Nolan-Fritz Race Heats Up

Evan Manvel

While the media have mostly been focused on the Portland mayor's race, there's another a fascinating local race, pitting incumbent Amanda Fritz against Rep. Mary Nolan for Portland City Council. Yesterday they debated at the City Club.

Beth Slovic from The Oregonian has the details:

Fritz, who won office for the first time in 2008, talked up her skills as a collaborative leader with an eye trained on the city's bottom line.

Nolan, a six-term legislator who rose to House Majority Leader, told the Governor Hotel crowd she had a record of getting things done -- not just talking about problems.

Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights, which Fritz championed last year, emerged as a key sticking point -- and as an example for Nolan of Fritz's process-oriented leadership.

"We actually don't have a work plan yet," Fritz said, adding that she just hired the new director for the office after a national search. "I can't tell you exactly what that will look like because it's not done yet."

Nolan seized on that. "I just heard her say that nine months into this (fiscal) year she doesn't have a work plan for a bureau that has a $1 million budget," Nolan said.

OPB had this take on it:

Former Oregon State Rep. Mary Nolan repeatedly lambasted the leadership of incumbent Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz at a city council debate Friday.

Nolan accused Fritz of "mismanagement" of an upgrade of the 9-1-1 emergency system. And Nolan said the incumbent should have a clearer plan for the new Office of Equity she supervises.

You can listen to the whole debate at the City Club's page.

As Kari noted in last week's column, Rep. Nolan has raised significantly more money than Fritz, positioning herself well to introduce herself to voters and win over the large number of undecideds. She's also managed to collect an impressive set of endorsements for someone taking on an incumbent city commissioner - including Barbara Roberts, Planned Parenthood PAC, the Sierra Club, AFSCME, SEIU, and the Portland Firefighters.

Last Friday, Nolan received the Tom McCall Legacy Award from 1000 Friends of Oregon, honoring her leadership protecting land use planning in the legislature.

Expect a barnburner.

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    Disclaimer: I've endorsed Rep. Nolan in this race. I speak only for myself.

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      From OPB: "Nolan accused Fritz of 'mismanagement' of an upgrade of the 9-1-1 emergency system."

      Let's look at a factual account of what happened with 911 rather than reporting on a report of an opinion: "Tracking data from the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), updated through late August, shows a substantial drop-off in complaints after the first month the system was used. Complaints dropped from 422 in mid-April to mid-May to just 30 in mid-July to mid-August. Of the 562 complaints recorded, about a dozen were still listed as 'open.'"

      OPB goes on: "Nolan said the incumbent should have a clearer plan for the new Office of Equity she supervises." You do not, however, note that there is nothing admirable about hiring a department manager and not letting him create his own plan (through consultation with staff and Commissioner).

      That is the problem with Nolan's claims as propagated by the media as reported by you, they are misleading and unrealistic.

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        Also, from the same article I link to above (Sept, 2011), is this: "But documents obtained by the Mercury this month reveal the Portland Police Association (PPA)—despite its public focus on safety—is quietly just as afraid the system will do something else: give police supervisors yet another tool, via GPS trackers in police cars, to crack down on wayward officers.

        "And the union has formally asked the city to 'vacate' the system, not only until any operational glitches are solved—but also until it promises to explicitly limit how and when tracking could be used against officers. The concern is that supervisors could use GPS data to crack down on cops who routinely aren't where they're supposed to be, or who speed on their way to calls."

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      You're welcome to disclose whatever you want, but for the record, having an opinion is not something you need to "disclose" - rather that's the whole point. No expectation of neutrality here.

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    To be clear, I'm quoting the news stories that are quoting Fritz and Nolan - all characterizing in the piece above is second-hand. I quoted Fritz making her point that the director was just hired.

    That said, looking back, I found this article from the end of August:

    "It seems as if they've created something, but they don't know what they've created," former Mayor Tom Potter said. "To me, it's integral to whether Portland is the kind of city we want to be." But, he said, the plan has "no bones."

    ... "It's only frustrating if you like getting things done," said member Marcus Mundy, president of the Urban League of Portland.

    Fritz, asked late last month whether the plan was more concrete, responded: "More concrete? No," she said. "It's still in the 'let's get together and figure it out' phase."

    But she and Adams defended the process. Adams said he can't win: Usually, he takes heat for presenting a plan that's already set, he said. "We were criticized in this case for not having it figured out ahead of time."

    Here's what Fritz says: "The Director will then work with Commissioner Fritz, Mayor Adams, and community and staff advisors to finalize the initial work plan and bring it back to Council by the end of March 2012."

    At the very least, we're behind schedule.

    But process is important, and I'd join you in being inclined to focus on other issues, rather than the fact that the Office of Equity is taking some time to ramp up. For me, the jury's still out on the Office of Equity.

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    The Office of Equity has a mandate to address, through the city's policies, programs and services, inequalities in access to resources and opportunities. In a country that is increasingly aware of the disparities that have existed (witness the 99% movement), it is important for us to be conscious that our society, our community, cannot thrive until the playing field has been leveled.

    Rather than stand back (on 1 April!) and say "the jury is out", a more constructive stance would be to seek engagement with the Office and help it work toward its mandate.

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    I don't think anyone's attacking the Office of Equity here, nor do I hear that in Nolan's statements.

    Rather, there's concern that things have taken too long - even longer than a decent process should.

    The underlying goals and work is critical, and we need to get to them.

    That's all I'm saying.

    And as I said above, I'm not sure the work on the Office of Equity is ripe enough for judgment, I'm open to seeing it through.

    As far as the jury being out, I've seen way too many reports, goals, and committees on a variety of hard issues (equity, school performance, climate change, transportation choices, etc.) that set up laudable goals but run up against underlying political, financial, and structural challenges, and hence fail to meet their goals.

    We often applaud ourselves for setting the goals, rather than reaching them. And because there are a host of reasons (political, classism, racism, power-dynamics, sexism, economic, inertia, etc.) that we've failed to be equitable in the past, it's a tall order to figure out how to overcome those things.

    My fear with the Office of Equity is that we'll end up with a bunch of reports, rather than a bunch of results. I certainly hope the Office succeeds. And to its credit, it's gotten us to start discussing the issues here on BlueOregon already. :)

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    It's worth noting that when running city bureaus, Nolan significantly increased proportion of workforce from communities of color and put women into non-traditional jobs. While what happens with the Office of Equity remains to be seen, I like that Nolan would be clear about hiring diverse staff not only within the City, but making it known that all of PDX respects equality and diversity, vocally and visibly.

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      What I find disturbing is that alleged women's advocate Mary Nolan didn't choose the open seat to run for.

      We have one woman on the City Council and Nolan chooses to run against her.


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        There were two Council seats up this election. When Nolan got into the race, one seat had someone already announced who has huge visibility and name recognition, had run for U.S. Senate, had demonstrated the ability to raise huge amounts of money, and won Portland-wide in that the Senate race - Steve Novick.

        The other was the Fritz seat.

        One could make the case that if Nolan had run for the Leonard (Novick) seat that someone else would have gotten into the race against Fritz, possibly a man, setting up a decent likelihood of a City Council with no women at all.

        Getting into the race she did means we'll still have at least one woman on city council.

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          One could make that case, but it would be incredibly weak.

          If she were interested in having women better-represented on the City Council, she could have used her own money raising capabilities--which are clearly substantial--and fought Novick to get two women on the Council.

          I think a better case is that she knew Fritz was going to stay away from large money contributions leaving her--she thought--to spend her way to victory.

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            Even if that's the case, which seems like weak sauce, so what?

            Look, I have no vote in this race. But if your best argument for your candidate is that she's a woman who's already holding the seat--therefore she is entitled to keep it because that way we'll have a woman on the council for sure--then your candidate should deservedly lose.

            There has to be a much better argument for Fritz than "vote for her because she's the female incumbent". Frankly, I find that incredibly offensive.

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          I'm still undecided, but presumably Nolan is running against Fritz because she thinks she'd do a better job.

          Electing more women is not an end unto itself, it's a path to getting better policy and better decision-making. If Nolan believes that replacing Fritz on the Council (instead of joining her) creates the conditions for better policy and better decision-making, then replacing Fritz is not incongruous.

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        I'm sorry, but that's just lousy.

        Is the new rule that a woman can't run for a seat that's already occupied by a woman? How is that equal treatment?

        I want the very BEST candidate for a seat, whether it's a man or a woman. Please don't do me any special favors by keeping a seat warm just because a woman happens to be in it. That's BS.

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    The Portland Greens and Progressive Party both strongly oppose Mary Nolan. She is one of the most anti-democratic legislators this state has ever seen. Her well-known position on campaign finance reform in Oregon is worse than Citizens United and she is strongly opposed to the famous Oregon System of initiative, referendum, and recall that was copied in dozens of states, giving us direct democracy rights. While Amanda Fritz has some issues, for example her going along with the JTTF vote, and Teressa isn't as experienced, both are much better for community involvement and being effective representatives. Amanda is also one of the most thoroughly open and accessible commissioners this city has ever seen. Nolan would end that tradition overnight and our great city would suffer immensely. I strongly support anybody-but-Nolan and will be voting for Amanda Fritz. Fritz is also staying true to her campaign pledge of not taking more than $50 donations while Nolan racks up donations from special interests. On the ground, Amanda has traction. Nolan has the Democratic establishment behind her, but we've seen that fail in Portland, as we are seeing it fail for Jefferson Smith. We're too progressive for anti-democratic Nolan-types. Out of the Dem establishment anti-democratic types, Novick has the best shot, though his opposition to the Riverkeepers may spell the premature end of his campaign.

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      Just to be clear, Nolan has a 100% voting record with the ACLU.

      From The Oregonian:

      "-She opposed a bill that overturned a law prohibiting public school teachers from wearing religious dress. (This passed.)

      "-She opposed a law that created a government-operated pharmacy database of prescriptions. (This passed.)

      "-She supported a bill that prohibited the state from taking further steps to implement the federal Real ID Act. (This passed.)

      "-She opposed a bill that expanded the death penalty and gave fetuses equal status as a "human being" under state law. (This failed.)

      "-She opposed a bill that would have allowed employers to terminate employees who hold medical marijuana cards, without evidence of impairment on the job. (This failed.)

      "-She opposed an amendment to the Oregon Constitution’s free expression clause to allow local governments to regulate nude dancing. (This failed.)"

      She's also got a stellar record on the environment, on women's issues, has won awards for her work on land use, and so on and soforth.

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        Evan, the ACLU supported Citizens United with an amicus brief. I've been boycotting them for some time until they drop their strong support of corporate personhood (they are aggressive supporters of corporate rights to lie, despite fraud laws, for example). Her support of votes that most anybody else elected in her district would have made doesn't mean much to me. We also need to look at the ideas that didn't make it past the special interest filters in the legislature and that the legislature opposes despite popular support, such as Measure 47 and other election reforms that increase democracy rather than oppose it. Another notable example is HB2614 in 2005, which the ACLU probably should care about. It prevented independents from getting on the ballot and disenfranchised party members that wanted open nomination processes, even for their own party.

        Mary Nolan was the primary agent that worked to pass this law despite strong opposition from public interest advocates and constitutional issues:

        It was later repealed as a result of my SoS campaign and public testimony in 2008/9. I can't support people who oppose democracy as fundamentally as Nolan does. I spent a lot of time campaigning on that bill, and she's responsible for it. At least two of three of my main issues in my voter guide statement were strongly opposed by Nolan, and likely the third, as she hasn't come out in favor of ranked balloting that I have seen and there have been many opportunities in the legislature to do so, e.g. HB2761/2007 SB63/2009.

        So on issues of democracy, she's opposed to real reform. Now she wants to run in a district I live in. I'll do whatever I can to oppose her history and personal statement to me just over a month ago that she prefers representative democracy to direct democracy. Oregon innovated direct democracy, and she is intent to destroy that innovation. Sorry, I can't support that even if she voted with Democrats on other issues. Her replacement in the legislature will likely end up being better than her, given the district's boundaries, so it's at least good she can't compete for both seats at once.

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          Your definition of democracy is different than mine.

          And South Dakota, not Oregon, started the initiative system (in the U.S., that is - Switzerland had already done it).

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            SD went first, but the initiative was used much more dramatically by Oregon - and it came to he known as "the Oregon system."

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              Last time I checked OR and CA were neck and neck about which state has used them more. Lately, that's been California.

              If I remember correctly, we had the first U.S. initiative, even though SD authorized the system first.

              It's a mistake to say we "innovated" it, though.

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            The Direct Legislation League (founded by U'Ren) worked on Initiative, Referendum, Recall, and Direct Primary systems in Oregon. They innovated an entire "system" of direct democracy. Oregon's system was the most complete for its time. The Direct Legislation League pre-dates the establishment in South Dakota, as well. I don't think you can point to the date it was first signed into law as the date it was first innovated. I've written elsewhere (I think on Blue Oregon, too) that S.D. was the first and Oregon was second to implement, but the "Oregon System" is really our innovation as a complete and well-promoted system. It's being broken down by money in politics, but I don't give up on legislative politics just because it too is influenced by cold, hard cash. Both need campaign finance reform, badly, not destruction.

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        Mary has done some exemplary things over the years, but so much of what she uses as "proving" she is better than Amanda are things that are irrelevant to city government, not to mention that she made a big deal about mass transit in Portland although TriMet handles the vast majority of that. This was also true when she made a deal about education, which is handled by PPS, not the city.

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      I like Amanda a great deal. I think she's been a decent city councilor (except IMO she's too caught up in process sometimes and unnecessarily slows things down). But as an impartial observer reading this stuff, I'd be more inclined to support Nolan.

      This comment comes across as bordering on unhinged--Nolan is "anti-democratic"? I've known Mary for awhile and closely observed her in the legislature. Like all of us,she has many qualities, but "un-democratic", she is not.

      This over-the-top rhetoric is not helping Fritz, I can promise you that.

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