The Portland City Council is in for a big shake-up this year, with the mayor’s seat and two council seats open. Randy Leonard is up for re-election in a third council seat. Only Dan Saltzman’s seat is uncontested.
A crowded field is contending for council seat #1, including Ethos founder and duck boat entrepreneur Charles Lewis and streetcar enthusiast Chris Smith.
We’ve also got John Branam, Development Director for Portland Public Schools; Jeff Bissonnette, of the Citizen’s Utility Board of Oregon; and Mike Fahey, about whom I know nothing (and who does not appear to have a campaign Web site).
But my vote, and the support of this blog, is going to community organizer Amanda Fritz. I like Amanda for a lot of reasons.
- She’s smart, and has unusual attention to policy detail.
- She has advocated tirelessly for transparency and accountability in City Hall.
- She has real skin in the game at Portland Public Schools, and has been willing to speak out to the city council about the shameful inequities in our public schools.
- She has demonstrated a long-term commitment to civic involvement, well before her last council run.
- She is not flashy or slick. She is very down-to-earth and real. What you see is what you get.
- She believes city policy should be focused on the neighborhoods where people live, not on “megabuck shiny projects”. “Let’s pay for the things we need, before we start shopping for things that might be nice but aren’t essential,” writes Amanda on her campaign Web site.
That last point really seals it for me. Portland politics is polarized between two extremes, neither of which serves regular working families.
On the one hand is a powerful, west-side elite that favors high-end condo and business development in our central city core, and all kinds of public subsidies to support it. This gang of land-grabbers supping at the public trough is aided and abetted by a passionately credulous cadre of “new urbanists,” starry eyed idealists who think Portland deserves a place with Vancouver, B.C. as a model city, complete with shiny streetcars looping the inner core, an aerial tram (to nowhere in particular), and more condo stock than we could realistically sell in the next ten years — yet they keep building more. It’s all “green” and “sustainable,” of course.
On the other hand, you’ve got rabid anti-transit libertarians who think everybody in city and county government are communists.
Through the yawning hole between these poles walks Amanda Fritz, talking about focusing the city’s policy on public safety, streets and sidewalks, affordable housing, and parks and community centers in the 95 neighborhoods where real people actually live.
Of the other candidates in the race, Smith and Lewis appear to be the serious contenders.
While I am in favor of mass transit, Smith’s focus on the streetcar seems almost all-consuming (I know he touts his background as a “Citizen Activist,” but his streetcar work is his most visible). This expensive “megabuck shiny project” doesn’t actually solve any real transit problem for the masses (one of its five main goals is to encourage downtown condo development), and costs the city over a million dollars a year to operate. While the city throws good money after bad operating the streetcar to lure high-end buyers to new condo neighborhoods, established neighborhoods go without transportation basics like sidewalks and paved streets.
Lewis seems to be all flash, spending public election money on political theatre filling potholes. He has no serious background in public policy.
In short, Amanda Fritz is the most well-rounded, community-centered candidate running for Council Seat #1. I hope you’ll join me in supporting her campaign and giving her your vote on May 20.
Note: Over on PPS Equity, I’m running more extensive coverage of the city council and mayoral races, including candidate responses to a questionnaire about public schools issues.
Update: If you want an Amanda Fritz yard sign, her campaign will be distributing them this weekend. Call 503-235-2295 or e-mail Robert to request one.