Why I Support Amanda Fritz for City Council

by Steve, March 11th, 2008

election08The 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.

12 Responses to “Why I Support Amanda Fritz for City Council”

  1. Comment from Portland Gentrification:

    Yeah, she’s good on tenant’s rights – but perhaps too much emphasis on inspections/code compliance/renovation of rentals…if the law forces the landlords to do better maintenance, or gives out incentives for renovating, we’ll dry up one important source of cheap housing: run-down apartments that handy folks like myself can live in with no problem. Still, Fritz is no dilettante (Bissonnette sounds like one tho) so I’d vote for her. A new and different perspective on the City Council, if indeed we get one, is an attractive possibility.

  2. Comment from george:

    Would knowing that she is a huge Rush fan change your mind?

  3. Comment from Steve:

    Well, if she started quoting Neal Peart lyrics during candidate forums, I would cringe.

    But I think I could still support her. :)

  4. Comment from RLW:

    Ms. Fritz certainly takes the time to appear at meetings and events. Since I am a proponent of managing “by walking around”, she has impressed me.

  5. Comment from JH:

    The guy with “no serious background in public policy” graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as President of his class and was awarded the Robert F Kennedy Award for Public Service (I don’t know what that means but anything named after Bobby is cool in my book). You can support Amanda for whatever reason you want, it’s a free country. However, when you misrepresent the truth in such an irresponsible manner you lose all credibility with your readers. It’s nice to see that the Fritz crowd is so concerned with Lewis that they’ve taken to playing fast and loose with the facts, again.

  6. Comment from Steve:

    I’m not sure how dismissing him with two sentences qualifies as being “so concerned with Lewis,” but how does getting an award in college translate into a background in public policy?

    Oh, okay, he served “briefly” as a legislative aide in Salem.

    Seriously, I don’t think you want to get into a pissing match about public policy experience. Charles is a neophyte. That’s okay; it doesn’t disqualify him from running or serving. Some people might even see it as an asset.

    One of the reasons I support Amanda is her extensive experience with public policy, and her sharp mind for policy detail.

    Fast and loose, indeed. Oh, and thanks for giving me permission to support whoever I want. :)

  7. Comment from JH:

    According to his website he also served as an ombudsman for Mayor Katz but lets not get too into the nitty gritty. I would hardly call one who has graduated from one of our nation’s elite public policy masters degree programs, with honors, a “neophyte.”

  8. Comment from Steve:

    No, let’s do get into the nitty gritty. College does not equal experience.

    Charles Lewis is a public policy neophyte, especially when compared to a somebody like Amanda Fritz.

    Here’s a partial list of Amanda’s policy and leadership experience:

    Environment, Community, and Sustainability

    * Co-founded and chaired the Tryon Creek Watershed Council
    * Environmental Zone Project Advisory Committee member, 2004-2005
    * Board member of the Coalition for a Livable Future, 2004-present
    * Served on City of Portland Measure 37 Advisory Committee
    * Initiated and chaired the City Wide Parks Team Forum
    * Fifteen years experience advising the City Council on ordinances, resolutions, and projects
    * Research associate, Audubon Society of Portland study of Metro-area development codes, providing technical advice on better regulation of pavement in relation to stormwater management
    * Served on a study group examining Neighborhood Associations for the League of Women Voters
    * Union steward and participant in the OHSU nurses’ strike; Union member for 21 years
    * Helped with over 100 volunteer projects in 85 different Portland neighborhoods since 2004
    * Jobs with Justice pledger and active participant

    Schools

    * Parent volunteer for 14 years tutoring Portland Public Schools children in reading, math, and English as a Second Language
    * Mentor for at-risk middle school students for 7 years
    * Chaired the Markham Elementary Local School Advisory Committee for two years; wrote and managed two grants for Markham, completing projects worth over $28,000 for $7,400 in grant money
    * 16-year PTA member, active in school funding and curriculum support efforts
    * Led after-school group for teenage girls at The Salvation Army for 15 years
    * Founded the Markham Elementary School “World’s Fair” annual multicultural event

    Neighborhoods

    * Parks and Land Use chair for the West Portland Park Neighborhood Association for 15 years
    * Led successful efforts to purchase a 20 acre greenspace, a 10 acre woodland destined to become a park with walking trails, and a 1.7 acre city park
    * Helped win $250,000 for purchase and $416,000 for construction in grants from the state for the Holly Farm Park, which opened September 2007 after twelve years’ collaboration and advocacy
    * Assisted in designing a Crime Prevention Plan that resulted in 34% fewer reported crimes in West Portland Park from 2000 to 2004

    Land Use & Planning

    * Commissioner, Portland Planning Commission from 1996 to 2003: watchdog for neighborhood concerns and responsible development
    * Forced reconsideration of City Council’s “Skinny Lot decision” – protecting older homes and the character of neighborhoods across the city
    * Co-chaired Citywide Land Use Group
    * Made two successful appeals to the State Land Use Board of Appeals, protesting unfair regulation of development in neighborhoods; resulted in a change in the code regulations in Portland, making developers more accountable
    * Coordinated activists across the city to win neighborhood-friendly amendments in subdivision code revisions; drafted adopted language requiring provision of park space in larger subdivisions

    I’m glad Charles has a degree from Harvard and a couple months experience with intern-level jobs in government. That and a couple bucks will get him a cup of coffee at Stumptown.

  9. Comment from JH:

    Excellent job using the copy and paste functions on your computer Steve. Speaking of schooling, it looks as though you’ve gone to the Mark Penn school and majored in how to discredit your younger, brighter, more inspiring opponent who’s dedicated their life to public service. I wont publish Lewis’ resume here but if anyone of your readers is interested in giving a great candidate an honest look check out charleslewis.com.

  10. Comment from Steve:

    The Lewis gang are a tenacious, peevish lot, I’ll give them that.

    You want to run as the “younger, brighter, more inspiring” candidate? Go for it. You might even have a chance.

    You want to run on public policy experience? You might as well hang it up now.

    If listing the experience of the candidate I support “discredits” the candidate you support, then I guess the “fast and loose” facts speak for themselves.

  11. Comment from Terry:

    I suggest that you reread Chris Smith’s responses to the candidate questions you posed on PPS Equity before dismissing him as simply a “streetcar enthusiast”, Steve. (Amanda Fritz, by the way, has yet to respond.)

    Amanda Fritz may have “skin” in the PPS “game”, but I suggest you revisit your disagreement with her over a post she wrote defending the district’s transfer policy. You were critical of this statement in particular:

    PPS’s transfer policy has likely kept many wealthier families in Portland’s public schools, rather than going to private schools… .”

    As I recall, during the lead-up to the May school board elections in 2007, Amanda was reluctant to say anything critical about Vicki Phillips, and was an enthusiastic supporter of one of Phillips’ most ardent supporters, David Wynde.

    Chris Smith has an equally impressive record of civic involvement. Until I hear something from Amanda to change my mind, Smith still has my vote.

  12. Comment from Steve:

    I’ve been kicking myself about that PPS Equity candidate survey, because it really just gives everybody a chance to say how much they value equity and diversity. I’m afraid the responses aren’t nearly as interesting as I had hoped (Fred Stewart’s and Randy Leonard’s notwithstanding).

    I acknowledge my past goading of Amanda to take a stand on the Flynn-Blackmer audit and the glaring inequities in our public schools. To her credit, she rose to the challenge, and addressed the Portland City Council on this issue when they met at Jefferson High in January.

    While her initial response was typical of white liberals in Portland, when pressed to really dig into the issue, she came out on the right side of it. I think that is impressive, and shows a candidate who is willing and able to think issues through and evolve her policy positions accordingly.

    I don’t think Smith’s record is nearly as varied and deep as Amanda’s. He’s been a tireless supporter of the streetcar, a project that continues to spend millions of tax dollars promoting high-end condo development in the central city, yet does nothing to solve real transportation issues for regular people living in the neighborhoods of Portland.

    He has not shown himself to be independent of big developers, and, in fact, continues to do their bidding.

    Smith seems like a genuinely nice guy, but he represents a continuation of business as usual at city hall, i.e. big-money, high-gloss development in the central city, while our neighborhood transportation infrastructure crumbles.

    Fritz’s focus, by contrast, is on funding basics — in the neighborhoods — first. A very pragmatic, heterodox approach to city government, and a breath of fresh air for anybody who’s tired of central-city condo developer hegemony in Portland politics.