Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Five bucks for Sho

Yesterday on the Sylvania campus I ran into my PCC teaching colleague Robert Dozono, an artist and art teacher. Seeing him, I was reminded that his brother, Sho, wants to be Portland’s next mayor. Sho is trying to rustle up the 1500 signatures (and $5 bills) needed to qualify for public campaign financing. Time runs out on the signature gathering at the end of the month.

Robert just happened to have the necessary signature forms so I handed him $5 and filled out my form, attesting to my Portland residency and registered voter status. I didn’t have to give my blood type or submit a DNA sample.

So I’m helping Sho out. Why you may ask?

I’m not even sure I’ll vote for Sho although several folks I respect think highly of him. No, I forked over my $5 because I believe in publicly financed campaigns. I also believe in competition.

If he manages to get on the ballot, Sho will make the race for mayor interesting and competitive. Until Sho declared his intentions, City Commissioner Sam Adams was considered a shoo-in.

No question Adams is bright, energetic and experienced. He’s also hyper-ambitious.

All things considered, I'd pony up $5 to publicly finance Adams' campaign, but Adams isn't seeking public money. I wish he would. Public financing puts politics beyond the reach of big money private interests and firmly in the hands of the people.

I haven’t had much experience with Sam in my wanderings, but two incidents stand out in my mind.

A year ago, without informing the neighborhood, the Adams-led city Department of Transportation allowed two utility poles to be planted in our new sidewalk on Bertha Court. We made a stink about the intrusion. The press got wind of it (thanks, Mike Donahue of KOIN, who happens to live in the neighborhood). Adams came out for an on-camera inspection. With KOIN taking it all in (there's noting more graphic than two utility poles planted in a sidewalk), Adams promised to do something about the poles.

Nothing happened except that his office asked me, of all people, to approach the owner of property adjacent to the sidewalk about agreeing to accept the poles on his lot. The property owner refused.

On reflection I should never have been asked to do the city’s bidding, and I should have turned down the request. As our elected representative and as the head of the department with responsibility for the pole problem, Adams himself should have made the call.

After the owner nixed my request, Adams never followed up. Today the poles remain in the sidewalks.

The other incident, a small one to be sure, stems from his city council campaign against Nick Fish. It was 2004 and our voter registration group, Hillsdale Votes, decided to conduct a straw poll in the Hillsdale Farmers market, mostly as a curiosity.

Fish had outpolled Adams in the first-round election but failed to get a needed majority for an outright win. That created the two-candidate race in the fall with Adams perceived as the underdog.

When Adams got wind of our little straw poll, to my surprise, he tracked me down to get the results. They showed that among a couple hundred market “voters” a large number were undecided. The results were significant — if Hillsdale mirrors the city, which it doesn't.

“Then we have a chance!” Adams exclaimed.

I don’t know what my response would have been. For starters, I doubt I would have even tried to find out the results of the little poll. Hearing the results, I might have muttered something banal like “that’s interesting.”

For Adams, the news from Hillsdale seemed a god-send.

Conclusion: I want the next mayor to care as much about intrusive utility poles as he does about political straw polls. The wish is worth $5

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