Why I’m Supporting Fred Stewart for Portland City Council

By Ronald A. Buel of Portland, Oregon. Ronald is a longtime progressive activist in Portland.

Fred Stewart is running against Steve Novick for the Portland City Council in the May 16 primary.

Portland has been Fred’s home for 39 years. After he graduated from Cleveland High School, Fred served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, then studied at Portland State University. Next, Fred built a successful professional career as a real estate broker. Fred has sold more than 750 houses in North and NE Portland alone. His time in the private sector also includes several years in the mortgage department of a large Australian bank here in Portland. Fred understands well the housing crisis that caught the City Council by surprise..

Fred is committed to public service. He is the past President of the King Neighborhood Association, and with his leadership, brought that community back to working together. Fred has served on the Budget Advisory Committee of the Portland Police Bureau, and on the Portland Police Internal Auditing Commission (better known as PIAC). Fred has also served on Metro’s Future Vision Commission.

Fred is a progressive and a populist. He is committed to supporting gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose to have a safe and legal abortion. He supports the fight against climate change and fossil fuels. He is concerned about money in elections, and is for public finance of Portland elections, doing it the right way, not the way the city did it previously.

Fred knows he is running against an incumbent who is also a progressive on such issues. Why will Fred Stewart be successful in defeating an incumbent progressive commissioner in blue Portland, something that hasn’t happened to any City Commissioner in 23 years? Because Fred gets things done and wants to put the people back in charge. He is running a bottom-up campaign with more than 100 house parties to recruit hundreds of volunteers. Fred plans to take the electoral process into City Hall with him. No more secret back-room meetings with lobbyists on matters like Uber. No more phony hearings to take public input when the Commissioners already have their minds made up.

Fred understands Portland’s history as well as anyone I know. His time selling homes has not been just about making money. Fred is committed to keeping families in the city, and he has made special efforts to close down drug dens and gang houses so that those clean houses can be sold to families who want to live here. Fred’s expertise on the needs of Portland renters, his commitment to affordable housing and his focus on Portland’s most vulnerable people are important positions he will bring to the City Council.

Fred’s candidacy is not just about his invaluable housing expertise nor his compassion. Fred Stewart would never have proposed a new regressive street fee without giving voters a say. Nor would he support the currently proposed gas tax for Portland’s Transportation Bureau. Fred knows that Portland’s Transportation Bureau has an annual budget this year of $325 million. He knows the Transportation Bureau has a $50 million payroll with more than 750 full-time employees, including 95 engineers. When Fred is a Commissioner, he will not start off by asking for more money for the Bureau to spend. His first step will be to prioritize making expenditures more efficient. Fred believes maintaining the city streets must be a top-of-the-agenda item, not an afterthought as it is now.

Fred is committed to jobs, and he believes the City government has a role in creating them. Why, he asks, hasn’t the City Council done anything about paving the 59 miles of unpaved city streets? Fred knows all too well that people who own homes on unpaved streets can’t get bank loans for home improvements. Fred sees lots of jobs in paving these streets with curbs, drains and sidewalks. As a Commissioner, he would lead a ballot measure that would finance this work, thereby creating hundreds more jobs.

Fred asks, why hasn’t the City Council done something about the biggest traffic bottleneck in the state -- the one across the Columbia River on I-5? Fred didn’t support the environmentally destructive Columbia River Crossing that would have cost $3 to $4 billion, whose tolls would have created an enormous traffic jam on I-205 every day by diverting traffic there.

Instead, Fred supports the Common Sense Alternative, which would build a new, low, eight-lane I-5 bridge across the Columbia without tearing down the existing bridges, get rid of 90% of the bridge lifts, and even include building a new bridge across the slough so Hayden Island residents can go south or north without getting on the I-5 freeway. Fred knows this project wouldn’t require tolls since it would have a cost of less than $1 billion, but he knows the construction of the Common Sense Alternative would create more than 1,000 jobs.

As an African-American, Fred’s candidacy is deeply concerned about the gang violence that has taken more than 500 black lives since the gangs first came to Portland in 1986. Fred knows that in the early 1990s, Mayor Vera Katz led a gang task force that locked up more than 50 gang members. In 2015, Fred points to the facts -- more than 160 shootings (a record-setting year already for our city) -- and 83 unsolved murders on the books. This is not a neighborhood problem, it is a city-wide problem. Savvy gangs have moved to East Portland, Gresham and Vancouver but commit their drug sales, sex-trafficking and murders in the city, endangering each of us everywhere in Portland. Fred knows Portland also faces new threats from Latino and Eastern European gangs, further compounding the danger. We need to reinvigorate the gang task force now, and that’s what Fred Stewart will strive to accomplish if elected.

So when you go to the polls I hope you vote Fred, instead.

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