Portland: Have You Voted Yet?

by Steve, May 8th, 2007

Ballots are due in a week for the May, 2007 special election on May 15. This is a very important election for the struggling Portland Public Schools. The Vicki Phillips era is thankfully ending, and two of her major supporters have worthy opponents in the race. I’ve already gone on record in my support of Neighborhood Schools Alliance founder Ruth Adkins, who is running against Phillips’ cheerleader Doug Morgan.

I’m also throwing my hat in the ring for Michele Schulz, who is challenging another Phillips supporter, David Wynde.

Victories for Schulz and Adkins will be a major win for the children of Portland, which is to say the future of Portland. Both represent grass-roots, community based ideas, and both represent a positive change from leadership that has given us the Jeferson Cluster debacle, fast-track school closures and radical school reconfiguration, all with token (if any) community involvement.

Please vote soon so that you don’t forget. As I mentioned in an earlier post of the subject, even if you just skip the city charter change questions, just mark the ballot for these two candidates and stick it in the mail. It’s that important!

8 Responses to “Portland: Have You Voted Yet?”

  1. Comment from Zarwen:

    Hear, hear!

  2. Comment from nader:

    Good reminder for everyone, and I have also thrown my support behind Adkins and Schultz.

    I would only suggest to your readers that they not skip the city charter questions, as in my opinion they are every bit as important (possibly more so) to the future of Portland. Team Potter is trying to sell voters on a dangerous and fundamental change in our entire system of municipal governance, and it’s hard not to see this as a naked power grab of the worst sort. I would encourage your readers to take just a little time out of their busy schedules to inform themselves about these charter reform measures before they vote.

  3. Comment from Himself:

    Hey Nader, thanks for stoping by. I haven’t pushed on the city charter issue, because it’s pretty clear it’s not going to pass. I’m afraid I’m on the other side of the issue, anyway, in that I don’t see it as a power grab.

    Honestly, Portland has a bizarre form of government. The extent to which Portland works is not a factor of that bizarreness, but in spite of it. Portlanders get pretty provincial when they start defending the current form. I can understand the critiques of Potter’s “curiously strong mayor” proposal, but you have to make some pretty flimsy arguments to defend the current system.

    I would much rather see professionals running large public utilities than trust them to the likes of, say, Eric Sten — a skilled politician who has zero credibility as an executive in charge of large and critical infrastructure.

    The current form of government is antiquated and ill-suited to a city of this size. There is too much duplication of effort and not enough professionalism in management. The proposed system, while not perfect, would at least give us two things every other sizable city in the US has: an executive/legislative split between the mayor and the council, and professional management of critical public infrastructure.

    I’m stopping short of recommending a vote on this one, but those are my personal feelings on it. And I think it has about as much chance of passing as a sales tax or self service gas in Oregon. That is, slim to none.

  4. Comment from nader:

    Well, fair enough. Though I disagree with your position on the charter issue (well, we’re really just talking about 26-91 aren’t we), I respect that you have a well thought out opinion, and make a far better argument for it than you see in the poorly drafted, and rather misleading, statements in the Voters’ Pamphlet.

    This thread is probably not the place to debate the topic, given that your original post really had nothing to do with the charter reforms per se, but I laid out my thoughts over on my blog if you’re interested.

  5. Comment from Himself:

    Hey, you can debate whatever you want here… no bother to me.

    Like I said, I’m not much interested in debating 26-91, since it’s probably dead in the water anyway.

    I will note that from my perspective, most of the opposition seems to be more about the messenger (Potter) than the message: adopting a form of government like every other big city in the nation. So I put the debate in the category of sales tax and self service gasoline. Just another seemingly random thing Oregonians — for whatever reason — hold as sacrosanct. As in any religious debate, logic doesn’t hold much sway with the faithful.

    (Actually, I’m opposed to sales tax on the grounds that it’s regressive, and I understand the Libertoonian opposition on the grounds that it’s, uh, well, a tax. So I get that one. But it’s beyond me why self service gas and our form of city government are such political hot potatoes.)

  6. Comment from nader:

    Well I’m with you on the sales tax for precisely that reason. As to the required gas station attendants, I support that because I think it is basically a very cost-effective jobs program. It has nothing to do with safety, or anything like that. It’s just that, according to the last study I saw, the lack of self-serve adds about $0.05/gallon, which ultimately is a very small price to pay to provide jobs that even unskilled workers can get.

    As to the Mayor thing, while I do find Potter’s tactics rather shady, prior to this whole thing I never had anything against the man. I voted for Potter, and for the most part I have found nothing terribly upsetting about his tenure, until this charter fiasco.

    I do support the commission form of government because I think it increases accountability. Individual commissioners head up bureaus, so if you have a problem with the way a particular city office or agency is running you know exactly who to hold accountable. Five individuals can better represent a diverse community than can one. If you want more daylight shed on City policymaking that will happen when you have open debate between a group of relatively equal policymakers. Portland is consistently ranked as one of the best cities or places to live in the country, and I highly doubt that would be the case if our system of governance was as bad the charter reform folks would have you believe. The fact that so many other cities have a strong mayor form of government really does nothing to convince me that Portland should simply try and mimic them – what we’re doing increases democratic participation in City government, and it works. How many cities with strong mayors have a better standard of living than Portland? How many worse?

    And more than anything, this particular strong mayor system is deeply, deeply flawed. It vests all administrative, and executive power in one person. Fine, you might say, it works in other cities (though not as well as our commission system I argue). But it also endows the mayor with 20% of all legislative power. That’s unbelievable! Where are the checks and balances on that? The mayor would have power to dispose of city property at will, without even a city council vote. That really scares me. The mayor would appoint all bureau heads and staff, and appoint an executive officer to handle numerous governmental duties that are now controlled by elected officials. Again, the accountability is lost. There is a tremendous potential for unchecked bureaucratic mismanagement, if not outright corruption, and it would be hard to hold anyone accountable. The mayor could always just blame the other guy, whereas under our commission system we can pinpoint and remove from office the precise elected official responsible for anything like that.

    Whew, OK so I apologize for that long-winded rant. Bet you’re kinda rethinking that invitation for me to debate this issue now!

    And by the way, I’m not as certain as you are that 26-91 will fail. Potter has sky-high approval ratings, and I’m sure there will be some who vote for the charter reforms simply because they think Potter is a “nice guy”.

  7. Comment from Himself:

    Nader: told ya so! There was no need to worry about 26-91. Fifty-two percent is a pretty healthy margin of defeat.

    Portlanders are safe from legislative checks and balances, self-service gasoline and sales tax for at least another election cycle.

  8. Comment from nader:

    Well, you called it; I guess the polls that showed 26-91 was going to fail were not only right, but underestimated the voter’s dislike for the measure. So, as I see it, Portlander’s are safe from too much municipal executive and legislative power concentrated in the hands of one individual for at least another election cycle.