An Open Letter to Charlie Hales

By Eva Schweber of Portland, Oregon. Eva is a policy wonk with a deep, personal commitment to civic engagement.

Charlie -

I have a lot of respect for you (I worked for PP&R through the duration of the GO Bond), but I take issue with your comment that 'We have enough turmoil on top of this announcement...The mayor of Portland is not a starter job.' It is possible that your comment was taken out of context, and if that is the case, please clarify the context in response to my post.

However, if it was a comment directed specifically at Eileen Brady, I would like to respectfully remind you that in Portland's City government, the mayor is one amongst equals. Yet, I don't hear you saying to Steve Novick that City Commissioner is not a starter job, although he has never held public office either.

I think it is time to retire the traditional double-standard laden campaign rhetoric that is flung at candidates who are women. Why is it that a woman who co-founded a thriving Portland-based business that has grown and increased the number of jobs during the Great Recession considered to lack executive experience? Why is it that a woman who served as Vice Chair of the Oregon Health Fund Board that helped pass the 2009 legislation that provided health care (once again, during an unprecedented economic low-point) for an additional eighty-five thousand uninsured Oregon children, is not recognized for her executive leadership in the public sector?

This past week, the A Century of Action launched its year-long celebration of 100 years of suffrage in Oregon. We also recently bid farewell to Betty Roberts, the first woman to sit on Oregon's Supreme Court. I would like to honor the Oregonian women who broke through the constraints of gender bias with a political campaign where a candidate's gender is a non-issue. Just as Portland honored those who fought (and continue to fight) for same-sex equality when Sam Adams' sexual orientation was a non-issue in Portland's last mayoral campaign. We won't be able to get there as long as women are denied the same recognition of their professional accomplishments as male candidates. Nor will we get there as long as an electorate lets male candidates get away with defaulting to such gendered rhetoric.

Comments

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    Apologies for the typos.

    And by all means, please support the work of Century of Action. Or at least go to their web site and read some of the fascinating material they have on the battle for women's suffrage in Oregon.

    A critical first step of moving towards gender equality in politics is understanding our history and how it has shaped who we are today.

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    Wow, can democrats see anything as not sexist or racist or bigoted in some way? Wanting a mayor with experience is somehow sexist now? I mean I really don’t know about Eileen Brady or if she has experience or not. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me after the democrats saying that needing to prove that you are who you say you are to vote (with picture ID), is some how racist.

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      Wow, can Republican trolls see a Democratic/progressive debate with multiple sides and not lie by characterizing whatever side of the debate they find convenient to particularly misrepresent as the position of all Democrats? I know the idea of actual debate may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable to people used to lock-step message discipline, but give it a try -- or at least try not to lie about what is plainly in front of you.

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    It sounds sexist to me. But then I believe having resigned his last elected position mid-term should disqualify him from running again.

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    I hope this campaign will rise above becoming a parade of faux outrages from the candidates and their supporters. I'm an undecided voter, but from what I understand of Eileen, Charlie and Jefferson (if he runs), there's plenty to recommend each without getting bogged down in this type of distraction.

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      Charlie,

      You've been around Portland long enough to realize faux outrage and faux promises is how we elect Mayors. It's the Mark Weiner way.

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        Don't blame Mark. When candidates have similar ideologies and policy positions then campaigns devolve to personalities and fringe issues.

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        Well, there's certainly a trend of making a candidate's consultant team part of the debate, but I can't say it's been a successful trend.

        So, Brady is working with the parks and school levy guy. Oh noooes!

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    Max Brumm is focusing on our city's next generation of leadership and isn't worried about slinging anything but baseballs in improved world-class parks and smarter spending of PDX's budgets!!

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    Setting aside the gender stuff, I'd actually like to have a conversation about the premise here - that "the mayor of Portland is not a starter job".

    Running backwards:

    • Sam Adams. Served one term on city council. Previously, an aide to Vera Katz for her three terms as Mayor. One term as mayor.

    • Tom Potter. No city council or other elected experience. Served as Portland's chief of police. One term as mayor.

    • Vera Katz. No city council experience. Served as an Oregon legislator for years. Three terms as mayor.

    • Bud Clark. No city council or any other elected experience. Two terms as mayor.

    • Frank Ivancie. 14 years on city council. One term as mayor.

    • Connie McCready. 4 years in the legislature. 9 years on city council. Appointed as mayor for two years, defeated for re-election.

    • Neil Goldschmidt. 2 years on city council. Elected mayor twice. Resigned mid-term to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation. (You know the rest.)

    What do you think? Does being a successful mayor require previous service on the Portland City Council?

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      There are qualitative ways to answer that question.

      Here's a quantitative way:

      The four mayors with previous city council experience combined for 29 years on the city council, but only 16 years as mayor.

      The three mayors without previous city council experience combined for 24 years as mayor.

      Now, just getting re-elected isn't necessarily a complete measure for determining whether a mayor is successful, but it's certainly one of the criteria.

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        It's an interesting question on what it takes to be a good mayor.

        I don't think being a successful mayor requires previous service on the Council, though previous experience as an elected is helpful for success.

        The math mixes too many variables. One former councilor was appointed mayor (not elected), one former councilor went on to head a huge federal agency then be Governor (a sign of success) and one chose not to run again. If I'm counting right, exactly one councilor elected mayor - Ivancie - lost re-election, given the past seven mayors.

        If Goldschmidt had stayed mayor I'd bet he could have been re-elected for decades if he wanted to be. Which... might be an argument in your favor.

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        Because Portland's formerly common but now unique City Commission system makes the mayoral job more legislative than either "strong mayor" or city manager systems, I think we have a difficulty about Vera Katz. It could be argued with some persuasiveness IMO that her experience in forming legislative coalitions and securing votes as not just a member but a leader in the legislature contributed greatly to her ability to form alliances on the City Commission, as well as giving her a strong funding base for re-elections. If you constructed the issue as "legislative experience" or something that put Katz on the other side of the ledger you would find 28 years as mayor vs. 12 for those without public sector legislative experience.

        Another way to look at this is that there have been three individuals after Terry Schrunk's 4 terms (1957-73) with more than one term as mayor: Neil Goldschmidt, Bud Clark, and Vera Katz. Goldschmidt had some Council experience but not a huge amount, Clark had no public electoral experience, and Katz had a great deal of state legislative experience. Of those, only Katz had three terms. Seems like kind of a wash.

        How does Eileen Brady compare to Bud Clark? How good a mayor was Clark?

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    I don't read it as gender bias, I read it as bias against someone without government experience. Whether that's valid or not is up for debate but that wasn't the point of your post.

    I had lunch with a friend once. Really crappy service from the waitstaff. As we left, she said "I'm going to tell everyone how racist they are!". I asked what she meant. "They gave me lousy service because I'm black!". I asked her how she would explain then the bad service I got. She looked dumbfounded.

    I think you're off-base on this and are reading more into the statement than is meant.

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