Michael Mitarnowski

No one answers the door the first time city council candidate Jeff Bissonnette knocks. He tries the house's dolphin-shaped knocker instead, hoping someone answers this door on N Edison, just a few blocks from his own St. Johns home.

"I'm running on a platform of helping Portland to be a city that works better," Bissonnette tells the man who finally opens the door on Sunday afternoon, January 13. "Better employment, better environment, better education, better accountability."

Bissonnette only has two minutes—the homeowner tells him so—to lay out his platform, and chalk up this potential voter's support. If the voter seems friendly, Bissonnette might also ask them for $5 and a signature; he is gunning for public financing in his bid for an open city council seat. "It means I take no other money from special interests," he explains.

"It'll be a race to the finish line but we're still confident we'll make it," he says later, adding that he's on track to hit approximately 700 contributions this week.

To reach that goal, Bissonnette has tapped his top supporters to bring in 20 contributions each. Volunteers and the candidate himself are also going door to door, lining up support.

Bissonnette says he's door-knocked in "every election cycle since 2000," but never for himself. He's helped out candidates like Rob Brading, who tried to unseat Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis in 2006, and he's canvassed for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Professionally, he's been a consumer advocate at the Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon for the past nine years, lobbying in Salem on behalf of utility ratepayers and organizing citizen campaigns. "My entire working life is as a community organizer and citizen advocate," Bissonnette says.

He hopes to bring that focus to city council, where he'd "help grow sustainable local businesses," and make Portland a "global leader" when it comes to being green. Right now, for example, Bissonnette cites a prohibition on "mandating weatherization of existing buildings," a rule that means "energy dollars are leaking out all over the city." He'd work to change that.

"My style tends to be 'have an idea, shop it around,'" he says. On January 12, for example, he was at the Rebooting Democracy conference, pitching a statewide policy that would require new construction to meet tougher green-building standards, a project Bissonnette is involved with via the Fair and Clean Energy Coalition.

In St. Johns on Sunday, Bissonnette pitched his own issues, and asked residents what was on their minds. Trucks cutting through the neighborhood topped a few lists, and one man had concerns about cyclists and cars sharing busy roads. Bissonnette, who just landed a co-endorsement from the Bike Walk Vote PAC, nodded and explained his support for bike boulevards.

"Hearing about issues and talking about issues is fun," he said, as he made notes on the voter info file tucked into his clipboard. "It widens your view."