Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Write in a neighborhood mayor

So far I’ve been under whelmed by our choices for mayor, so here’s a community-building alternative — just to make things a little more interesting.

What say Hillsdale gets behind a local neighborhood write-in candidate for mayor. Other strong neighborhoods like St. Johns or Hollywood or Multnomah Village might do the same with its own candidate for mayor.

The candidate would campaign only in the local community, but the vote would clearly register when the community’s precinct results are tallied. The results would measure the desire for community autonomy, not from Portland, but from the city's centralized, rigid, unresponsive government.

The neighborhood campaigns would be low-budget. No sound-bite TV or radio ads. No glossy mailed brochures. Just a lot of yard signs and high-touch, door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor canvassing within one walkable community.

These local candidates would send the message that our neighborhoods are tired of City Hall's dancing to the tune of downtown interests. We’re tired of lobbying City Hall with so little to show for our volunteer efforts. We’re tired of the city planting utility poles in our sidewalks; finding new, “creative” taxes to provide what should be essential services, stone-walling community initiatives, commercializing the "commons," and calling “community town halls” that are nothing more than window-dressing.

At the very least, local insurgent mayoral candidacies would attract more political attention to their communities. At best, they would lay the groundwork for neighborhood political action.

The greatest chance of a high protest vote is in places that already have strong community identities, want to control their destinies, and are tired of being played the fool.

I might add that each of the communities I mention above (Hillsdale, Hollywood, St. Johns, and Multnomah), happen to have newspapers or other effective means of communicating messages like this one.

Where there is communication, there are communities. Where there is strong communication, there are communities with the means to exercise their strength.

It’s time we started doing it.

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