HD-43: Steve Adamson

By Steve Adamson of Portland, Oregon. Steve is a small business owner, an attorney, and a community activist.


I am the owner of Livingscape, a sustainably-focused garden and kitchen store (on N. Vancouver Avenue at Shaver) with a mission of empowering people to grow their own food – important for health, self-esteem and self-sufficiency. We also sell Oregon native plants to preserve the bio-diversity of our wondrous region. Over 90% of what we sell in the store is produced locally – from kitchen utensils made by Best Manufacturing in NE Portland to plants from many local sources. We create local jobs and empower folks to live healthier, more engaged and more sustainable lives. These practices match my political philosophy and, I believe, align with most residents of our district.

I also work as a patent attorney, helping local businesses and individuals develop new products and create local jobs. I am intimately familiar with the challenges of growing a local business and the need to create living wage jobs (with healthcare).

My family is from the dirt poor “bog lands” central Ireland. The poverty of my family was a direct result of the discriminatory practices of the British government that denied the native Irish economic empowerment, education, and their culture. Sound familiar? As a result, my siblings and I were raised to be keenly aware of social injustice and we were well schooled in doing something about it. As I grew up, I also witnessed (as I’m sure you did) environmental degradation, corruption, and short-sighted self-dealing. I am incensed against these, and it is my desire for open, responsive, and equitable government that motivates me today.

In my first major political campaign, I worked on Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid. I also worked on a letter to the editor campaign to stop apartheid and on the revival of Earth Day 1990. Two issues very close to my heart. During this time, I worked professionally in San Francisco and France, with extended assignments in India and China. This work experience gave me invaluable insight into global markets and manufacturing, insight that I can use in Salem to secure long-lived jobs for District 43.

I moved to Oregon in 1994 to attend graduate school in Corvallis. I opened my law practice in the Business Enterprise Center, one of five business incubation centers created with lottery funds to move Oregon out of the timber recession of the 80s. I became an advisor to this center and it is the only remaining one of the five, continuing to fledge successful local businesses. It is time to bring a business incubation center (more than OAME) to N/NE Portland. I then moved my practice to Eugene, where I served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and Nearby Nature, and worked within the community on land use, transportation and economic development issues.

I moved to Portland in 2000, and directly into District 43. For nearly a decade now I have been registering voters in the district, particularly those from under represented neighborhoods, and have worked on several local campaigns include those of Jo Ann Bowman and Charlie Ringo and on ballot measures for land use and basic rights.

In 2003, I founded the nonprofit organization Livable Place. Among other projects, we started a film forum that brought in award winning programming on important social and environmental issues and partnered with local nonprofits to bring awareness and take local action. I worked with, and learned from, several local nonprofits, including: Western Prison Project, YWCA, Rebuilding Center, SCRAP, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Rachel’s Friends Breast Cancer Coalition, World Affairs Council, Sierra Club, OLCV, Audubon, Slow Food Portland, Water Watch and Save Our Wild Salmon.

I bring this diverse background, this history of community involvement, and a boat load of passion and practical skills to be put to work for the people of our district.

Why am I running?

There are a several very good candidates that have stepped forward and we are very fortunate as a district to have their involvement. I feel that we will all be very strong advocates for education and affordable healthcare, yet I feel that there are several other important issues (or practical solutions to those issues) and I want to assure that they are moved forward. This compels me to run, though I am also running because I care, I listen and I believe I will be an effective legislator. Here are some of those issues and potential solutions/improvements:

Economic Empowerment, particularly in African-American Community

Expand OAME and/or restart a business incubation center (that includes minority and open-to-all programs), create “job boards” posted, for example, at neighborhood markets, bring the “Van Jones” style green jobs to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods (now), create trade apprenticeships where building skills are learned and passed down. Note that economic empowerment, knowledge of the building trades, and healthcare relief may forestall gentrification.

Youth – High drop out rates, preventing youth movement towards crime

Create a Community Youth Internship (CYI) program that aims to place 100 qualifying youths from age 15-20 in internships at local nonprofits, retail/commercial business and in the building trades, to expand their life experience and the “window” of options available to them. Create a buy local campaign that recognizes businesses in the CYI program.

Use local schools and organizations (Growing Gardens, Urban Farm Collective, Community Garden Creators, etc.) to expand/develop a youth focused food-based initiative that builds on our local talents/resources and functions similar to Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI.

Basic Rights

Our gay and lesbian friends, family and neighbors, still do not have basic rights. District 43 likely has the highest concentration of gays and lesbians. It is imperative that the representative from our district 43 be a strong and compelling state-wide voice for this community. It will take a constitutional amendment to enact these rights (likely coming in 2012) and our representative should be a leader in that effort.


N/NE Portland is a state-wide, national and international leader in sustainability - look at the folks who bike, food garden, subscribe to renewable energy, engage in community building activities, buy locally sourced food and goods, etc. World population is expected to increase by 50% by 2040. Folks embracing sustainability in our district need to be supported for their own sake and because they set an example for the rest of the state, country and world.


The proposed 12 lane bridge on I-5 is an environmental justice issue. While the efficient transport of goods and people is important, a smarter option has to be considered (for example, 8 lanes with lanes that can be used in either direction, and a light rail link) to avoid increased in air and noise pollution in the district.

Whether it be Kitzhaber or Bradbury, the next governor will be a strong advocate of restoring our rivers and salmon. Now with Bush/Cheney out, the restoration work sidelined over the last 10 years, can now go forward and needs a strong advocate to see that it happens.

Integration, while maintaining and celebrating our cultural differences

To a person, what makes our district special is the diversity of its residents. Yet there are seemingly isolated “camps.” To promote “cross-pollination” among our residents, I propose a shared food-growing program similar to that of West Oakland (nothing brings people together like food) … and enhancement of our respective festivals, celebrations, and recreational leagues.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and for your support.

  • (Show?)

    Steve, welcome to the race. The following five questions are on the issues I care the most about. I previously asked Karol and Lew these questions online. Karol answered them, Lew did not. Answer what you want.

    I do note that you have spent time in China (and India) and may have already answered the CRC question.

    FYI: I do not live in your district. I am well represented by Jules Bailey. But I do care about the following issues.

    1. Would you support statewide measures to get more students fluent in Mandarin? Do you have thoughts on whether more of the students in your district should study Mandarin? Why is there not a Mandarin immersion program in your district?

    2. Would you support legislation, costing no additional state or local dollar, to send high school students to study abroad?

    3. What is your position on the Columbia River Crossing proposal?

    4. For transportation, we are too dependent on foreign oil. Would you support a substantial, revenue-neutral, phased-in gas tax? If not, what would you support? A carbon tax? A cap-and-trade system?

    5. Do you have thoughts on what should happen to the Boardman coal-fired power plant? Should it be closed down? Or upgraded to clean out carbon and other pollutant emissions?

  • JJ (unverified)

    Steve....jesus dude, are you serious? Were you high when you wrote this mess or was this meant to be some kind of joke? You're running for public office in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and in your (very small and vague) blurb about the economy you say nothing about tax relief, but you do go out of your way to say kind words about known-flagburning wack job Van Jones?? WTF?

    I know this site is meant to be a mindless echo chamber for the bleeding hearts of the blogosphere...but these posts are accessible to the general public..people who actually work, and think and pay taxes.. and you've now launched your campaign by demonstrating just how out of touch you really are with the shit that people actually care about right now. "Food growing programs", "festivals" and "celebrations"....are you F-ing kidding me? How about tax relief programs to grow the economy and attract new jobs..or maybe law enforcement programs to get criminals off the street, or a government accountability program to reign in out of control spending in Salem?

    If you want to run for a grown up job, you have to sound like a grown up, Steve......im sure your little street festivals would make for a lovely evening...but that's not really going to solve the economic crisis now is it? So rule number one in politics for you...think first, then write...not the other way around. Best of luck to you..you little joker.

  • (Show?)

    JJ's comments don't really deserve response, attacking the owner of not one, but two businesses, and bringing up flag burning (really?)

    Steve's a very thoughtful, dedicated man who's done an incredible amount of work to help the community. I've known him for years, and have a great deal of respect for him.

  • wow (unverified)

    Even for BlueOregon, jj represents the distant fringe. Don't feed him folks...he won't hang out on the back doorstep forever.


    Good luck to you. There are some pretty experienced folks in the mix for this appointment, so if it doesn't happen for you this time, I hope you'll consider running for office some day and sharing more of your views.

  • Alex Tinker (unverified)

    Welcome to the race Steve, and welcome to Blue Oregon.

    We promise that the spam-ish comments are kept to a minimum, most of the time...

  • JJ (unverified)

    Yes...of course, pointing out that people care a lot more about having a job and putting a lid on out of control spending is pretty "fringe" of me....my bad. I'm sure that street festivals and some commune style food growing plan are just what will resonate with the average voter out there....steve, with friends like that telling you to forge ahead with that kind of campaign, you really don't need any enemies. Oh, and the flagburning line was targeted at Van Jones, not steve...lets work on the critical reading skills there Evan.

  • Mike Morin (unverified)

    Post-Peak Oil, Climate Change and Green Jobs

    PVs and Wind are somewhat of an illusion. Neither supplies the voltage and amperage needed to do the great majority of the electrical work that our society has grown accustomed to.

    The key to a bountiful green building economy is the reversal of the thirty, fifty, one hundred year trend of sprawl development in the United States.

    By rebuilding neighborhoods and reallocating goods and services to those renovated neighborhoods (made walkable, meaning that the great majority of Americans will be able to get what they need within walking distance of their homes), we can succeed.

    Such a tremendous dedication of resources will be a boom to the building trades and will create the effect of reducing automobile usage by 80% in the next 20 to 40 years. Neighborhood commercial,community and work/telecommute centers will be centrally placed in what are now alienating, automobile dependent, strictly residential areas, alleviating the problems associated with post-peak oil and climate change and bringing with it the quality of life associated with communities and neighborhoods, that most individuals and families currently lack.

    If we do this, we can take the opportunity to retrofit for weatherization, passive solar design (heating and cooling), electronic environmental controls, solar assisted hot water applications, limited PV and wind applications, etc.

    Also, if done correctly, we can make changes in ownership arrangements that are much more fair and just, and work towards an equitable distribution of wealth among neighborhoods.

    It is important that we fundamentally reassess our economic system and replace the current economic/finance system with one that targets the needs of the current residents, and not, for-profit speculation.

    Because of the terrible inflation of real and capital assets that is a product of the speculative modus operandi of the Capitalist system, it will be fundamentally necessary to reform our economic/financial system by consolidating private (while rededicating them as quasi-public) real and capital assets and equity and writing way down the “market value” of those assets.

    After completing that awesome task, we could proceed with a “plan and implement” economy dedicated to meeting the needs of the indigenous populations of all communities: inclusion, humanity, equity, quality of life, environmental/public health and wellness, sustainability, and peace.

    Mike Morin Eugene, OR

  • (Show?)

    Posted by: JJ | Oct 8, 2009 11:38:22 AM

    You do realize that Van Jones reference was about green jobs (which is why he was originally tapped by the Obama administration), not because of issues of flag-burning. So by your twisted logic, we should not talk about interstate highway programs since Nazi Germany came up with the idea in the 1930s which Ike adopted after seeing it first-hand after the conclusion of the war. Right?

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)

    "How about tax relief programs to grow the economy and attract new jobs..or maybe law enforcement programs to get criminals off the street, or a government accountability program to reign in out of control spending in Salem? "

    So you want to cut taxes and create more government programs to ..... cut government spending in order to create more jobs?!?

    Wait, I know. Let's all get on the JJ bandwagon and cut taxes below the corporate tax rate in Washington to get Costco, Microsoft, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks, Boeing, Paccar, and Nordstrom all to move their corporate offices to Oregon!

    Oh wait - it's already lower than Washington. Damn.

    We await more pearls of economic wisdom from The Book According to JJ.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Well, this thread got highjacked in a hurry. Steve, I'm don't know you and I'm not in HD43 so I don't have a dog in this hunt, but good on you for stepping up to the plate. We need more people engaged and willing to take leadership roles, at all levels, in our community.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    Well, this proves folks can't recognize real grass roots politics when it stares them in the face.

    A solid, welcome candidacy, imho.

  • (Show?)

    Posted by: Lord Beaverbrook | Oct 8, 2009 6:12:09 PM

    What hooey. Because their is a spirited exchange about the seeming lack of emphasis or positions on economic/jobs from Steve (which rapidly got derailed into someone screaming about Van Jones and flag-burning) that translates in your view to people not recognizing "real grass roots politics" whatever the hell that is supposed to mean?

  • (Show?)

    Since no one has mentioned the obvious:

    I have no comment as to Steve's ability to serve; he seems like an incredibly thoughtful and capable person. However, there are plenty of Americans of Irish decent in the legislature including the two most recent House appointees. To imply that being a descendant of the Irish Diaspora is the same as being a person of color in America today is disingenuous. The Irish in America have been able to navigate their way into political power through the urban political machines and have been able to utilize the availability of higher education in successive generations to move further ahead. Almost 1/3 of Americans today are of Irish decent.

    Being a white immigrant to the United States means that within one generation your family can assimilate into mainstream American society. The same can not be said for immigrants of color.

    We have only one African American person in the entire Oregon legislature at this point, Sen. Jackie Winters, and she is a Republican. We have no people of color in the Democratic caucus of the Senate or the House.

    If Steve was the best qualified candidate then I would encourage him to run but since we have numerous candidates who are eminently qualified and would actually help to represent the ethnic diversity of the NE Portland district and the state, I have to ask: What the heck are you thinking Steve?

    My stand is still that Karol Collymore and Lew Fredrick are the most qualified people that have put their names forward and I hope that the HD 43 PCP's will nominate them both at the convention to go to the next level.

  • steve (unverified)

    Hello! This is Steve and this is a follow up to JJ notes. I'll get to Dave's and the others. Sorry for the delay, but I've been out of town at our largest annual trade show.

    JJ –

    Thank you for raising points about economic development. My comments were relegated to job growth in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods because there is a specific and long-felt need, and because there is insufficient space in an intro post to go into all economic development tools.

    Re job growth in general, there are at least four “camps” – recruiting employers, as we have tried to do with the Danish windmill company, growing local (expanding current businesses or starting often venture-based new companies), growing mom & pop/small businesses, and creating jobs off of government/ngo grants and contracts.

    Re economically disadvantaged communities, unemployment is always higher there, whether the economy is strong or weak. What we need to do to make our district more vibrant and to heal some old wounds is figure out how to create jobs in those neighborhoods. There are a number of good people doing good work in our district, look at the work of Chip Shields in his Better People efforts and Eddie Lincoln in his welfare to work endeavors, yet the need exceeds the available support so we need look for new and bold approaches. There has been very little discussion (because of the limitations of the appointment process) of steps that we can take to create jobs in poorer areas. My itemization of some potential steps is, at a minimum, an attempt to jump start that discussion.

    Re tax relief, what type of tax relief are you suggesting? Property tax relief to lure in a company is typically a local/regional tool, not a state tool. And history bears out that these types of projects might benefit the community as a whole, yet rarely penetrate into the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Businesses pay payroll, trimet, unemployment and workers comp taxes. While cutting these might have some benefit, allowing companies to reinvest, cutting our tax base at this time would have far worse consequences. Similarly, cutting income tax would similarly have a very significant negative impact, such as not passing the Defend Oregon ballot measure.

    Re Van Jones, he is a black activist and a green activist. I think what he says about bringing green jobs to economically challenged neighborhoods, by insulating houses, replacing windows, installing solar or other green energy technologies, etc., and funding it with future energy savings, is spot on. Absolutely. I unequivocally stand behind that. And I think at this time, that is the type of project, along with the other components we bring as a community (some itemized on my list), that we’ll need to infuse economic vitality and all that comes with it throughout our district.

    What thoughts do you, or anyone else, have for economic stimulation in our poorer neighborhoods?

  • steve (unverified)

    Dave -

    Thanks for the questions.

    1. I speak a little Mandarin, though it has mostly faded, and in ’92 was in negotiations with the Chinese Patent Office for a position there. I saw then the rising manufacturing power that China was becoming.

    Re statewide initiatives for Mandarin, I’m not sure what you mean by that … funding for programs, mandatory requirements, educational efforts to assist local school boards or parent groups to initiate classes? Generally, I believe that these types of decisions, which language immersion programs to host, etc., should be made by local school boards and parents, though I think it would be great to have such programs in the district.

    I’d also note that funding is very tight with schools and we have cut other programs, such as vocational arts, etc., that it is more meritorious to restore first.

    1. Generally, I feel that everyone, particularly during ages 18-25 or so, should live a year in another country. I think this would radically and positively shape how we get along, and our own personal contentment.

    Re high school students, with some conditions - adequate maturity level, sufficient support in host country - I would support such a program.

    1. I do believe I addressed the CRC above. I’m all for the efficient movement of goods and people, critical to our economy and personal happiness, and to massive construction projects for the public good, a great way of generating jobs. I don’t like the present plan, however, and believe we need to build smarter, not just bigger.

    2. Many studies show that getting folks out of their cars (and onto bikes or walking or light rail, etc.) increases physical health and mental health. It also fosters community building. We have subsidized the highway system and automobile industry. While these are very important, I believe it is time to shift/expand our transportation priorities. I would support a phased-in gas tax increase. I think it more fairly distributes the tax burden for road maintenance and as gas prices go up, it encourages folks to consider other methods of transportation and better land use planning. I suggest looking at European gas taxation models where this has been in practice for quite some time.

    3. Re Boardman, I don’t have sufficient info to make a call one way or the other now. Generally, I support renewables, but they are new kids on the block and we can’t gamble with our energy security. My gut feeling is that we need to clean up Boardman (unless there is sufficient power elsewhere on the grid, or a massive conservation campaign makes Boardman irrelevant (I like that idea but don’t see it as a reality)) and continue to use it until we can security transfer to other sources.

    Thanks for the questions, Steve

  • steve (unverified)

    Val –

    Great comment - thoughtful, well written and on point.

    I have thought about and even struggled with the points that you have raised.

    Re the mention of my Irish molding, that is there because as a candidate I need to introduce myself to constituents who don’t know me. I can give them a list of my accomplishments, the boards on which I serve and the activities in which I’m engaged, but that does not explain what motivates me. When I step back and think about what is behind my life long involvement in enhancing whichever community I live in, I realize it is this molding during my formative years. That is why I share that story.

    Also, my connection with the struggles of the native Irish is quite personal since my family still lives there and when I visit the family farm house, that has been in the family for over two hundred years, and was habited until 1985, I see the conditions in which they lived - dirt floor, no plumbing, open peat-fire (inside) for cooking. This leaves a mark on a person.

    Re being in a race with people of color, I have particularly struggled with this. I have long advocated for and worked on getting people of color elected. I am in the race primarily to enhance the public discussion and to raise important issues and their potential solutions. I am confident that the next rep from District 43 will be a person of color and that I am taking nothing away from Lew or Karol (or Eddie), and that by my participation and that of Catherine’s as well, some important issues will get better attention.

    That is why my “candidate statement” unconventionally itemizes potential solutions to a suite of issues. Candidate statements often state the issues important to that candidate, but are short on details because once specifics are mentioned, they can be attacked. I’m putting issues and solutions out there because it is a critical time for our district. None of us have all the right answers, but together we do. I want them to surface so that we can get behind them and move our district forward.

    There is a lot of good happening in the District, but there are also several places where the status quo is not sufficient – jobs, crime, gentrification, schools (and child preparedness from the home), etc.

    District 43 is the most democratic district in the state. Once someone is in, the opportunity for a contested election and the benefits that brings is over. Now is the time to discuss and debate. I am grateful for all of the candidates, the district residents, and persons such as yourself from outside the district who participate and engage.

    Again, I very much appreciate your thoughtful and well-written note and the sincere good intention behind it.


  • (Show?)


    That is an excellent response and speaks to your integrity and depth of character that you would take the time to fashion such a well thought out and profound answer to a person like myself from outside the district.

    I now better understand and appreciate what you are bringing to the table and look forward to meeting you at some point to hear more about your good works.

    Go raibh maith agat All the best Val

  • Fred Stewart (unverified)

    Now this is a pleasant surprise. We have some people og great quality running for this position. I hope no matter who wins, this will not be the last time we see these people.

  • (Show?)

    Steve, thanks for answering my questions.

    On Mandarin, there were several bills in the last session to begin development of more Mandarin statewide. All died in committee after a hearing. One would have hired consultants to develop curriculum and promote Mandarin in districts across the state, and to plan for related issues like teacher supply. Another would have given financial incentives to districts for transitioning/creating five more Mandarin immersion school across Oregon like the Woodstock program in SE Portland. Utah just funded 21 new immersion programs, Spanish and Mandarin, I think.

    On study abroad, there was a bill to permit (again, no mandate) local school district to pay existing study abroad organization like AFS, ASSE, and CIEE, for high school students to study abroad. Many study abroad fees (covering tuition, room and board, and international transportation) are less than the annual per student costs in the Portland, and other, school district. Again, it died in committee after a hearing.

    <h2>Good luck.</h2>
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