WE'LL ADMIT IT. WE WANT CHANGE.
It's already a cliché in the 2008 election, but we want it anyway. The past several years have worn us out politically, and we're aching for a revolution. We want dynamic new political leadership, people who are going to push a progressive agenda and restore credibility to our city, state, and country.
More specifically, we're looking forward to a city council with two new faces—and no more Mayor McSnoozy! There are exciting young candidates running to reenergize the state legislature. We're counting down the days until George W. Bush is unemployed, and we're excited about the prospect of sending a second Oregon Democrat to the US Senate.
This primary election is arguably more important than the one in November. It's this election that decides what kind of progressive leaders will ultimately take the helm next year—those who don't mind the status quo vs. those who want to shake things up. We vote for shaking it up.
Ballots are due by May 20. Check out our endorsements, tune in to portlandmercury.com/2008 for archives of city candidate questionnaires, and most importantly—VOTE!
(And don't forget to join us on Tuesday, May 6, for Candidate Speed Date! We've invited every city candidate to come and face off one on one with voters, and we're inviting you to come on down and find the candidate of your dreams. Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th, 7 pm, 21+, free)
The Portland Mercury's editorial board is Wm. Steven Humphrey, Amy J. Ruiz, Matt Davis, and Jonathan Shapiro. We do not make endorsements in uncontested races, or spill much ink on U.S. Representative or Metro councilor races where incumbents face weak challengers.
Since the moment Sam Adams officially threw himself into the mayoral race, we've been looking forward to what city hall—and Portland—could be like under his leadership, as soon as next year.
A polished politician with a to-do list as long as the city's streetcar line, Adams isn't content to sit still and ride on Portland's reputation for livability and progressive values. He's constantly pushing the envelope, whether by suggesting parking meters along SE Hawthorne to help drivers pay for the "true cost" of driving, or leading the charge on a $467 million street fee that would go toward miles of bike boulevards, safety programs, and basic street fixes throughout the city. Not all of his ideas are popular across the board—hell, we're hard pressed to find one that doesn't have harsh critics—but that doesn't stop him from taking risks. He backed down from the parking meter idea after floating it past the business district, but he's still tinkering with the street fee, and pushing for ever more controversial items like a Burnside-Couch couplet.
Adams has continued to push a smart and specific agenda throughout his campaign. With a three-part priority list, Adams promises to tackle the city's abysmal high school dropout rate, pledging to cut it in half in his first four years. He also wants to boost family wage jobs, with a six-page plan to "out-innovate, out-smart and out-produce the global competition." And he's looking forward to the city's upcoming "Portland Plan" process, seeing it as an opportunity to plan for the city's impending growth in a way that doesn't compromise our quality of life. Given Adams' track record, we're looking forward to his leadership on these huge issues, and we are confident that he'll deliver results.
Adams' main opponent—there are 13 candidates total, but few have done any significant fundraising, and only six bothered to file voters' pamphlet statements—is businessman Sho Dozono. A latecomer to the race who was hampered by problems with the city's public financing program—problems he still hasn't come entirely clean about—Dozono has yet to articulate a clear agenda. That's the exact reason we went with Jim Francesconi—Jim Francesconi!—over Tom Potter four years ago: Potter's lack of ideas forebode four years of inertia, where little has been accomplished beyond "bringing people together." We're all for building community, but we're hiring a mayor here—not a cruise ship director. While Dozono wants to distance himself from Potter, which he does largely by pointing out his private sector background in contrast to Potter's public service as a cop, the fact is Potter sees Dozono as the person to continue his legacy. We want to end that reign. Vote for Adams to make it happen.
Through the magic of public campaign financing, this race has five smart, viable, capable candidates who have spent the past several months engaging with voters and discussing Portland's future instead of stumping for cash. (A sixth candidate in the race, Mike Fahey, is just as viable, having served in the state legislature; however, he has largely ignored the Mercury's overtures, and skipped our endorsement interview.)
When candidates spend that much time on the campaign trail talking about what matters—and diligently answering the Mercury's lengthy series of candidate questions, posted on Blogtown—our job becomes that much more difficult (thanks guys!). We've learned that they'd each be a solid addition to the city council, in a unique way.
Portland Public Schools Development Director John Branam has unparalleled charisma, running an energetic campaign focused on improving education. Charles Lewis, executive director of Ethos, a music education nonprofit, has made creative use of his small budget, filling potholes to draw attention to his basic services message. Citizen über-activist Chris Smith knows transportation and land-use planning inside and out, as Portland is about to craft a new comprehensive plan. Neighborhood advocate Amanda Fritz is a watchdog at heart, who would act as a check on her colleagues while monitoring Portland's neighborhoods to be sure they're treated equally. And consumer advocate Jeff Bissonnette has experience navigating the halls of government, which he's combined with a forward-thinking agenda of small business development and making Portland a sustainability leader.
But we can only endorse one candidate.
We hope to see a lot more of the still-green Branam, whose campaign was dogged by a few amateur mistakes like campaign lit typos, and a campaign finance investigation that ended with a reprimand from the city auditor. Lewis, who entered the race motivated by frustration with the Portland Development Commission, needs to brush the chip off his shoulder (and stop attacking his fellow candidates). Smith's campaign didn't capitalize on his early momentum, like the release of a smart bike plan in November, and he lacks basic political skills. Fritz—who's nearly guaranteed a slot in the runoff, thanks to name recognition from a prior run, heavyweight endorsements, and (let's face it) her status as the only woman in the race—has a reputation for not being able to see the forest for the trees. It's a rep we hope she'll conquer by articulating a larger vision for Portland beyond neighborhood equity on the basics.
If Bissonnette has a flaw, we haven't found it yet. That's not the only reason he gets our vote, however. From his work as a social services and then consumer advocate, to his record on clean energy and environmental issues—helping to launch Energy Trust, for example—Bissonnette brings skills and expertise that will help the next council shape Portland as a leader in sustainability. His background as a community organizer—who talks about balancing facilitation and advocacy—will make him invaluable the next time the council navigates a charged issue (like renaming a street or a moving a bridge).
On the trail, he's held lively town hall meetings on issues from supporting local businesses, to making Portland more family friendly—showcasing his knack for checking in with constituents as he formulates a progressive and do-able agenda. While "focusing on basic services" has become a talking point in this and other city races, Bissonnette rises above that simplistic view of city administration, noting that things like all-ages music venues, bike boulevards, and arts funding are also key.
Bissonnette has done his homework, laid out an agenda we're excited about—micro-loans for small businesses, neighborhood field offices, slashing Portland's carbon footprint—and has the skills to put it into action. Vote for him.
Unlike the other council races, the candidate who wins this seat—the one Erik Sten vacated when he retired mid-term earlier this year—knows exactly what they'll be getting into: Mayor Tom Potter has promised that the winner will take up the reins on both the city's housing policy, and implementation of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. (At least until there's a new mayor, who might shuffle everything around.)
Sten's former chief of staff, Jim Middaugh, is well prepared to step into that role. Though he'll be the first to admit that his housing-related resume isn't as long as that of his main opponent, Nick Fish (an attorney who has, for example, served as a commissioner and as a vice-chair with the Housing Authority of Portland), the truth is that Sten left behind already-solid policies. Instead of a wonk, what the city needs now is an advocate who will find the funding to make those policies a reality, and a leader who will make sure the city doesn't lose sight of our housing-for-all goals. Middaugh, a natural when it comes to bringing people together and getting them excited about the task at hand, is the right guy for the job.
Where Fish has focused his talent on the housing aspect of the job, Middaugh brings a lengthy record of environmental work, including a stint as the city's salmon restoration manager, a position where he worked across bureaus (and managed to cut his own budget from $2.3 million to $900,000). He also serves on the Columbia River Gorge Commission, where he's learned the art of navigating controversial votes. And, he's pledged to stand up to the Portland Business Alliance on the issue of private downtown security.
Also in this race are Ed Garren, a newcomer to Portland who has floated ideas like rent stabilization; neighborhood advocate and real estate guy Fred Stewart (we'd like to see him run again and take advantage of public financing so he can get his message out); and Harold Williams Two, a consultant with a plan to "map out" Portland's services.
We're excited about the picture of a future Portland that Middaugh paints—one that keeps an eye on the bottom line while also exploring and expanding on what makes our city great. Not only does he remind us of why we moved here in the first place, but he makes us want to stick around and turn this city into an even more amazing place. Middaugh deserves your vote.
Whether he's reading from the Federalist Papers during a council meeting, sparring with another commissioner over public campaign financing, or leading the charge to ban duct tape along parade routes, you can always count on Randy Leonard for one thing: He's going to speak his mind. Whether you agree with him or not is another matter entirely.
On the whole, we do agree with him. He's usually got Adams' back, and he pushes a progressive (and aggressive) agenda on everything from housing and clean energy to drug treatment. He's been a leader in bringing biofuels to Portland (and growing Oregon's industry in the process), and has helped lead the effort to tighten the city's oversight of the Portland Development Commission.
But there are times where we worry that Leonard is focused solely on the big picture—especially on things like his Project 57 program—and isn't paying attention to the details. He can be so sure he's doing the right thing that he may not notice if he's doing it the wrong way.
Still, for all his swagger, Leonard is usually right where we are on the issues. Challenging him are a trio of political novices with the best of intentions—but not a single one has a beef with Leonard or is critical of the job he's done. Vote for Leonard.
City politics is traditionally our focus at the Mercury, but Multnomah County's role in shaping Portland cannot be underestimated. Unlike the comparatively cash-rich city, the county is facing an $18 million budget shortfall. And recently, the county has had spectacular problems with one of its primary areas of oversight—jails—including its failure to open one. Newly re-energized under Chair Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jeff Cogen, what the county board needs now is a collaborative set of commissioners who can work together with Wheeler and Cogen to make tough fiscal choices while upholding county priorities like mental health and public safety. We don't want to see a return to the deadlocked era of the so-called "mean girls."
For example, we would like to see Wheeler succeed with a public safety initiative on the ballot in November to fill the county's coffers for vital services, and on the jail front, we applaud his recent efforts to reign in Sheriff Bernie Giusto and his excessive leave-taking deputies.
Deborah Kafoury would work well with Wheeler, representing District 1. She is the most experienced candidate politically, having served as minority leader in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2004. She also understands homeless issues, as chairperson of the board of Transition Projects, Inc., the nonprofit that will shortly be charged with running Portland's new service access center for the homeless.
In District 3, Mike Delman and Judy Shiprack are both experienced candidates with their respective visions, although we got a sense Delman might want to use the county seat as a bully pulpit. (He bristled when we asked if he'd spend a lot of time fighting with Wheeler. Point proven.) Meanwhile, Shiprack has a strong understanding of mental health issues, but her answers to our questions were lackluster and distracted.
We're endorsing Rob Milesnick because he seems, simply, to want to be a county commissioner so damned much—in our interview, he was the best prepared candidate when it came to Wheeler's public safety initiative and how to get it passed. His healthcare advocacy is a plus, as is his work on corrections oversight—serving on the city's citizens police review committee. He talks smartly about addiction and treatment issues, too.
In District 4, Carla Piluso is the Gresham police chief, so her understanding of public safety issues—especially when it comes to the county's efforts to support a sub-acute facility for those suffering of mental health issues, and to open the Wapato jail—will come in handy during budget negotiations.
The Oregon legislature faces a number of issues next year, most notably protecting the environment, maintaining an aging transportation network, and revitalizing education—and have we mentioned there's not a whole lot of spare money floating around Salem? As such, most of the candidates are mentioning revenue reform as a priority. But we're looking for a little something more than opposition to the corporate kicker, or overhauling the state corporate income tax (though the chatter we're hearing about a sales tax is a nice start).
In senate District 23, Sean Cruz, former legislative aide to Avel Gordly, has been running on an anti-war platform. We couldn't agree more that the war is a bad thing, but it's not necessarily within Cruz's prospective remit to bring it to a conclusion (and the guy couldn't even get his act together to submit a statement for the voters' pamphlet). Meanwhile, his opponent Jackie Dingfelder has the experience of representing her neighborhood on a wide variety of issues, thanks to her past role in the house, a seat she vacated to run for the senate. She wants to upgrade and replace Oregon's aging schools and reduce Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions to 75 percent below 1990 levels in the next few decades. Vote for her.
In house District 38, attorney Chris Garrett has been outspoken about revenue reform, but also holds healthcare reform, the environment, education, and the economy high on his list of legislative priorities. Having worked in Salem for Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, he has an understanding of what it takes to get things done in the capitol. Meanwhile his opponent, Linda Brown, serves on the Lake Oswego school board, and is rightly proud of her advocacy in education. But outside of schools, her legislative agenda for the future is fuzzy. This seat needs someone who can hit the ground running, and Garrett is that candidate.
District 42's race has three smart, young candidates who would all make solid first-time legislators. (The fourth candidate, Gordon Hillesland, falls flat, focusing on the singular issue of enforcing existing tax laws. Yawn.) Teddy Keizer, an ambitious record-holding mountain climber, is pushing to unite rural and urban voters on common issues like health care and education. Jules Kopel-Bailey is a whip-smart economist with a laser-sharp focus on environmental issues. But Regan Felice Gray—former chief of staff to Diane Rosenbaum, who vacated this seat—would make great use of what's arguably the state's most liberal district to push on issues, like civil rights and family leave, that might otherwise get lost in the broader environmental, education, and revenue agenda. She's also spent years in the legislature, and has already had a hand in passing bills. We're confident she'll quickly rise in the ranks, and be an effective leader in Salem, while pushing on issues.
In District 45, Cyreena Boston is a self-styled fighter with a clear agenda for her first term in the house. After spending her teenage years as a political volunteer, knocking on doors in Northeast Portland, she got a job as constituency director for the Oregon Democratic Party by calling them up and telling them what a terrible job they were doing on public involvement. Asked what her first bill would be, she had a fresh answer: foster care reform that would allow a child to live with a cousin or other non-immediate relative, instead of with strangers (her opponents had ideas recycled from past legislative failures). It's this kind of creativity, coupled with the smarts and drive to deliver, that makes Boston stand out. Her opponents, Metro Councilor Jon Coney and Portland Community College (PCC) teacher and union representative Michael Dembrow, would both make solid candidates in other races—Dembrow's advocacy for PCC part-time teachers in particular has been impressive. But they lack Boston's spunk. She deserves your vote.
In District 49, former House Speaker Karen Minnis is retiring. (Can we get a whoop-whoop!!) She was by all rights "supposed" to be replaced by real estate agent Barbara Kyle, who was approached by the Democratic Party to run. But law student Nick Kahl has worked his butt off against Kyle to gain widespread support. His commitment to bring green-collar jobs is a forward-thinking approach to representing what Kahl describes as the district's "working-class values." He's also charming and energetic, and by far the most exciting choice in this race.
After eight years of horrendous government in the United States, electing Barack Obama president will be like hitting the "reset" button on this country's political system. It will send a strong message to the rest of the world that this country is ready to embark on a new kind of politics, compared to the one that appears now to have failed us.
It's exciting enough that Obama has clear policies for ending the war in Iraq, providing universal health care and jobs for middle-class families, and tackling global warming. But his fight with Hillary Clinton for the nomination is an effort funded almost entirely by grassroots contributions—proof that he stands for a new era in American life, and that he can beat John McCain in a race for the presidency.
Imagine, hearing a decade ago that an unknown African American might stand on the verge of upsetting the coronation of Hillary Clinton in 10 years' time. You'd never have believed it. Which proves our point: It's just Barack Obama's time.
We've gone back and forth on this endorsement for weeks. Were we choosing the candidate who would make the best US Senator, or were we picking the one best suited to topple formidable Republican Gordon Smith—someone who'd put up a better fight, even if they weren't ultimately successful?
Finally, we realized that attorney and political activist Steve Novick is the best choice on both counts. Not only will he give Smith the toughest challenge—just look at the momentum he's got against Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley, a solid political leader, and the guy plenty of Democrats assumed would be coronated as the nominee—but assuming he wins in November (and we're starting to believe he can), we're excited to see what he'd do in DC.
Novick loves to point out his stark contrast to Smith, on everything from his short stature to his progressive policy views, and he makes a compelling case. We recognize that his oft-brash delivery when arguing policy might hand Smith plenty of ammo to use in the general election, but Novick is quick—we're confident he'll be able to take on anything Smith throws at him (even if he's dodging messes of his own creation).
At first, we thought his campaign was heavy on schtick—relying on viral ads highlighting Novick's steel hook prosthetic left hand—and short on evidence that Novick would be an effective representative for Oregon. But as the campaign has heated up, we're pleased to see that Novick's record on things like taking on the Oregon Lottery Commission to fight for more school funding has translated well to federal policy issues—we have no doubt that Novick will be a strong advocate to end the war, create universal health care, and help the working class.
The brainy Novick's penchant for saying exactly what's on his mind has gotten him in trouble a few times, but it's apparent that he's learning to temper that impulse. That said, he'll continue to do things differently, in a way that makes you wonder why more politicians don't follow his lead. Meanwhile, his opponents like Candy Neville and Jeff Merkley are virtually on the same page when it comes to agendas and policy positions. Smith, however, would trounce Neville. While Merkley would likely be a solid senator, given his track record leading Democrats in Salem, we're just not that into him. Vote for Novick.
While the rest of our major race endorsements follow a theme of "change, change, change" (the Kool-Aid was delicious, thanks for asking), we're favoring a more establishment candidate in the race for secretary of state.
Three state senators are vying for the seat: Kate Brown, Vicki Walker, and Rick Metsger. (A fourth candidate, Paul Wells, is running on the solo issue of making the seat nonpartisan.) All three are capable, respected political leaders, but our vote goes to Brown.
Metsger doesn't have the energy of his two colleagues, and fell flat in our endorsement interview—the issues he's most effective on, like transportation, don't seem like a good fit for this office. Walker, on the other hand, is a fighter, and we love her for that (she's also put out an impressive booklet outlining her stance on the issues). But in a position like secretary of state, we'd rather have levelheaded Brown at the helm, overseeing elections and audits.
Brown spent nearly a decade as senate majority leader, and has chaired the Senate Rules and Elections Committee—two positions that have honed her leadership skills, and have prepared her well to lead the state in the important areas of elections and audits. Brown plans to watchdog the basics—keeping an eye out for initiative fraud—while also looking ahead by making it easier for people to register to vote and sign petitions, perhaps by making both possible online. We're confident that she'll uphold the high standards set by this office, and that she'll innovate where needed. Vote for Brown.
With a background as a federal prosecutor who's taken on Enron and the mafia, John Kroger is a relative newcomer to Oregon who's got his fresh sights set on the attorney general's office.
He's up against Greg Macpherson, a respected longtime state legislator who's spent decades at Stoel Rives, the state's biggest law firm. While there's no doubt Macpherson is qualified for the job, Kroger represents new potential for the attorney general's office, which has been staid for years.
From pledging to hire a prosecutor to focus on environmental crimes, to planning to hit the legislative floor when necessary to advocate for better laws, Kroger's guaranteed to shake up the office. That's not something everyone is comfortable with, and we recognize that he might make missteps; but we'd rather see a risk taker who stumbles occasionally than someone content to maintain the status quo. Indeed, Kroger will go beyond the office's charge of representing the State of Oregon, and will ultimately represent Oregonians in areas of consumer and civil rights while also tackling the state's meth problem through treatment and tougher enforcement. We're looking forward to seeing Kroger go get 'em—but first, you need to vote for him!
MEASURES 51 AND 52: Amends Constitution; Enables Crime Victims to Enforce Existing Constitutional Rights in Prosecutions
MEASURE 53: Amends Constitution; Modifies Provisions Governing Civil Forfeitures Related to Crimes
Constitutional Amendments 51 and 52 are part of an effort by outgoing Attorney General Hardy Myers to safeguard victims' rights during criminal proceedings. The Oregon Bill of Rights currently includes rights concerning financial compensation and privacy for victims, as well as granting them some influence over court proceedings, but Amendments 51 and 52 would provide a "remedy" for victims when such rights are violated—effectively giving teeth to the existing laws. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the inclusion of victims' rights in the constitution when they were first passed by voters in 1999, because they also happened to weaken rights guaranteed to people accused of committing the crimes. However, now that such rights are a reality, the ACLU has taken a neutral position on the latest amendments. Meanwhile, we support victims' rights and urge a yes vote on these measures.
Measure 53 seeks to uphold some of the asset forfeiture rights granted to alleged criminals under Ballot Measure 3, passed in 2000. That measure, which required a criminal conviction before the police could seize alleged criminals' assets, is currently under challenge in the Supreme Courts. Measure 53 is a compromise measure that still requires a criminal conviction prior to asset forfeiture in the majority of cases, even if Measure 3 is killed in court. It also increases funding for drug treatment. Vote for it.