Last Thursday, February 23, with only two months remaining before the primary elections, City Commissioner Erik Sten finally kicked off his reelection campaign. His staff chose the cavernous Wonder Ballroom in North Portland for the kickoff and packed the place—at least for a brief moment.
At 9 pm, when I trekked upstairs from the basement pub, the front doors were already locked and the lights turned out. Sten's campaign manager informed me that Sten had gone home to relieve the babysitter.
I don't begrudge anyone their parenting responsibilities—in fact, changing dirty diapers is probably a solid qualification for managing city bureaus—but Sten's early departure from his party is symbolic of the sleepy-time nature of this year's election cycle.
This Tuesday, March 7, is the filing deadline for two city council positions. Within two months you will have a ballot in your hands. But what should be the boisterous, final stretch of the city council races instead seems more like a quiet Sunday afternoon stroll.
At best, Sten's campaign has sparked a few dime-store fireworks as Ginny Burdick, a candidate bankrolled by the Portland Business Alliance, has lamely tried to rally support against the Voter-Owned Elections. Likewise, the other city council campaign—to dethrone Dan Saltzman—has barely raised a peep, let alone a defining issue.
What's particularly frustrating is that right now is not the time for meek, demure, or even polite politicians. From civil rights to same-sex marriage, there is no shortage of national issues—with local implications—that candidates could grab onto. Remember that Saltzman (unsuccessfully) supported the idea that Portland cops remain part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, even though the mayor and police chief had little oversight of the local cops' involvement with the feds.
But none of the candidates for Saltzman's seat have bothered to raise these—or really any—issues. Next Friday, March 10, the City Club officially kicks off debate season by sponsoring a toe-to-toe match-up between Saltzman and challenger Amanda Fritz (Governor Hotel, 614 SW 11th, noon). Go and demand that the candidates wake up and begin to raise their voices about something... okay, anything!