Press releases had billed the noon hour announcement at Pioneer Square as perhaps the most important event in the history of Portland's art community. But, by quarter after the hour, there was only the normal lunchtime crowd basking on the public square's seats and no art besides two men slapping bongo drums.
With little introduction, a man dressed in black from head to toe began speaking to the crowd about arts funding and urban growth issues. Without a PA system, his message was quickly drowned out by the gurgling fountain of water.
Though it was clearly a lackluster performance, Gunther's appearance nevertheless marked the beginning of the fall campaigning season. As of Monday, all ballot measures and candidates for this fall's elections have been filed. (Gunther is running for the city council seat vacated by Charlie Hales.)
With the unfortunate elimination of Peter Alexander during the May primaries--a candidate for Dan Saltzman's council seat--city council looked as if it would continue its same ho-hum, politics-as-usual plateau. But Gunther's last-minute entry into the council race holds some promise to interject local politics with a verve that has been lacking. Outspoken to a fault, say his campaign managers, Gunther has no desire to play polite politics. Instead, he has a mission to establish Portland as a center for the arts. Some of his ideas are as simple as setting up a weeklong arts festival, while others are more elaborate, such as supplying incentives to provide artists with affordable housing.
Facing much more established politicians, and a late entry into the race, Gunther has a good deal of ground to make up. The current front-runners for the seat are longtime state legislator Randy Leonard, and Multnomah County Commissioner Serena Cruz. A special election will be held on September 17. If no one candidate gathers more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held in November.