In Portland, Oregon, it is election time! Ballots are due by May 15th, so be sure to vote. Ideally in a way that agrees with my opinions….In my last post I went overboard researching the three competitive races for judge on the ballot. Here I am going to touch on the rest of the races in which I can vote.
Multnomah County Auditor
I agree with all the editorials I’ve read on this race: all three candidates are qualified and ready to do the job, but Scott Learn and Jennifer McGuirk both look much better than Mark Ulanowicz. Unlike his opponents, Ulanowicz does not lay out priorities of projects he’ll do. Learn and McGuirk meanwhile both pledge to fix the broken Fraud and Waste Hotline, allowing employees to call tips in to the auditor’s office, and tackle racial disparities in the justice system.
Although I like Learn, I say we promote McGuirk. Here’s why:
- McGuirk is running as an auditor from the perspective of the disadvantaged. This means, for example, auditing prisons from the perspective of prisoners (especially of color) first and book keepers second. I don’t care how much money we do (or don’t) spend on social programs, schools, or any government service—if it isn’t working for the disadvantaged it needs to be reformed or removed. This also means that McGuirk’s priorities in choosing a case to pursue will be “what helps those getting the least help?” even if the answer to that is not the sexiest program, or the one that will affect more (well off) citizens.
- She is also running on a platform of transparency and giving the public easier access to data. As someone who loves to do research and believes strongly in the power of academia to help society by analyzing data, this is great. Furthermore, the public not only has a right to know but needs to know what auditors find in order to hold other elected officials accountable and create reform. I believe she will be better about this than Scott Learn.
- Finally, police oversight. While Learn and McGuirk both discuss the criminal justice system, based on the interviews I’ve read and their respective websites I believe McGuirk is more likely to be tough on the police, and given the energy for reform in Portland now is a perfect time for a serious audit of all law enforcement agencies.
While Scott Learn looks great, he will remain my number two choice after Jennifer McGuirk. Mark Ulanowicz wins the consolation prize of “best website of the election.”
Commissioner Position 2
There are four candidates on the ballot for this position, but only two are in the voter’s pamphlet so I will only be looking at two: Julia DeGraw and Nick Fish. I picked Fish, but I hope DeGraw has a bright future in politics ahead of her. Here’s how I broke it down:
- Beginning with hands down my biggest issue with Fish: he voted for the newest police contract (I have not been able to substantiate a rumor that he didn’t read it before the vote, although my source on that is one I trust a lot). I am not anti-police, but for my entire life growing up in this town the Portland Police Department has gone from one scandal to another. If these scandals varied it could be different, but they all amount to pretty much the same thing: police officer(s) use excessive, potentially lethal, force on a person of color, someone in poverty (often homeless), and/or a mentally handicapped person who just needs to be talked down. Each time, officers are “disciplined” and return to the force and the cycle repeats itself. This isn’t unique to Portland, but it does mean that I will not give the police, especially the Police Union, the benefit of the doubt.
- Nick Fish has, however, done a lot of good work on the environmental bureaus and housing under his control. I don’t necessarily want to roll the dice if we know we have a good administrator here.
- When it comes to dealing with Uber and its predatory, potentially illegal, practices in Portland Nick Fish has consistently played hardball. He voted against letting the company into town and pushed for an investigation of Uber’s alledged attempts to avoid inspectors. Someday maybe I’ll write a longer piece about my despise for Uber and (to a lesser degree) Lyft, but suffice to say this counts for some serious points in my book.
- Finally, I have a friend who has worked in City Council as a staffer whose opinion I trust and value, and she has consistently said good things about Fish.
- First, she’s a young environmentalist community organizer! She ran a campaign to keep Nestlé out of the Columbia River Gorge, and has been endorsed by Bill McKibben. All of these are good things, however the fact that she wasted time with the statewide GMO Labeling campaign gives me pause (Disclosure: my opinions on GMOs have developed since I voted for the measure). There is a lot of knee jerk environmentalism in Portland that is actively detrimental to the local and global environment. I fear she may fall in this category…and her issue statements are too vague to know either way.
- One of the issues she does support is rent control. This is not the solution to Portland’s housing crisis. In fact, rent control would be actively detrimental to Portland’s ability to grow in a reasonable, sustainable, and just way. If DeGraw is elected there is a good chance she will have chance to vote on the topic during her term, even if she doesn’t push it. That’s a serious risk.
- Finally, while she makes other good arguments in her bio and website, a lot of them are not unique to her in the race against Nick Fish. As a prime example, she talks about how all but one commissioner lives on the West Side—conveniently leaving out that Commissioner Fish is the odd one out.
In the end, I like Julia DeGraw and can see myself happily voting for her in a lot of races, but not this one.
Commissioner Position 3
This is probably the highest profile race on the ballot. Commissioner Dan Saltzman is retiring, creating an open seat and a five way race to fill it. Loretta Smith is the present front runner followed by a pack of four more people: Felicia Williams, Stuart Emmons, Jo Ann A Hardestry, and Andrea Valderrama. First and foremost encourage everyone to vote for someone else in this election to guarantee a runoff. I think that someone else should be Andrea Valderrama, although Jo Ann A Hardesty looks more likely to get it (she is the definitive second choice).
Without further ado, let’s talk candidates, going from worst to best:
- Felicia Williams and Stuart Emmons
- I’ll be short here. Williams, with a graduate degree in history from Portland State, says the reason she doesn’t have institutional endorsements is that there are women of color running. She’s also pro-police. Hard pass.
- Emmons, meanwhile, has a grand plan to fix homelessness that involves selling public land and nothing that ensure perpetual affordability (like community land trusts). He’s also a white guy—even if all else was equal (it isn’t) he’d be at the bottom of my stack.
- Loretta Smith
- Loretta Smith is running because her term as Multnomah County Commissioner has expired. While she is a savvy campaigner, she has been plagued by accusations of craft, corruption, and creating a hostile work environment.
- She has easily the biggest war chest, but that is because she is receiving the plurality, if not majority, of corporate donations in this race. These two together make me give her a hard pass—and since she is leading the vote in the only poll I know of it is important to vote and force a runoff.
- Jo Ann A Hardesty
- She is the Progressive Party’s pick, and has an impressive track record as an elected official and activist. All good things. However she aims to bring a combative attitude to city council which will make it even more dysfunctional than it is right now. I want things to get done, and while I am happy voting a self-described “angry black woman” onto the Council; I don’t want to increase the current level of paralysis.
- She’s also a proponent of rent control, and she will fight for it. I like the rest of Hardesty’s platform, but rent control. I don’t want to vote for disaster.
- Andrea Valderrama
- Big picture: on the issues Valderrama is on fire. Fighting wage theft from day laborers (PSA: wage thefts can no longer be addressed through class action lawsuits, we need the government to protect us), tuition equity for undocumented students, and expanding public transit—especially to the East Side—are just a couple examples.
- Every candidate ought to have an Issues page on their website as detailed as Valderrama’s. She has promises like this: “Making current shelters permanent by transitioning from a Type III design review procedure to a Type IIx procedure.” Disregarding what “Type III v Type IIx” means, this level of specificity screams knowledgeability and honesty. This is a clear, honest, specific, achievable goal that voters so inclined can hold her accountable for. It also means she has knowledge and a plan for implementing her vision and ideals. Even if she weren’t a strong progressive this alone would make me want to vote for her.
This race has an eclectic mix of candidates. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of the other races on the ballot there are wrong answers here. But there are also strong progressive voices. In particular, Andrea Valderrama is a progressive urban policy junkie with specific plans for the city. In other words, the ideal City Commissioner. That Valderrama is a first generation Peruvian-American in the age of Trump is just a cherry on top.
Metro Council President
Neither Lynn Peterson nor Michael Langley provide websites in the voter pamphlet but that’s okay because Peterson is the clear choice. She has experience running transportation agencies including the Washington Department of Transportation—which is much larger than Metro—and a sense of public transit’s potential to address questions of livability, housing, and sustainability.
Langley on the other hand…I respect the specificity of his positions around urban growth. I do not respect his description of the local public transit agency as a “land grabbing nonsensical entity.”
Lynn Peterson for Metro Council President!
Other Miscellaneous Races
Kate Brown is going to win the Democratic primary for Governor.
Earl Blumenauer will win the Democratic primary to maintain his seat.
I will vote for both of them because they are solid progressives—and their opponents aren’t.
Finally, be sure to vote for the Children’s Levy. There is a reason it only has arguments in favor of it in the pamphlet, and that reason isn’t Russian meddling in the election.
I’ll see myself out.