An even more powerful legislation is brewing here in Portland's city council: The newly minted commissioner, Sam Adams, plans on introducing an Equal Benefit Ordinance (EBO). Under the proposed legislation, the city will only contract with companies who extend benefits to same-sex partners.
With tens of millions of dollars in contracts to private companies at stake each year, this is a far-reaching (and strong-armed) way of making dozens of companies practice good manners and civil rights. For so many reasons, the EBO is exactly what Portland City Council needs right now. Yes, it's an opportunity for Portland to regain its footing as a progressive maverick. And yes, it is an important push forward for civil rights.
But even more so, it shows that city council--or, at least, Adams--is willing to jump into the marketplace of progressive ideas. Other cities out there have exciting, new programs much like this one that overcame their problems. The EBO in San Francisco has worked its way through legal tangles--lessons that will prove helpful for Portland in crafting its own ordinance.
Moreover, given the conservative gloom settling over the country, cities like Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, and Austin now more than ever need to band together and push back.
And, perhaps most importantly, by introducing the EBO, Adams has done something that city council has failed to do for years--introduce legislation that's important and groundbreaking.
Compare this to the other council newcomer, Mayor Tom Potter, who should tell the federal government that Portland won't tolerate law enforcement agents operating in secret by disbanding the Joint Terrorism Task Force. But rather than putting the question on the council's calendar, Potter has allowed the matter to languish. And right now, doing nothing tacitly supports the status quo, which is not worth supporting. PHIL BUSSE