Apparently it takes a high school student to do a mayor's job.
Before Mayor Tom Potter even took office, he dangled the promise of reinstating the Mayor's Ball—a well-attended, annual charity event that ran throughout Bud Clark's tenure in the '80s. Once he took office, Potter even hired a staffer to spearhead the event. But, like an increasingly long list of promises, the Mayor's Ball has faded from reality.
This Friday, May 11 at 8 pm, however, the concept of a benefit concert for the public good becomes a reality as Cleveland High hosts a fundraiser for the Portland Public Schools' music programs. The event includes big-time local bands, the Thermals and Menomena, as well as an up-and-coming high school band, the Bustling Townships. The only thing missing from the event is—you guessed it—help from the mayor's office.
Remarkably—and city hall should take note—the event has been organized almost single-handedly by Dash Robb, a senior at Lincoln High School.
"The goal is partly to raise money," Robb explained, adding "and to show what can be done to raise money."
Over the past few years, Robb has watched as schools' budgets have been slashed and music programs in his school whittled away. With the exception of solid programs at Grant and Jefferson, music classes at the remaining high schools have virtually vanished.
The mayor's office says that despite Potter's pledge, they chose not to pursue the Mayor's Ball in part because the event's cost was too high. The mayor's spokesperson said that the event cost Bud Clark's office $45,000. (He also admitted that it pulled in nearly $80,000.)
But here again is another lesson: By simply asking for a few favors, a high school student has pulled in donations and is hosting the event for next to nothing.
Robb first sent an email to members of Death Cab for Cutie. They were already booked, but did respond that Portland Public Schools' music programs had been a critical part of their development.
Soon afterward, a mutual friend connected Robb with Kathy Foster, the bass player for the Thermals—who agreed immediately to play for free—and the music editor at Willamette Week sent a request to Menomena, who also accepted.
Surely, the mayor's office has a few people they could call for a favor in the name of philanthropy. When Potter first took office, even the Mercury offered to help find bands and ask venues to donate their space. (We were politely brushed off.)
Robb hopes to raise $10,000 on Friday evening. "Enough to buy some instruments and get some awareness out there," he says.
Robb graduates this year and heads out to Oberlin College. But hopefully, the mayor's office can pick up the baton from the teenager and restart a tradition of raising funds for the public good—just like he promised once upon a time.