WHEN A TRIO of well-known Portland organizers were arrested Monday evening—accused of encouraging a group of protesting Portland Public Schools students to disobey cops—allies went and sat down in front of the police bureau’s Central Precinct.
They wanted to show solidarity with Gregory McKelvey, Kathryn Stevens, and Micah Rhodes, who’ve repeatedly helped stage enormous, sometimes-chaotic protests against Donald Trump in the last two weeks, and who were plucked out of the crowd specifically.
Soon, the supporters—many of them the young organizers of the event—had some newly high-profile company.
Chloe Eudaly, elected to Portland City Council in a surprise upset of Commissioner Steve Novick on November 8, had heard about the arrests, and wanted to see what was up. She traveled downtown from an event at Revolution Hall to investigate.
“I was concerned about their wellbeing and safety,” Eudaly told me the next day. “I support peaceful protests and by all accounts this was one.”
It was another suggestion that Eudaly, a former bookstore owner, might be an entirely different brand of commissioner than what we’ve seen in recent years.
In the days following her election, Eudaly’s not just asking questions about the cops’ decision to arrest McKelvey, whom she counts as a friend. She’s also holding fast to her background as a renters’ rights advocate. At a press conference the group Portland Tenants United held at Portland City Hall on Friday, November 18, she promised she’d look to send a message to the city’s landlords.
“I’m never going to forget the struggle that I’ve gone through to keep my family housed,” she said. In thinking about that struggle, Eudaly said, “I have to recognize my landlords, who over the last four years have raised the rent on my substandard house 60 percent. I will be sending them a message that the days of treating tenants as used furniture, the days of treating tenants as human ATMs, and the days of predicating their business model on the unfettered right to exploit us are numbered.”
Suddenly, improbably, Eudaly has a far higher platform from which to send that message, and the voters who picked her hoping to change city governance should be heartened by what they’ve seen from Commissioner-elect Eudaly.
But here’s the thing: The hard part is what happens when she sheds the “elect.”
Sure, Eudaly will take office in January alongside a new mayor looking to make right on campaign promises to improve matters for Portland renters. But she’ll also be serving with three long-time commissioners who’ve decided that some of the changes Eudaly says she’ll call for—like instituting an emergency freeze on rent hikes within the city—are impossible.
Eudaly tells me she’ll continue to lobby for those changes as a commissioner. What will be fascinating to see is how she transitions from the role of the protester shouting outside of City Hall and the police precinct to the job of bulding coalitions among her more-staid colleagues.
Plenty of people will be rooting her on.