Carmen Rubio has been the decided front-runner in this City Council race from the start, easily collecting endorsements from local leaders and coalitions. But our decision to endorse her in the race to replace outgoing City Commissioner Amanda Fritz wasn’t as simple.
Rubio is the director of the Latino Network, a nonprofit supporting Latino youth and families across Oregon. Her work has her advocating for Portland’s Latinx community at the local and national level, from passing a state bill to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, to suing the Trump administration in federal court over an order blocking immigrant visas for people without health insurance. Most recently, Latino Network successfully lobbied Oregon lawmakers to include $10 million in the state’s COVID-19 stimulus bill to cover unemployment benefits for undocumented workers.
Rubio’s job has placed her on the pulse of the local Latinx community, a population that’s growing faster in Oregon than the national average and that’s often painted with a broad brush, if not ignored, in city council conversations. If elected, Rubio would be the first Latinx woman on Portland City Council.
But Rubio faced tough competition in Candace Avalos, a student government advisor at Portland State University and interim chair of Portland's Citizen Review Committee (CRC), the 11-member volunteer board that reviews police misconduct claims. Her work on the CRC has made Avalos uniquely knowledgeable about the cracks in the city’s police accountability system and how the city’s commission form of government undermines needed police reform.
Portland would benefit from Avalos’ leadership, and we hope to see her continue her critical engagement in local politics. But Rubio’s experience inside City Hall and dedicated work representing an underrepresented community has made her our choice for Position 1.
Position 2 on Portland City Council wasn’t supposed to be an open seat in 2020. But the abrupt death of City Commissioner Nick Fish from cancer in January gave way to a whirlwind primary race with nearly 20 registered competitors vying for the council seat Fish occupied for more than a decade. Many entered this race to pick up where Fish left off—advocating for parks, affordable housing, and environmental programs while serving as a steadying influence and, at times, mediator, in the city’s council chambers.
But we weren’t searching for someone to take on the impossible task of filling Fish’s shoes. We instead looked for candidates who could bring a new perspective to Portland City Council, while also proving they’re capable of navigating the kind of difficult conversations needed to advance city policies.
That’s why we’re endorsing Tera Hurst to finish Fish’s term, which will expire in 2022.
Hurst is the director of Renew Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates for state programs that incentivize renewable energy used to curb the negative environmental and health impacts of pollution. Hurst spent the beginning of 2020 lobbying legislators to pass a cap-and-trade bill that would limit carbon emissions for major corporations. The bill fizzled out after GOP legislators chose to flee the capitol building instead of casting a vote.
Hurst isn’t a stranger to Portland City Hall. In 2016, Hurst served as chief of staff to then-Mayor Charlie Hales, during which she helped execute Hales’ ambitious response to the city’s declared Housing State of Emergency. She’s familiar with the city’s unforgiving budgeting process and knows how to work within the city’s clunky commission form of government, despite wanting to see it overhauled to better represent voters. Hurst’s legislative work underscores her ability to seek compromise and consensus with elected officials to advance critical policies, an important tool for operating within Portland’s five-person council.
On the campaign trail, Hurst has highlighted her identity as a recovering alcoholic, emphasizing the importance of having someone familiar with addiction and recovery on the council dais. It’s a compelling argument. In Portland, where people with mental health and addiction issues are overrepresented in criminal justice and houseless populations, having a leader who can speak to the population’s needs from experience could move the needle on solving Portland’s most intrinsic problems.
Many candidates in this race would do great work on Portland City Council. Sam Chase, a Metro Councilor and longtime affordable housing advocate, would bring needed perspective on progressive city planning to City Hall, while Dan Ryan, former CEO of All Hands Raised, would make sure public education and Portland’s youth didn’t remain a sidebar in council discussions. But Portland needs a sharp legislator to lead the city into a future focused on recovery—whether that’s from a reliance on dirty energy, a broken mental health care system, or a devastating global pandemic. We believe Hurst is best for the job.
Political newcomer Chloe Eudaly beat incumbent City Commissioner Steve Novick in 2016 with a bold promise to defend tenant’s rights in an increasingly unaffordable city. She did just that—and then some.
After four years of learning to navigate Portland City Hall—a process not without blunders—Eudaly has successfully laid the groundwork for Portland to become a city that values its renters just as much as its monied property owners. We want her to keep going. (So does former competitor Novick, who endorsed her this time around.)
This race is, as expected, the most divisive council race on the ballot. Eudaly’s re-election run came on the heels of perhaps her biggest policy flub: Proposing a sweeping restructuring of the city’s Office of Community and Civic Life (OCCL, formally the Office of Neighborhood Involvement). While her intention—to make neighborhood associations more inclusive and better representative of Portland’s population—was noble, her execution of the proposal was a mess. Without clear communication about what, exactly, this overhaul would look like and how it would impact current programming, the proposal fueled a divisive, impassioned movement to unseat Eudaly in 2020. This movement found a leader in Mingus Mapps, a public policy consultant and former OCCL staffer who was fired under Eudaly’s leadership. Mapps joined the Position 4 race in September, campaigning on a platform to preserve and strengthen neighborhood associations. The race got even juicier after former Portland mayor Sam Adams joined in, promising to restore dignity and respect for the office that Eudaly occupies.
Somehow, the race morphed to cast Eudaly as the outsider in an election where she was the incumbent. It’s not surprising. Eudaly has butted heads with the status quo since entering council chambers in 2016. She doesn’t hide her emotions (something women politicians are encouraged to do), she pushes back against landlords and corporate lobbyists, and she questions procedure and policy that others never thought to doubt. She’s hurt feelings and burned bridges—but she’s also paved a path for thousands of Portlanders who’ve never felt represented in city government along the way.
When Mayor Ted Wheeler assigned Eudaly the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in 2018, transportation advocates held their breath to see how a transportation policy newbie would handle the weighty bureau. With the guidance of PBOT experts and community advocates, Eudaly has proven to be a passionate and capable leader. Under her leadership, City Council has adopted the Rose Lane project, a plan to create a network of bus-only traffic lanes and transit-priority infrastructure to speed up transit times, reduce carbon emissions, and promote bus ridership. It’s a project transit advocates have wanted to see for years. Eudaly’s ability to take on a challenging new bureau and advance its policy goals within two years is admirable.
Renters make up nearly 50 percent of Portland’s population. Eudaly has made sure that population isn’t ignored in policymaking. From passing a renter relocation assistance ordinance two months into her first term, to creating a rental registration program to start collecting data on leased homes, to creating an equitable rental application process, Eudaly has consistently carried the torch for renters in situations where other elected officials would shy away.
While Eudaly’s work has improved conditions for Portland’s tenants, the city is still in the grips of a paralyzing housing crisis, one that will be further exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep renter’s rights front and center throughout this mess, we encourage you to re-elect Eudaly to Portland City Council.
Mayor of Portland: Sarah Iannarone
To some of you, this year’s mayoral race may feel like déjà vu. That’s because incumbent Ted Wheeler is once again facing Sarah Iannarone, an urban policy consultant and progressive activist who competed against Wheeler in 2016’s mayoral race. She won the Mercury’s endorsement then—and we’re giving it to her this time around as well.
First, some words about our current mayor. Wheeler entered the mayor’s office in an unenviable time. After the election of Donald Trump to the White House in 2016, many Americans found it easier to blame their local elected official for the failures of the country’s flailing, draconian executive branch. Since entering City Hall in 2017, Wheeler has taken hits for federal and state policies outside his control (an issue he’s frequently caught bemoaning), as well as issues that are entirely his responsibility.
He’s introduced clunky city policies before ensuring his colleagues' support, like his unconstitutional attempt to limit protest activity, backed police officers’ violence against protesters and people experiencing a mental health crisis, slashed beloved programs and employee positions during budget season, and is cozy with the business and development communities.
But, despite what you might read in this here publication, Wheeler’s a good person. He’s aware of his privilege—well… at least more than the standard wealthy white guy in politics—and appoints leaders from different backgrounds and with different experiences to direct city bureaus and major projects. He makes difficult decisions and stands by them. Wheeler’s quick, measured response to the current COVID-19 crisis has decreased the city’s collective anxiety and set the tone for other state and local elected officials. We’re thankful for that.
And yet, Wheeler’s tenure in City Hall has been dangerously opaque. Wheeler’s office on the third floor of City Hall has seen constant turnover and countless PR makeovers in the last three years, signaling both instability and insecurity. City Commissioners and their staff are often blindsided by decisions coming from Wheeler’s office that could have benefitted from collaboration.
City Hall reporters have been frustrated by his office’s lack of clear communication with the media. His staff’s past attempts to avoid criticism and control the narrative coming out of his office brings little solace to his constituents.
Above all, the lack of transparency from Wheeler’s office has made it difficult to get a hold on what, exactly, Wheeler stands for.
We want a mayor who is clear about their values, open to critique, and eager to tear down the walls between their office and the public square. We see that leadership in Iannarone.
Iannarone has a varied resume: She spent a decade running a Southeast Portland bakery, then helped found and lead First Stop Portland, a Portland State University program that educates global leaders on Portland’s green urban planning practices.
In her years since first running for mayor, Iannarone has established herself as an organizer for progressive causes in Portland—whether that’s allowing more multi-family, affordable homes to be built in Portland neighborhoods, fighting for a fareless public transit system, pushing Portland to substantially reduce its carbon outputs, or creatively counter-protesting the Proud Boys. She’s put in time getting familiar with areas of city government outside her expertise, like Portland’s police accountability systems and the city's response to homelessness.
Perhaps most impressive are Iannarone’s extensive policy proposals for Portland—detailed, data-informed documents informed by area experts and promising straightforward improvements to city programs. We’re impressed with her remedies for housing inequities in Portland, like codifying a tenant’s bill of rights, taxing owners of vacant lots, and funding community land trusts.
Iannarone’s proposals give us a peek at what kind of intention and research would go into her leadership decisions. Iannarone’s proposed response to COVID-19, posted in early March, foretold many of the decisions Wheeler eventually made to combat the virus’ spread.
Iannarone’s far-left ideals don’t speak to Portland’s more moderate Democrats (let alone the city’s quiet conservative factions), a factor that could keep her from collecting critical votes. Electability politics aside, we at the Mercury choose to endorse candidates with the values and vision that we believe are best for Portland’s future. In the mayor’s race, that candidate is Sarah Iannarone.