The day after Thanksgiving, Howard Weiner got the thumbs up from the city's elections office: He could start collecting signatures and $5 contributions in his bid to secure public financing for his fledging city council run.
Weiner—owner of Cal Skate Skateboards on NW 6th in Old Town, and a long-time community activist—has plenty of catching up to do. He has to collect 1,000 qualifying contributions before January 31, while several of his competitors have surpassed the 300—and even 600—signatures mark.
"I have 73 days," Weiner said on Monday, November 26, in his Cal Skate office, his dog Annie napping under his chair. "It's going to take all of my effort." He's transformed a corner of his shop into a signature-gathering station.
Weiner certainly has a wealth of people to solicit, thanks to his long resume of volunteer work—a civic career that began with anti-war protesting at PSU in the '70s, continued with skatepark activism, and is currently focused on community and livability issues. If there's been a committee in Old Town/Chinatown, chances are Weiner's served on it. He's chaired the neighborhood association, and currently heads up the neighborhood's public safety committee. He's on the Citizens' Commission to End Homelessness, and the Transit Mall Revitalization committee.
He also spent most of 2004 volunteering on Tom Potter's mayoral campaign; an experience that he says was inspiring—until Potter took office.
"I and a number of folks did feel left out when Potter became mayor." Potter's vision of increased community engagement hasn't been fully realized, and that's one reason Weiner's running.
"City hall is missing a voice from the community," says Weiner, a resident of the Multnomah neighborhood. "My voice will speak to issues that aren't being addressed."
One issue Weiner would tackle is the relationship between the city and the county governments. He sees a disconnect between Portland police arresting a suspect, for example, and the county jail not holding that person. "You can steal a car in this city and not spend an hour in jail," he says. He'd like to broach the idea of merging the two governments.
On public safety, Weiner supports "getting police out of cars" and giving Chief Rosie Sizer the "resources that are necessary" to increase community policing. As for addressing homelessness, Weiner says some of the recommendations from the mayor's SAFE committee—like the sit-lie law—"haven't been effective... We can move people along all day, but where are they going to go?" Instead, the focus should be on moving "people out of homelessness and into housing."
He'd also like to see the Office of Neighborhood Involvement renamed—to the Office of Community Engagement—and expanded to bring in groups beyond neighborhood and business associations. And more city money should head directly to neighborhoods, he says. "Let them decide how it's spent."