The long – too long – debate on whether Nancy Nathanson is sufficiently “liberal” seems to be missing one thing: comment from anyone who knows her.
I’ve known Nancy for almost a quarter of a century. When she was Chair of the Lane County Democratic Party in the early 1980s, I was her Vice Chair. I’m proud to call her a friend, and I’m certain I can call her a liberal.
During this entire debate, in which people have gratuitously whacked “Portland liberals,” debated who can be elected in HD 13, and implied that because some folks who were themselves not liberal supported Nancy, she herself could not be liberal, I have seen no one suggest a simple answer: pick up the phone and call her or e-mail her and ask her a few questions.
I respect OLCV and Jonathan Poisner, and Jonathan tried to inject about the only fact-based argument into the e-mail strand, but OLCV’s job is to be a single-issue advocate. I don’t remember any one challenging the Democratic or even liberal bona fides of Sam Dominy or Tony Corcoran when they represented Lane County in the Legislature because they tended to back jobs in some of the jobs v. environment trade offs that are, sadly but inevitably, made.
And when we get to “look at who Nancy was supported by” arguments, please add my name to the list. I respect Kitty Pearcy, but I don’t think my support of Nancy makes me less than liberal, any more than Jack Roberts’ support of Nancy makes her a Republican . . . or, for that matter, Ron Saxton’s support of George McGovern in 1972 made Saint George a Republican!
We have a totally broken Legislature. It is paralyzed. It needs people who, without sacrificing principle, without changing their beliefs, can at least TALK across the aisle. The support Nancy received from honorable ideological opponents such as Jack Roberts when she ran for Mayor was an indication that she possesses an ability in very short supply in Salem, an ability we really could use.
Two years ago, Nancy lost a race for Mayor of Eugene. Below I re-print, slightly edited for the current day, what I wrote then and what remains true now. I also reprint what Nancy herself tried to post on Blue Oregon, but apparently did not get through.
MY 2004 LETTER (abridged)
Dear Fellow Democrat:
I have known Nancy Nathanson ever since I served as Vice Chair of the Lane County Democrats while Nancy was Chair in the early 1980s.
Although I left Eugene, I never left the Democratic Party, and had the honor of serving as your state Chair and a member of the Democratic National Committee. I currently have a political talk show on KXL in Portland, and am the only liberal voice on the station that is the home of Lars Larson (someone has to get the message out!).
Both in the party and in the media, I have worked with many politicians and elected officials. Nancy is among the best.
Nancy holds fast to progressive values without being a typical partisan politician. She is interested in building bridges to find common ground, not in standing on fruitless "principle." Her willingness to work with persons holding all points of view – left, right and center – has gained support for her across the spectrum.
· Nancy is union – a 25-year OPEU member, so you can be confident that she is sensitive to the concerns of working people.
· She lobbied Congress to secure funding for the West Eugene Wetlands Project, so you know she will protect the environment.
· She led the way in securing funding for parks expansion and a new library, so you know she cares about health and education for all.
· She stood up to the Legislature, defending Eugene's right to make our own decisions on issues like the video poker tax, the new Bascom bicycle path on the Willamette River, and the prohibition of workplace smoking.
· And she stood up to the FCC and the big companies in Washington, to protect local control over telecommunications.
Along the way, she built a reputation for fairness across the spectrum in Eugene including, yes, the business community.
Nancy is uniquely qualified to represent our Democratic ideals.
She has my full support. She should have yours too.
After a day at work I’m catching up on some reading, and you might guess this would catch my attention! I suspect that many readers do not know me personally, or the circumstances under which votes occur, the legal and fiscal constraints that lead to proposing or supporting certain compromises or options over others, and the many projects and votes over the years in support of Democratic values. Balancing competing needs (culture and recreation, environmental concerns, social services, infrastructure, public safety, etc.) in times of shrinking budgets has always been difficult, sometimes wrenching.
I have generally voted for realistic solutions rather than taken symbolic stances, and practical ways to move at least a step or two forward – or at least limit the damage from budget cuts – rather than have a stalemate or risk a taxpayer backlash. Sometimes I have to take the heat for what I judge to be the responsible position, but it still feels awful.
On the money: you’ve already seen selected contributions I received during the campaign. Despite my votes increasing demands on developers (money and rules), increasing the number of acres of protected wetlands, and other progressive social and environmental actions, I am able to reach out to many people, including Republicans, and I think that should be a good thing to seek for a Democratic legislator working in Salem .
Obviously, there are many issues I’ve been involved in over 18 years of public service. I’ll mention just a few here. On my environmental record: I helped with restoring Amazon Creek as a more natural waterway and adding native plants. I supported adding 200 acres to the West Eugene wetlands inventory. I’ve supported increasing land use density when it wasn’t popular (the point being to reduce pressure on agricultural land and natural resources, decrease vehicle miles traveled, etc.); alternative transportation modes including the controversial Bus Rapid Transit project; adding 200 acres to the wetlands inventory. I also lobbied for federal funding for West Eugene wetlands funding affordable and subsidized housing; and assisting schools with additional public money (i.e. tax increases). I vigorously defended the Bascom Riverbank Trail ( Willamette River ) when it was in danger of being stopped – by the Legislature. To increase openness to City government, I proposed expanding the scope of the citizen Budget Committee to include citizen oversight for city programs and services, and review the impact of major proposals. In the telecommunications arena, I aggressively advocated consumer rights and local control over big telecom industry interests, until my whole 15-member advisory committee to the Federal Communications Commission got dismissed by the current Republican administration. These are just some examples of what I’ve worked on.
I invite anyone with concerns about my positions on issues to contact me by email at email@example.com so we can set up a time to talk. In fact, for those of you not in the Eugene area, I’ll be in Salem on Monday Dec. 12, and available in the late afternoon for a chat. Let’s get to know each other, and find a way to collaborate on the many good ideas to work on in the next