Portland Business Alliance Hits a New Low

Dan Petegorsky

Maybe the Portland Business Alliance is trying to beat out Goldman Sachs’ 4% record low approval rating, or at least vie for second place behind BP’s 11%. I don’t know how else to explain the arrogance of the tone-deaf, ham handed letter that PBA sent to Sam Adams and that Willamette Week’s now got hold of.

Just as the Portland City Council is getting ready to fulfill the promise they made in 2005 to refer the Voter Owned Elections system to the voters after it had been up and running for several years, the PBA doesn’t want any part of it: they’re lobbying the City Council to just kill the system, without even asking the voters what they think.

Let’s try to grok this: we’ve got the city’s chief lobby for big business and downtown developers trying to muscle the mayor into blocking a vote on the system that was specifically designed to give everyday people more of a say at City Hall. Hmm, I wonder how that’ll play?

The whole point of Voter Owned Elections was to enable candidates to spend time talking to voters instead of raising money from big donors – and, once in office, to keep listening to the neighborhoods, small business owners, etc., instead of bowing to pressure from big campaign contributors or lobbyists who can send big checks their way on behalf of special interests.

Portland Business Alliance tried desperately – and failed – to repeal the system in 2006, and now they’re at it again: corporate power brokers trying to take away the voice of the people. PBA likes to describe themselves as “Greater Portland’s Chamber of Commerce.” Given the U.S. Chamber’s role fronting for major corporate campaigns to kill health care, clean energy and Wall St. reform legislation in Congress, maybe it’s an apt moniker.

This week the voice of the people prevailed over an army of banking lobbyists in the U.S. Senate. This fall voters will have the opportunity to fight that fight on another front here in Portland. And we can thank PBA for once again showing us whose side they’re on.

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    I'd like to see more info on what this voter owned elections system is. I've obviously been away from P-town for a while since I haven't yet heard of it. Might you have a link handy or should I just google it?

    Thanks for your perspective and effort in writing the article.

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      Here's a link to Common Cause Oregon, the folks who will be coordinating the campaign to preserve Portland's VOE system: http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=5345937. That will give you some good information to get you started. (Disclosure: I ran for City Council as a VOE candidate in 2008.)

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    Is it true that these forays are funded via the water/sewer bill? If so that is rubbish, bu then many cities abuse their power to arbitrarily raise these bills for just about any purpose.

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    "We own this town!"

    A test for Adams.

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    Since J. Isaac is the Treasurer of the PBA Board, I'm curious--do the Blazers have an official position on Voter Owned Elections?

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      The Trail Blazers do not have an official position on Voter-Owned Elections. Disclosure: I do some consulting for them, but am not speaking on their behalf.

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    It's pretty simple. If you want the people to own our politicians, you support the VOE. If you want the business groups to own them, you get rid of VOE.

    What would help, is if we could get contribution limits for non-participating candidates. But to do that, we need a state constitutional amendment first to allow that.

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    At the federal level the republicans have blocked/will likely block the DISCLOSE Act, the FENA, and the Shareholders Protection Act, all of which combined are not as powerful in addressing the influence of money in politics as Portland's solution in the VOE. Portland was ahead of the pack and should continue its leadership role with a strong YES on this ballot measure.

    My family and I drove in from Troutdale ("east county") for the kick-off canvass-event in Portland last Saturday. Since as non-Portlanders we can't directly benefit, we contributed our time/efforts in hopes that VOE will someday spread to us. Only many people (each willing to each do a small part) can achieve that result.

    Very likely, there will be a "PBA" present upon every square mile that will not want to give up its power.

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