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Scott Bruun: Conversations about Portland’s Future

Thursday, November 05, 2015


Charlie Hales

In hindsight, it probably should not have been much of a surprise last week when Charlie Hales announced that he would not be seeking re-election as Mayor of Portland. After all, Hales was facing a top-tier opponent. He was down in the polls due to widespread dissatisfaction with his leadership. And any ambitions he may still have for future higher office, say U.S. senate, would not be helped by losing a bitter mayoral campaign.

All in all, it was Charlie Hales’ LBJ moment.

Yet those of us who have been critical of the Mayor and City Council should not immediately see this turn of events as a victory. Portland’s city government has been on the wrong course for years. Wrong on priorities, wrong on policy implementation, reactive instead of proactive, and administratively inept. Hales, as a candidate for re-election, would have been forced to defend this. With him now out of the campaign equation, there may be less impetus from other candidates to offer tangible alternatives.

This would be a huge disservice to Portland’s citizens.

Portland, a city that prides itself on its youthful vigor, needs a grownup conversation about its future. Portland needs deeper discussion about what it is today, and what it wants to be tomorrow. Hard questions must be asked. Those sorts of conversations, those sorts of questions, are why we have political campaigns in the first place.

At their best, campaigns create a marketplace for competing ideas. Campaigns offer one side a fresh chance to defend the current path; while offering the other side an opportunity to propose a different path. Yes, campaigns can be simplistic and nasty. Yes, campaigns can be overwhelmed by money and special interests. And yes, it can seem like campaigns are the worst thing out there.

Yet for Portlanders, the only thing worse than a miserable political campaign would be the absence of any real campaign at all – miserable or otherwise. With Hales now out of the race, and with the aura of inevitability surrounding Ted Wheeler’s mayoral candidacy, Portland stands to lose the vital conversation it so desperately needs.

Portland needs the opportunity, and the candidates, to talk about what it means to be a great city. Candidates for both mayor and city council who can point out that it’s not enough to just have cool restaurants, a hip cultural scene, street cars and bike lanes. Candidates who are not afraid to say that, while it’s good that Portland attracts youth-friendly creative-service enterprises, it’s not good that middle class jobs – and families - are being pushed out of Portland altogether. Not good that homelessness is rampant, and that affordable housing is increasingly scarce.

Portland needs candidates who will remind us that to be a truly great city, we first must be a good city. Candidates who will then tell us that we cannot be a good city until we begin to solve the human and moral issues before us. The human and moral issues of jobs, economic opportunity, family health, substance abuse, crime, home prices and safe neighborhoods.

Portland desperately needs someone, a candidate, who will tell us that our city cannot be a great city as long as our “solution” to homelessness is relocation and warehousing. Someone who will explain that Portland cannot be a great city as long as our “solutions” to mental illness are uniformed Portland Police officers.

Someone who is not afraid to speak the truth, even to power, then begin to offer alternatives.

Ted Wheeler is an attractive candidate in many ways. He’s certainly popular. Yet if he is the only top-tier mayoral candidate, Portland will lose another critical opportunity to discuss and debate who and what we are, and where we want to go.

 Scott Bruun is a fifth-generation Oregonian and recovering politician. He lives with his family in the 'burbs', yet dutifully commutes to Portland every day where he earns his living in public affairs with Hubbell Communications. 


Related Slideshow: Charlie Hales’s Top 15 Donors

Portland's mayoral election is still over a year away, but that hasn't stopped incumbent mayor Charlie Hales from launching his campaign. Thus far, Hales has raised over $88,000 in donations from more than 60 donors, whose contributions have ranged from $100 to $5,000 each. Using state campaign finance records, GoLocalPDX compiled a list of Hale's 15 biggest donors, many of which are major power players in Portland's development industry. 

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Donation: $1,500

Contributor: HDR Inc. PAC, Hales's former employer, a transportation engineering firm based in Nebraska

Date: April 15, 2015

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Donation: $1,500

Contributor: Chris Oxley

Date: March 25, 2015

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Donation: $2,000

Contributor: Ann Edlen

Date: March 10, 2015

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Donation: $2,500

Contributor: Brad Malsin

Date: February 19, 2015

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Donation: $2,500

Contributor: Richard Michaelson

Date: February 6, 2015

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Donation: $2,500

Contributor: John Russell

Date: January 21, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: Dame Consulting Inc.

Date: June 3, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: Robert Ball

Date: June 2, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: Martin Kehoe

Date: May 3, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: Henry Pat Ritz

Date: April 20, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: James Winkler

Date: April 17, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: John Carroll

Date: February 16, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: James Kelly

Date: January 30, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: David Nierenberg

Date: January 20, 2015

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Donation: $5,000

Contributor: John Bollier

Date: January 13, 2015


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