Editor's Note: Over the next several weeks, we're going to introduce you to the ten new Democrats in the Oregon Legislature. We're starting with Ben Cannon.
This spring, Ben Cannon won a competitive five-way primary with 42% of the vote. He'll represent HD 46, a portion of Northeast and Southeast Portland centered on Mount Tabor (map).
He's a Rhodes Scholar who returned home to Oregon to teach middle-school. He's a board member for the Bus Project, and led their education policy team. In 2005, he contributed a BlueOregon guest column - "An optimist on school funding".
During his campaign, Ben refused special interest contributions, and pledged to be the tallest member of the Oregon legislature -- a campaign promise he appears to have easily kept. There's more at VoteBenCannon.com.
We asked Representative-elect Cannon a few questions:
What was the best job you've had that didn't involve politics?
My current one: I am a full-time teacher of Humanities to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We study cultures of the world by looking at their history, literature, geography, art, music, beliefs, and food. It is tremendously gratifying to help connect these students to other people and places, as well as to current events.
What's the most important issue facing Oregon? What's the long-term solution, and what can be done in the short term?
It is so difficult to separate these issues: education, environment, revenue...
But if I had to pick just one, I would say that education is our greatest challenge. As our society becomes increasing diverse -- and, in other ways, increasingly strained -- how will our public school system (pre-k through higher ed) adapt to help prepare kids for the economic, political, and scientific demands of the 21st century?
The short-term solution is to pass an education budget in 2007 that reverses recent trends and restores smaller class sizes, longer school years, lower tuition increases, etc.
The long-term solution is to foster a culture of innovation in education by ensuring stable funding, easing mandates, and developing alternatives to test-centered accountability.
If you found yourself alone with an entire day all to yourself, how would you spend it?
Kind of hard to imagine. But I would probably cook, read, do a crossword puzzle, and revive the art of the handwritten letter.
What books have you read lately?
Young adult: Tangerine, London Calling (both by Edward Bloor)
Old adult: Sometimes a Great Notion (Ken Kesey), The Path to Power (Caro's LBJ biography, volume 1), District and Circle (Seamus Heaney poetry)
Name one Oregonian, past or present, who inspires you - and tell us why.
John Kitzhaber. As a legislator and as governor, he struck a great balance between pragmatism and principle. I am inspired by his commitment and courage as a citizen pushing health care reform.
Ducks or Beavers?
Er, both. Didn't attend either.
Tell us one thing that no one knows about you.
No one? I had a veggie hot dog today for lunch.
As a first-term legislator, what do you hope to accomplish?
I hope to help increase connections between the public and the capitol. I hope to help pass energy, ethics, and education-related legislation. I hope to provide exceptional service to constituents.
Why do you live in Oregon?
My family is here. Also, the state's extraordinary natural environment, its careful land use planning, and legacy of progressive policymaking.
Name three favorite movies.
The Third Man, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Apocalypse Now
What did you learn on the campaign trail that you didn't know before - about yourself, about your district, and about Oregon?
About myself: There is a limit to the number of doors I can knock in a day. It's hard to be a good listener when you're listening to someone who's wrong. Public speaking is fun. I need to read the Oregonian thoroughly before speaking at a coffee on a Sunday morning.
About my district: There are tons of families with kids in public schools. Parts of Portland would give you the impression that families have abandoned the city. Not in HD46.
About Oregon: Younger people *do* care about politics, and they're getting involved. The 2007 legislature will have five new members under the age of 35!