The Portland Metro Council is the only governing body of its kind in the United States. The council is in charge of land use, transportation, and environmental stewardship for our tri-county region—and Chris Smith is particularly suited to this task.
Smith’s track record on transportation and planning in Portland speaks for itself. He’s been a planner and advocate for the Portland Streetcar; is a longtime member of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission; and was the Multnomah County citizen representative for the Metro Policy Advisory Pact. (The list goes on, but you get the picture.)
Given that Metro will be tasked with promoting a major transportation funding package and shepherding a houseless services measure (if it's approved by voters this election), Smith’s experience and familiarity with nitty-gritty details will be invaluable. On top of experience, he also has a passion for climate justice. He’s part of the movement opposing the expansion of Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter, and has been vocal about how the Metro transportation measure needs to value carbon emission reductions over convenience for car drivers.
Smith faces four opponents in the race to represent Metro District 5, which covers North and Northeast Portland, and it’s difficult to find too much fault with any of them. Mary Nolan is a former state representative with an admirable record, and Q Center Executive Director Cameron Whitten has made an impressive leap from activism to electoral politics, polishing his message while still maintaining an energetic drive.
Many District 5 voters will likely respond to Whitten’s urgency, and we can’t blame them for that. In the future, we hope to see Whitten run for another position where his passion might be well-served, such as a Portland City Council or Multnomah County Board of Commissioners seat.
But serving on the Metro Council specifically requires a depth of experience in the logistics of planning and land management. That’s why we’re recommending a vote for Smith this time.
Metro Council has its work cut out for it over the next few years. As it becomes increasingly clear that COVID-19 will further exacerbate every challenge our region faces, there are two issues in particular where Metro is poised to take the lead: Housing and homelessness, and transportation. In fact, the council will refer two ballot measures to regional voters this year asking them to spend millions on homeless services, and billions on transportation infrastructure.
At this crucial juncture, Metro needs as many steady hands as possible to help guide the process. You can count District 6 incumbent Bob Stacey among the skilled, competent leaders we ought to hold on to.
Stacey’s experience with Metro stretches back well past when he was elected in 2012 to represent District 6, which includes parts of Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest Portland. As a lawyer with 1,000 Friends of Oregon, Stacey sued Metro to tighten restrictions on the region’s urban growth boundary, meaning he has a strong institutional knowledge of land planning in the area. He’s also spent time as an environmentally-minded planning director for Portland, and as a project leader at TriMet. While at TriMet in the 1990s, he made some MAX planning decisions that ended up displacing people from marginalized communities—a mistake he now owns up to. He’s since made efforts to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice, including creating new steering committees and diversity programs.
Stacey supports both the homeless services and transportation funding measures, understanding that the urgency of both issues means that neither should be shelved. He was also ahead of the curve among local elected leaders in being publicly critical of the state’s plan to add lanes to Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter, which experts say would likely increase carbon emissions in the area.
Stacey’s challenger, Leigha LaFleur, has a progressive vision for the region, and is critical of what she sees as Metro’s poor response to COVID-19. But LaFleur’s admirable goals don’t seem to be backed up by substantive details on how to achieve them.
And right now, the details matter. Vote for Stacey.