Over the past few weeks we have had excellent interactions with our readers over the May 15 primary elections. We solicited your questions for the candidates on Facebook – and received some of the best feedback ever, which we incorporated into our coverage. We also fielded calls from around the city from voters who directly expressed their opinions about the candidates of their choice – and we enjoyed hearing their views.
This election season is rolling out at a time when our local communities are facing an economic and social catastrophe. In Portland, two of the most celebrated schools are back on the chopping block; public transit has been trimmed so severely that whole sections of the city worry they are being cut off from the downtown core; home foreclosures are swamping the housing system and driving skyward even the cost of rentals.
Our youth of color and our elders seem to be in the path of this deadly tornado as service programs of all kinds are set to be decimated by budgets currently under consideration at every arm of local government. Meanwhile, unemployment is dragging down our community like a cement weight on a swimmer.
We ask ourselves: What kind of political leadership will lead us out of this mess?
Is it fair to criticize the incumbents who failed to do what even the most powerful figures in the nation can't -- fix the economy? And all the backbiting, negative campaigning and misinformation has kept us shaking our heads at times.
One thing is clear: Whoever is elected to office had better be ready to stop attacking their colleagues and start engaging in the real issues. For this crop of endorsements, we at The Skanner News put a premium on individuals who know how their prospective elected offices work, because our region doesn't have time for learning curves right now. We also looked for people who value public input, collaboration and grassroots community.
And here's a heads-up for the candidates themselves: You'd better be up to the challenge and ready to get things done.
In the races for Multnomah County Commission, we endorse incumbents Deborah Kafoury for District 1 and Judy Shiprack for District 3.
In the City of Portland races we endorse Charlie Hales for mayor and Amanda Fritz for City Commissioner Position 1. We are endorsing Steve Novick for Portland City Commissioner Position 4, because he is politically sophisticated, smart and has a long track record of fearlessly confronting large institutions in the public interest – however we don't see him as a consensus builder, and that is a concern.
For Metro Councilors, we endorse Bob Stacy for District 6, and Sam Chase for District 5. Chase is not an incumbent, but his political ties to the Oregon Opportunity Network, the Clackamas Community Land Trust and currently the Coalition of Community Health Clinics puts his knowledge base squarely on some of the crisis hotspots right now. This was a tough decision because we like Helen Ying's focus, stamina and positive attitude; hopefully Ying will run for office again and we will have a chance to possibly give her our endorsement in the future.
We also endorse Measure 26-125, funding for our local library system. If passed the levy will simply continue the previous levy, at 89 cents per $1,000 assessed home value.
Multnomah County Commission District 1
Multnomah County Commission District 3
City of Portland Mayor
City of Portland Commissioner Position 1
City of Portland Commissioner Position 4
Metro Council District 5
Metro Councilor District 6
Multnomah County #26-125 Library Levy
Oregon has two strong candidates for Attorney General. Ellen Rosenblum has spent more than 30 years as a circuit and appeals court judge and as an assistant federal prosecutor in the Oregon courts. Dwight Holton has 15 years of experience as an assistant federal prosecutor, in New York and Oregon, and almost two years as U.S Attorney for Oregon.
The Skanner News editorial board spent a long time deciding on this race, but in the end we chose Rosenblum because she is crystal-clear on the problems of Measure 11 and her strong willingness to find ways to turn back the tide on the disproportionate number of American Americans in prisons – especially youth.
Rosenblum – who is not endorsed by any law enforcement unions or special interest groups while Holton is endorsed literally by dozens of them – clearly showed the most potential in making a concrete difference in these issues, which have destroyed whole families in this state and are clearly rooted in biased policy.
Both candidates said they plan to beef up the Attorney General's new Civil Rights division with more staff and support, but neither offered a concrete way of paying for it.
Rosenblum has a long history of accomplishments in Oregon. As a federal prosecutor she sent financial criminals to prison. As a circuit court judge she decided cases involving everything from consumer fraud to child welfare and domestic violence.
During our endorsement interview Rosenblum surprised us with ideas we had never considered, in particular the role the Attorney General could play in making the state a better place for small businesses to thrive. Despite Holton's attempt to paint her as "not an advocate," the fact is that Rosenblum was a founding force behind Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, a program bringing kids together with their incarcerated mothers.
The Attorney General should have the experience, diplomacy and clout to bring together key players in our state to solve contentious legal problems— as well as the courage to advocate for Oregon laws and values.
Rosenblum's knowledge of Oregon law and institutions is wide as well as deep. She knows exactly how the state's legal system operates, and how to achieve consensus among her peers.
Since African Americans and other communities of color are among those most affected by incarceration policy, we need an attorney general who will speak out for best practices in our justice system. Holding youth accountable for their crimes should not obstruct opportunities for atonement, rehabilitation and a second chance to become a positive contributing member of society.
On the issue of missteps and lack of local control over the Joint Terrorism Task Force – recently in the headlines because an African immigrant claims he was tortured at the behest of the Portland FBI office – Holton's position was troublingly vague. He advocates "building relationships" as a way to improve operations between the FBI and African immigrant and Muslim communities; this is the very least the attorney general's office can do. This is a crucial issue in Oregon, as more and more Muslims and immigrant youth are being entrapped by the FBI in so-called "terrorism" stings. This issue is real: In 2009 Muslim attorney Brandon Mayfield won a $2 million settlement from the FBI after being ludicrously linked by local officials to a train bombing in Madrid, Spain.
Both Holton and Rosenblum are highly respected, competent and committed to protecting vulnerable Oregonians. Both have racked up a formidable list of endorsements.
Those qualities will matter as the state decides how to move forward in a time of diminishing resources. This year, for example, the Sentencing Commission will be working on a plan to reduce the high costs of incarceration without compromising public safety.
We're confident Rosenblum will act in the interests of everyday people on sentencing reform – not special interests that benefit from heightened incarceration rates.
Vote Ellen Rosenblum for Attorney General.
Other endorsements by The Skanner News:
Secretary of State
22nd District Chip Shields
43rd District Lew Frederick
Who is the better choice for Portland City Commissioner: a seasoned politician with a decade of experience promoting progressive policy initiatives at the state level, or a scrappy community organizer who spent years getting into city office and who counts among her supporters a wide grassroots following?
One candidate appears to be so well-connected she has racked up an impressive war chest of large contributions, as well as a growing pile of endorsements from labor unions, PACs and large corporations.
The other candidate has a self-imposed contribution limit of $50 – and consequently far less cash in the bank – yet the years she has already spent attending community events side-by-side with regular people set her apart from the ranks of politics-as-usual career electeds.
You can't go wrong with either one, but The Skanner News is giving our edge to AMANDA FRITZ over Mary Nolan; like many others we've heard from, we think it's too bad these two women are running against each other because without question the city could benefit from having both on the council.
While we respect the professionalism and achievements of Nolan, we like Fritz precisely because she is so grassroots. She's not really a politician – she told us she does not aspire to higher office – but nevertheless her unrelenting dedication to the city is unmatched.
Nolan's unwavering support for education, women's health, gun control, veterans' rights and other progressive causes is important to note. Supporters say her political connections would make her a formidable force in getting things done in the city.
Yet even as a novice in political office, Fritz has shown her commitment to bread-and-butter issues such as improving operations at the 9-1-1 call center – which just got its first computer upgrade in more than 15 years and will now be better able to instruct and fully inform first responders in such a way that more police shootings may be avoided.
In our interview with the candidate she committed to streamlining the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability – where she served on a volunteer board for years before her election to office -- to make it friendlier to small businesses.
Fritz also spoke intelligently and in detail about the recent state arbitrator's decision to reinstate Portland Police Officer Ronald Frashour, who fatally shot Aaron Campbell after a 9-1-1 call gone wrong. For the record, both Nolan and Fritz said they would support eliminating the state arbitration rule when the Portland Police Union contract comes up for renewal in a few years.
Closer to home, Fritz has demonstrated her willingness to jump into the politics of immigrants and communities of color, championing the city's new Office of Equity and Human Rights despite a firestorm of criticism for it. In fact Fritz overcame the early reluctance of her co-commissioners to ultimately win a unanimous vote to create the office.
On that note we also commend candidate Teressa Raiford, who is on her first bid for public office. Raiford is smart, driven, and also spending her campaign hours working with community groups on civil rights issues; she missed her endorsement interview with The Skanner News because she was meeting at Ockley Green School with parents whose kindergarteners have been suspended and expelled. We respect that, and hope she runs again.