In his sparse office on SE Belmont near the Horse Brass Pub, Slav Davidzon is buzzing around, making final arrangements for his sustainable bike touring company's December ride in Hawaii, dealing with a ceiling that sprang a leak during the recent downpour, and polishing off his paperwork to run for mayor.
Davidzon, the 26-year-old CEO of both ThinkHost, a green web hosting company, and Common Circle Expeditions, realizes that his bid for mayor is a long shot.
"My primary goal is to get the issues out there," he says, listing off his big picture ideas, like a living wage and universal health care for all Portlanders, renewable energy via solar power "on every roof in Portland," and banning cars on one-fifth of the city's streets to make way for bikes, pedestrians, and public transit.
"This city's supposed to be on the cutting edge, not somewhere in the middle. And we've got a long way to go, quite honestly," says Davidzon, who's hoping to snag the Pacific Green Party's endorsement. Raised in Michigan, Davidzon says he "barely graduated high school" but founded ThinkHost when he was 19. He bounced around for a few years, spending time in New York City and in the Middle East before landing in Portland.
He acknowledges that his ideas aren't the typical nuts and bolts of municipal campaigns—which often focus on city basics like street maintenance or policing—but are nods to national and global problems.
"We have a long way to go on a national level, and it's going to be a long fight. But on the local level, you can make a difference," he says.
Davidzon adds that "it's a real disservice to democracy" if a presumed frontrunner—in this case, City Commissioner Sam Adams—has a cakewalk into office. "There's not going to be enough discourse if there's not more candidates, if there's not more folks standing up and saying we've got to talk about issues that really matter."
When Davidzon announced his ultra-progressive campaign on Wednesday, November 28, however, commenters on BikePortland.org—which posted Davidzon's announcement—railed against his candidacy, critiquing his tours and his personality: "Like so many brilliant risky entrepreneurs: He lacks social skills—in a major way... Portland would have a bad reputation if Slav ran around telling everyone why they were stupid for not listening to all his ideas," noted a commenter who'd gone on one of Davidzon's tours.
Davidzon acknowledges that he's got a strong personality, one that's blunt and can be abrasive. "I value getting things done," he says, dismissing criticisms about his business and reiterating that his campaign is about the issues.
Regarding the issues, it's too early in the campaign to grasp how Davidzon would make something like universal health care happen. In January, after he returns from Hawaii, Davidzon plans to turn his lofty ideas into a more solid platform. He talks about crafting "a very creative taxing structure," including things like carbon taxes, or higher taxes on large corporations.
Davidzon will also be spending the first part of 2008 raising money for his campaign—given his late entry into the race, he won't be seeking public financing, and he plans to partially self-finance his run. Even if he doesn't win, if he can just get the next mayor to run with just one of his ideas, "that will have been a successful campaign."