
I don’t remember the duration of the suspension 8 years ago. I do remember that I could not afford insurance for a while—and I was not eager to drive. (I was killing myself trying to build an organization. I wasn’t taking a salary, and I didn’t have money for tickets or insurance...or even rent, as I was essentially couch surfing. It was a time I had lost balance.) Moving forward, the Bus Project was growing and professionalizing, I had gotten together with [his wife,] Katy, and I was trying to find a bit more balance. By 2006, I got insurance and got my license reinstated.
This is a tricky thing for Smith. It's not exactly relevant to his ability to govern or his political style and, especially since the records don't show problems with DUIIs or substance abuse, it doesn't reveal any pressing issues of that magnitude. But it does feeds into perceptions, fair or not, that he's not good at details—beyond the fact that he also has ADHD, which is something he's mentioned when discussing his affairs. These kinds of stories didn't diminish Smith's standing before the primary, but they could make a difference in the runoff, especially in the hands of Mark Wiener.