Sean Davis’s bid to be the next mayor of Portland comes to an end this political cycle, but he’s just getting started.
I was a long shot from the start and we ran a positive and honest campaign. Everyone has been so supportive and I know we did some great things during this run. We helped two homeless veterans get houses and we helped find a house for a woman living on the streets who was pregnant. Her due date is today. I worked with a company to get living wage jobs for over 25 people. But this is all stuff I would have done even if I wasn’t running for public office.
None of the people I ran against were bad people. In fact, I’ll call many of them friends from here on out. I’d say the experience, overall, was positive, but there’s this dark cloud in the back of my mind for some reason. Something doesn’t sit well. I think the problem is that we all just accept that national politics are corrupt and driven by money, but we tell ourselves that local politics aren’t that way. Well, local politics are that way. During this election cycle, we found out about closed door meetings, meetings that were omitted from city commissioners schedules, miscommunications or no communication between the City Council, and the commissioner in charge of our housing bureau made 1.6 million dollars in development deals last year on the side and no one seems to care. Our city auditor has pointed out time and again waste, fraud, and abuse, and again nothing comes of it.
Because of the twenty-year Oregon Comprehensive Plan, there are millions if not billions of dollars to be made in the coming decades as Portland evolves into a city from a big town. We could have put people in leadership roles that care more about the people than the money from developers, but we didn’t. Instead we elected a mayor who accepted tens of thousands of dollars from developers and we hope he won’t owe any favors.
I’m not coming down (too hard) on the career politicians that I ran against. They were doing what they do. But the absolute worst and most disappointing part of this entire election was the media. The largest newspaper in our state tried to call the election in January by having a “debate” between only the two career politicians, four months before the primaries. Just a few weeks ago, we had a two-hour long debate with some of the best conversations in the election cycle hosted by Portland Community College, in one of the best venues in our state, the Winningstad Theatre, and not one news agency showed up, but I win a mayoral doughnut-eating contest and I’m on every news station and interviewed by the Willamette Week and The Oregonian with headlines like “Man Built Like Viking Wins Voodoo Doughnut Contest.” As for the Willamette Week, our big alternative weekly print news source, they invited the top four candidates to one “endorsement” interview and then the rest to a different one. They asked their top candidates one set of questions and the remaining another set. Mark Zusman and Beth Slovic asked us two questions: 1) who are you? and 2) why are you running for a position you are obviously not qualified for? I asked repeatedly for policy questions and was ignored. And these endorsement interviews happened during a week where Ted Wheeler was on the cover of their newspaper.
Growing up poor, I’ve always had a distrust of people with millions of dollars. I can’t understand why people would hoard so much while others have so little. I went into this wanting to dislike Ted Wheeler, but I got to know him some and he seems like a nice enough guy. He’s a good politician, or at least he’s good at playing the game. You can see that by the way he came in and got everyone who would have otherwise been upset at someone buying an election and he hired them to work for him. The Bus Project and Portland Tenants United (PTU) both towed his line, but power has gravity and I can understand why they would want to work with someone who has the greatest chances of winning. That way their messages gets out. I just hope that the open door policy stays as open, especially to PTU. We need them now more than ever.
I wish Mayor Wheeler the best and I hope he really looks into giving leadership roles to people trying to make a difference in this city, people who might not always agree with him. I’d love to see Margot Black, Sarah Iannarone, David Schor, Stuart Emmons, Bim Ditson, and even Jessie Spongberg working for the city to move us all toward the Portland we want to become.
What can the rest of us do? Well, you need to stay involved. Yes, you. Have your voice heard, take a more active role in your community, and care. As for me, I’m headed to fight wildland fires. It’s going to be one of the worst years on record … again. I’m headed to UMass Boston to teach there for a bit in June. I’m also headed to Washington, D.C. to advocate for veterans’ outdoors projects in July. And in the fall I’m going to keep trying to make my community a better place by working with veterans and the people in my neighborhood. I’m also going to try to fill that void of ethical journalism by doing blogs and radio shows on local politics. I have a good lead with XRAY.FM and a few community papers, plus I’ll be here on The Big Smoke America whenever I can.