Mercury Staff
[READ ALL OF THE MERCURY'S 2020 ENDORSEMENTS HERE!—eds]

Portland Mayor: Sarah Iannarone

In this November's mayoral contest, Portlanders are given an option: More of the same, or something new. We suggest the latter.

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Sarah Iannarone, an urban policy consultant, is certainly new. If elected, Iannarone would be the first woman in the mayor’s office since 2005. She also would be the first mayor to proudly label herself an “antifascist,” a designation that’s been weaponized by both Mayor Ted Wheeler and far-right Twitter. Yes, Iannarone has no experience holding an elected office. But we believe her past experience as a small business owner (RIP Arleta Cafe), community organizer, urban policy expert, and educator more accurately reflects the Portland she’s hoping to represent than a descendant of a timber magnate who has been in some form of elected office for the past 13 years. We’re confident Iannarone will take the position—and its unglamorous administrative responsibilities—just as seriously as Wheeler.

Some argue that a leadership change in the midst of such already unstable times isn’t practical. We think it’s worth the risk. Here’s why:

The past four years under Mayor Ted Wheeler’s leadership have, on paper, reflected the general values of Portland’s progressive majority: The city has seen an increase in homeless services, affordable housing, environmental programs, transit access, and equity initiatives. Wheeler’s office has banned plastic straws, made City Hall bathrooms gender neutral, and vowed to protect undocumented immigrants by labelling Portland a sanctuary city. He’s condemned Donald Trump’s decisions that violate human rights and has repeatedly sparred with the president on Twitter.

Courtesy Iannarone Campaign

But leading a major US city at this moment in history requires more than just moderate progressive box-checking; it demands fearless decision-making and clear direction. As Portland has navigated a pandemic, an economic implosion, a racial justice reckoning, and a natural disaster over the past seven months—all moments that demand decisive action—we haven’t seen that leadership in Wheeler.

We’ve instead witnessed Wheeler bend to the interests of those who wield the most power in Portland: Business leaders and cops. We’ve watched him scramble to prioritize placing porta potties in downtown Portland to appease the downtown business groups who’ve flooded his office with complaints about the houseless sleeping on “their” sidewalks. We’ve seen him use homeless beds as political bargaining chips to show the business community that he’s serious about “cleaning up the streets.” It’s these business leaders that have bankrolled Wheeler’s campaign.

Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, has led a reactive—and puzzilingly inconsistent—response to the past five months of protests following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops. In the end, he’s stood behind officers dressed for battle far more often than members of the public calling for change.

We’ve heard him condemn the use of tear gas and munitions on the public by federal agents, yet allow the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to continue using these weapons against Portlanders. He’s raised concerns about videos that depict PPB assaulting protesters, but has not called for any kind of investigation into the months of unyielding violence against the public. This attitude is reflected in PPB’s work: A recent report from an advisory agency found that PPB hasn’t bothered to consistently report when they use force against a person during a protest, despite it being mandated in PPB’s code. Meanwhile, observations from those on the ground at these protests say officers are getting increasingly violent, showing little interest in protecting Portlander’s First Amendment rights. Wheeler’s inability to make concrete decisions about PPB policies and protocol at this time is putting Portlander’s safety at risk.

Importantly, Portlanders still have no real idea what Wheeler stands for. At this moment in history, we need a leader who is led by clear principles.

Wheeler’s strength is in supporting his colleagues, who’ve introduced City Hall’s more ambitious policies over the past four years. In a form of government that relies on consensus, this is especially important. But it’s not enough to win our support.

Iannarone gives Portlanders weary of Wheeler’s half-measures an alternative. Unlike the mayor, Iannarone has made her values resoundingly clear. She has joined antifascists at counter-protests when far-right interlopers visit Portland, is passionate about tweaking zoning policies to expand affordable housing, has proposed an emergency response to climate change, and is committed to decriminalizing sex work and substance use disorder. She’s responded to the year’s many crises with nuance, using her platform to educate and to question the status quo without becoming polarizing.

To be clear: We don’t think either candidate for mayor is perfect for this moment. We were inspired by the write-in campaign for Teressa Raiford, founder of Don’t Shoot PDX and a candidate for mayor during the primary elections. We wish the momentum behind her campaign began before she was voted out of the race, and hope her supporters continue to advocate for her leadership in other spaces beyond Nov. 3

Iannarone has given Portlanders an opportunity to turn Portland into the bold, progressive city it purports to be—both on paper and in reality. We need a leader who’s ready to meet this current chaotic moment with humility, confidence, and creativity, and we see that in Iannarone. Vote Sarah Iannarone for mayor.

City Commissioner, Position 4: Chloe Eudaly

Courtesy Eudaly Campaign

What does it mean to be a “divisive” politician in 2020? In the eyes of candidate Mingus Mapps and his supporters, it’s the textbook definition of City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Mapps has gained momentum in his run to replace Eudaly by underscoring her so-called divisive approach to city politics—whether it’s her interest in repairing the city’s inequitable community engagement process without prioritizing input from neighborhood groups, or her work to place Portland’s tenants on an equal footing with the city’s monied landlords and developers. Mapps has also called her decision to rein in the unparalleled power of the Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) “gut-based” (over “evidence based”).

Women politicians have been called “divisive” and “emotional” (synonym for “gut-based”) far too long to not see the casual sexism embedded in these accusations. But this race isn’t just about dog whistle sexism. We believe the reasons Eudaly has been stuck with these labels are exactly why we need her in city government.

Mapps’ promises of pragmatic and collaborative leadership appear driven by a desire to uphold the status quo. In interviews and campaign statements, Mapps has introduced few new ideas or policy plans, and has even proposed turning back the clock on police reforms and conversations around equity.

The fact that he’s won the support of the Portland Police Association (PPA), PPB’s union for rank-and-file police, should come as no surprise. While Mapps says he wants to “promote police accountability” and “repair the relationship between the public and the police,” we’ve yet to see any ideas on how these broad plans could be accomplished.

Here’s what we have seen: On his campaign website, Mapps presents a homelessness plan that includes police enforcement, noting that “houselessness is not a crime, though we do need to hold people accountable for unlawful behavior.” In a city where homeless people are arrested at a wildly disproportionate rate, this priority feels misinformed. Mapps has called on adding dozens more officers to PPB, requested a “zero tolerance policy” for vandalism during protests, and wants to restore the city’s now-defunct crime prevention program, which encouraged citizen foot patrols. We were also surprised by Mapps’ steadfast belief that PPB’s disbandment of its gun violence program directly contributed to the city’s spike in gun violence, when there’s no proof to support this facile conclusion.

For these reasons, we don’t believe Mapps has what it takes to push back on PPA’s proposals during the city’s upcoming contract negotiations.

Mapps has tied his campaign to his brief tenure in the Office of Community and Civic Life (OCCL), which Eudaly oversees. He has notably gained points for bashing OCCL’s plan to allow other community groups the same privileges as neighborhood associations in city hall. While we agree that the program had a clumsy start, it’s incorrect to pin all the blame on Eudaly, and makes for a tired debate.

Eudaly’s tenure at city hall, meanwhile, has been dotted with bold, unprecedented policies that avoid being watered-down through compromise and consensus—factors that have left countless city policies toothless.

In four years, she’s managed to rein in Portland’s lawless short term rental industry and powerful landlord lobby, preserving affordable housing and empowering vulnerable renters. She pushed the city to withdraw from the Oregon Department of Transportation to widen I-5, after listening to the concerns of Portlanders working to preserve the historically Black neighborhood it intersects.

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Eudaly has fought for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures, expanded renter protections during COVID-19, secured funding to cover legal defense fees for undocumented Portlanders, and has condemed the nightly violence PPB inflicts on protesters. She’s even used her position as Transportation Commissioner to creatively penalize federal agents sent to quell protests and remind the Proud Boys that they aren’t welcome.

In each fight, she’s stood up against the city’s top power brokers and defended the powerless, rattling the status quo. Some may call that divisive. We call it good leadership. Vote for Chloe Eudaly.