CITY COMMISSIONER—and mayoral candidate—Sam Adams spent the first warm, sunny day of the year going door to door, asking for votes. "Ballots go out in three weeks and the election is May 20," says Adams, chatting with a man holding a garage sale on N Rosa Parks Way last Saturday, April 12. "I'd be honored to have your support."
His main competitor, Sho Dozono, is just as busy. The night before, Dozono told his life story to a dozen people who sipped wine in an art gallery on NE Alberta. "My resume is way too long, so I won't list everything I've done. People want to know more about what I want to do as mayor of this city," he said.
Indeed, at recent mayoral debates, the focus is on what the candidates would do as mayor. Adams is quick to list his three priorities: Reduce the high school drop-out rate by half in his first four years, increase Portland's living-wage job base, and plan for the anticipated population growth slated to hit Portland in the next 20-plus years.
Dozono's platform is similar: Jobs and education are also in his top three, though the details are more vague. He also brings up "spending money wisely," which boils down to setting a short list of top spending priorities and establishing a rainy day fund.
With the election just over a month away, the two have been going head to head in recent debates. There, stark differences in their platforms have begun to emerge. On the whole, Adams is a policy wonk who throws out numbers and sets goals. Dozono, meanwhile, comes across as more of an ambassador for Portland.
On the issue of education, Dozono calls for further investment in our public schools, and says "we need to keep the pressure on Salem" to find the funding. But beyond calling on his reputation as "an education advocate for 30 years," as he told attendees at his campaign event on Friday, April 11, Dozono hasn't laid out a plan.
Adams has more specifics, like combining $2 million in city funds with private donations to create a college tuition fund for low-income students, and pairing up Jefferson High School with Portland Community College so students can learn job skills.
On jobs, Adams talks about bringing more livable-wage jobs to Portland, while Dozono says the mayor's role is to "open doors" to businesses. Dozono styles himself as a business cheerleader, right down to his shoes (lately, he's been sporting both an Adidas and a Nike shoe—one on each foot—in support of both companies' local presence), while Adams goes nuts and bolts, calling for job placement and workforce training programs. Both have pegged the sustainability industry as one that Portland should target, with Adams calling for the creation of a "Sustainability Institute" to foster the sector.
Planning is one of the most divergent issues for the two candidates. Adams is looking toward the upcoming Portland Plan process—"the single most important opportunity that any council has had for 25 years" to shape Portland, as he told the crowd at an April 14 forum hosted by Randy Gragg and Portland Spaces magazine—to figure out how to accommodate a projected population increase of 300,000 people by 2030.
Dozono, by contrast, questions the growth projection (the number is from Metro, and Adams points out that their prior projections "have actually been low"). "So many people assume that we have to grow by 200,000 or 300,000," Dozono says. He calls for planning that's "one house at a time, one job at a time," and argues that there's "not a mandate" that we have to grow. Adams shot back at the Portland Spaces forum: "It's misguided to think we can build a moat around the city and raise a drawbridge and tell people you can't move here."
On other issues, Adams is in favor of a Burnside-Couch couplet reconfiguration, while Dozono calls it a "bad design." Dozono and Adams disagree on the city's oversight role for Portland Development Commission (PDC), with Adams supporting the city council's oversight of PDC's budget, a charter change the voters approved last year. Dozono says that oversight jeopardizes the "autonomy of the appointed PDC [board] and staff," but also says he has "no problem with" fiscal accountability at PDC (how he'd achieve that outside of the budget oversight is unclear). Dozono was originally critical of the tram and streetcars—two Adams projects—but has softened his stance considerably in the past few weeks.
There is one area in which the two candidates are remarkably similar: Both are adept at raising money. Adams is nearing the top of his self-imposed fundraising cap, with just under $187,000 raised as of Tuesday, April 15. Dozono, however, is quickly catching up: He's raised nearly $140,000, the vast majority of that (over $90,000) collected since March 27.