City Club Debate: Burdick's Moment

Charlie Burr

This Friday, the City Club is sponsoring a forum with City Council candidates Erik Sten, Ginny Burdick, Dave Lister, and Emilie Boyles. No matter which side you’re on, this debate promises to be the marquee local match-up for the May primary.

If you’re wonky enough to be reading this blog during March Madness, you should go.

One candidate goes into Friday’s event with a slight advantage. Burdick’s work at the public relations firm Gard and Gerber – the firm responsible for the failed voter owned elections repeal – may have some raised eyebrows, but debate preparation and training is what G+G gets paid big money to do. The Senator has personally trained candidates for whom I’ve worked (Ringo vs. Witt) and is a truly gifted public relations professional. No amount of big money baggage dilutes her advantage of 20 years of candidate training and crisis management.

Look for Burdick to go on the attack early, and to take areas of her own weakness (her tram Advocacy or 10 year incumbency) and go after Sten there first. Also, look for efforts to subtly disentangle her campaign from the failed FTF committee run by her public relations firm.

If this contest were just a referendum on public policy, Sten would clearly be the man to beat. No one on the stage will know more about local government or have Erik’s resume of public policy accomplishments. But being a true policy wonk is not always the same as being a good politician. The degree to which he can keep from drilling down too deep into the minutia and tell a compelling story to voters will determine his performance.

Also, don’t forget about Lister and Boyles. Lister is the only political conservative in the race, and has the more coherent message of the two. But just by the mere fact of being something of an unknown, Boyles is poised to only benefit from the event. If she avoids any major or obvious blunder, she will leave Friday stronger than she arrived.

TIME: Friday, 12:15 to 1:15. Doors open at 11:30.
PLACE: Governor Hotel, 614 SW 11st Ave.
COST: $5 for coffee & tea/$16-$20 full lunch

Should be good political theater. See you there!

  • Betsy Wilson (unverified)

    Look for Ginny to bring up her solid record of liberal accomplishments as someone who's been stuck in a legislature that has at least one house against liberals since she's been there. She's managed to get things through, or go on the initiative front when needed. I'm pretty impressed.

    Erik has a record of some accomplishments, but the playing field (of getting to 3 votes out of 5 in liberal Portland) is much easier. He also has bungled some of the more complex efforts he's tried to take on. The list of "accomplishments" on his web site is completely vague, without specific policies listed. I really can't figure out what the heck he's done, which is frustrating, because I know he's done things.

    Which of his accomplishments are you most impressed by, and how much did Erik have to do with it?

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    Among the accomplishments I'm most impressed with is Erik's role in making Portland an environmental leader. We were the first city in the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially. And we're not just reducing pollution, we're actively improving clean air and water quality.

    It's one of the reasons OLCV has given Sten the sole endorsement in the race.

    Portland's proving that the cynical Bush position that nothing can be done is just wrong. Not only can it be done, environmental transformation can be – as it is beginning to be in Portland --- a job creating cornerstone of the economy. There are more green buildings here than in any other city in the country. Sustainable businesses want to work here - and the businesses certainly deserve the bulk of the credit - but the city is actively implementing strategies to help green businesses grow. I think that's a smart direction for our city.

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    There are more green buildings here than in any other city in the country.

    Wow. Is that it -- in 10 years? Laughable.

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    Uh... I didn't write "that's it." Betsy asked what I personally was impressed with, not what top issues poll the best. Of course Sten's done more - no one has worked harder on poverty and affordable housing issues - and the advocacy that some dismiss as 'pet issues' has had a real impact on people's lives. But more than any one issue, I respect the fact that Erik doesn't run from a fight and works to use his office to look out for more than just the interests of the city's powerbrokers.

  • Alice (unverified)

    I'm most impressed with Erik's "nobody was minding the store" quote regarding the Tram debacle....Just who were those mystery City Commissioners that voted for the Portland Aerial Tram, anyway?

    Maybe if they weren't so busy trying to buy an electric utility, stop global warming, and pander to their "progressive" pet projects, they would have had time to monitor the CoP's largest and most complex construction project.

  • Betsy Wilson (unverified)

    Again -- what specific policies. How much did Erik have to do with those? Not, what were the outcomes (green buildings), but what did he do to make sure that green buildings were built? And what did he have to do with air and water issues? and what did he have to do with greenhouse gasses?

    Specific policies. Erik's role. Spell it out for me, I'm slow.

    My friends in the affordable housing community think Erik's a blowhard who doesn't get much done for his signature issue. They're kinda whiny folks, but again -- specific policies, results, Erik's role.

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    Alice, you act as if buying the utility, mitigating global warming in Portland, and undertaking innovative ideas for the city are BAD things. As for "largest construction project"--is 3.5 million really the largest? You can't count PDC money, now, because Council has no control over PDC.

    Is there a bell that goes off at Alice and Jack's houses, that indicates a knee-jerk negative response is needed somewhere?

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    And to answer the original question, the best thing IMO Sten's done that's resulted in existing policy is voter-owned elections--a major victory for putting the process on a substantive rather than financial footing.

  • Dennis B. (unverified)

    I suppose if you DON'T believe that public power is a good thing, then you think that those efforts were misguided or wasted. I think that each new revelation about PGE / ENRON's corporate malfeasance shows that Erik Sten was right all along. Of course the corporate apologists like Ginny Burdick are on the other side. That's to be expected.

    Moreover, Ginny has been in a place where she SHOULD be held accountable for the sorry state of our education funding (a national joke and local disgrace0. Our schools are in free fall, and it's the state legislature that has kept them there. I haven't seen any leadership . . . just DLC-style fingers in the wind.

    "Solid record of liberal accomplishments" is a sick joke. Look at her recent negative mailing (gag me with a spoon) to see her true stripes.

    Erik Sten, on the other hand, has been a consistent progressive voice for change, including change that threatens his own status (cf. publicly owned campaigns, which Ginny B. - predictably - also disses). He hasn't been perfect, but he's on the right side. He's good at what he does, and we can expect him to get better.

    I was simply going to vote for Sten. When I got Ginny B.'s lame piece of attack flackery in my mailbox, I made a contribution to Sten and tonight I'm going to call to ask how to volunteer. My hope is that the severity of the defeat that's coming for Ginny B. will end her erstwhile polite but lackluster career, and we'll start to get some Democrats with some fire in the legislative branch. God knows it's not happening with Teddy K.

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    Burdick supported Measure 6 -- publicly owned campaigns. Because the public had a voice in it. In, what, 2000? Burdick created stronger gun control. In 2005, Burdick created better bicycling laws, and was recently nominated for an award for it. Burdick often gets a 100% rating from OLCV. In 2001, Burdick passed a law protecting citizens who spoke out from lawsuits against them.

    She does have a strong, solid, liberal record. Maybe she doesn't agree with everything you do, and yes, her workplace does some ugly things, and yes, maybe she's helped them do those things.

    Campaigning is ugly, and it's too bad that Erik's people have slimed her, just as her campaign has starting sliming Erik.


  • Wendy (unverified)

    Charlie Burr'

    We were the first city in the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially.<

    That's a wild claim. How's that? Where's that? Who said?

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    OK, Wendy, I'll bite. The Kyoto stuff is right here at BlueOregon. Oh, and here.

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    it should be said re: Kyoto, however, that the original calculations were off. Portland did not reduce emissions compared to 1990 in terms of static parts per million. In fact, that rate was essentially stagnant--a negligible rise over the period.

    But the effort is still a major success, because the intervening years have brought polluting factors from which we would have expected significant GAINS in pollution. That didn't happen, and as Kari notes in the original report, we might have expected a 17% increase that did not materialize.

  • doug (unverified)

    The fact that Portland has more Green buildings per capita and more Green buildings period is due to Dan Saltzman, not Sten. Saltzman created and now oversees the Office of Sustainable Development and is the one responsible for the City's push to be more enviro-friendly.

  • NNW (unverified)

    Portland having more green buildings than any other city - comparred to who? Witchita, Omaha - Portland's not exactly a major city. Being green is great, but how about diverse? What's our city doing to ensure we have more people of color moving, and retaining housing in Portland?

  • Steve (unverified)

    About Erik, I read his campaign WEBsite with as open a mind as possible and he has no real accomplishments in 10 years beisdes a bunch of endorsements and that he served certain positions. Great, Portland is safe from global warming thanks to Erik.

    Man has this city set the bar that low that don't care if a politician really knows how to run a city at min expense to taxpayers? I know Erik is the local fave, but come on the Burdick-bashing is getting really boring.

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    since when did running a city at minimum expense to taxpayers become the goal? Especially here, where most people recognize that you get what you pay for?

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    For all Burdick fans faulting Sten for his website and "lack of specifics", here's Burdick's site, btw.

    Take a look. Not exactly a tour de force of substance there on her 10 years spent in Salem.

    Also, I just got the first mail/hit piece from her, and Burdick's accomplishments fit on one side of a postcard. The other side is of course devoted to typical big money attack politics.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Sorry, I guess I was too subtle, I should have said WASTE (PGE chase, water computer, tax abatements for $1M condos, etc.), not EXPENSE. My point is that Erik has never had a real job, ever. Unless you count being an apparatchik a job. I am not saying Burdick is any better, but am I depressed by the selection of ineptitude out there.

  • betsy Wilson (unverified)

    Come ON, Charlie. There are specific accomplishments of Ginny mentioned in this discussion that aren't mentioned on her mailer, because they're wonky. Which doesn't mean they're not important.

    You've done politics. You know that you can't fit much on a mailer -- you've got seven seconds of attention. And, yes, you have to attack an incumbent. Ugly, yes. But no less ugly than the Ginny-is-evil whisper campaign going around.

    And I have yet to read a specific policy that's resulted in accomplishments, that's Erik's doing. Green Buildings? Saltzman. Global warming? Erik probably did something here, but what? And Voter Owned Elections, wasn't that Gary Blackmer's baby? Maybe it was also Erik's baby. Spell it out for us, don't just attack.

    Still undecided in who to vote for.

    Finally, Ginny's website sucks ass. Total agreement there.

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    Sten was also behind the proposal for the wifi cloud, if I recall. That's gonna happen, and it will be a great thing.

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    Portland's not exactly a major city.

    Oh come on... we're the #24 biggest city in America. Well more than half the states don't have a city our size.

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    More enviro specifics, briefly: Sten oversaw the city’s response to the Endangered Species Act, successfully lobbied Congress to protect Bull Run, remapped the floodplain on Johnson Creek (against long odds). Also, he WAS the prime mover of Voter Owned and is obviously the one taking the hits for it.

    Betsy, Ive never said that "Ginny is evil." I think she's a decent person who's made some bad choices professionally and politically - but she's not evil - and I am not attacking her personally. I didn't even write a single word about her campaign until her pr firm started promoting the League of Women Voters-as-sabateurs conspiracy theory, which was as lame as it was unsubstantiated.

  • Lee (unverified)

    The criteria for being classified as a "greenbuilding" is generous. And many building owners/architects use the classification liberally for marketing and other reasons. The claims being made are suspect. There may be just as many or more building per population ratios in other areas of the nation, but the owners/architects do not spend the time/money for the classification that one has to pay for accrediation. Plus, many buildings claim "green" without the paid classification. Portland loves to claim it's "green".

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    What... March Madness? I knew I was missing something important this year.

  • roman (unverified)

    Erik has spent his entire adult life on the public dole. And he keeps trying to get other jobs on the dole -- Port of Portland, PDC, but they won't select him. Neither should Portland's voters. Time to move on.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I wonder if Ginny has learned a bit more about our fair city's government than she did during her last run at the council. A few weeks ago, it appeared she hadn't.

    I'm going to listen to all the candidates critically on Friday and see who makes the most sense. By the way, while everyone is welcome to attend the City Club forum, if you want to ask a question of the candidates, you need to be a member. Here's a link for those who want more information about this excellent civic organization: If you join, I'll buy you the lunch.

    (Okay, that's limited to about four people--the lunch costs $16--but you can just go and listen for free).

    Now as for a politician being on the "public dole all his life," there used to be a time when people, particularly people in cities, had some respect for professional politicians. Depending upon how you define it, my main political hero, Wayne Morse, was on the public dole all his life--at least he never worked in the private sector. Earl Blumenauer has been an elected official virtually all his life. Peter DeFazio either worked for politicians or was one most of his life. There is no shame in being a professional politician. It's the amateurs that have gotten us in the most trouble.

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    Actually I think it's $5 general seating, but that covers coffee and tea down at the Governor (how swanky!). Once I get myself a nice job outta college, you can bet I'll be paying my City Club dues. See you in the back on Friday though.

  • Varner (unverified)


    There should be room for debate, but Ginny is using some really extremely negative tactics that I believe are beyond fair play. I think that the way a person campaigns is an important part of how they behave in public life, and Ginny is behaving innapropriately by engaging in this type of tactic.

    Frankly, the way she has behaved in this campaign negates a good number of her good acts as a legislator.

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    Just sent $100 to the Burdick campaign.

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    That should be enough to pay for about another 200 slick, Gard & Gerber style attack pieces in the mail. Or maybe 175 more push poll calls for Burdick.

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    I don't live in Portland but the logic seems to favor Sten, just on the strenght of VOE.

    Burdick and her crowd of thugs want to kill out any system wherein their money equals speech meme is threatened.

    Politics 101 is that you dance with them that brung you it doesn't take Stephen Hawkins to read Ginny's dance card....

  • NWW (unverified)

    "Oh come on... we're the #24 biggest city in America. Well more than half the states don't have a city our size."

    By this definition Portland is bigger than Miami, Atlanta, etc...

    My point was it's easier to build a sustainable model in a city like Portland because it's not dealing with population, and sprawl to the degree in which many cities are dealing with, but that's changing. With the amount of people coming to Portland, sooner or later, we're going to have to connect the green + density, or it's going to be sprawl city... It doesn't matter how green Portland is, if the region doesn't follow in the cities footsteps... We risk becoming a mecca for green progressives with money (Seattle, Boulder, Austin) while hundreds of thousands of service workers who serve this population live on the outskirts of the green city thus creating sprawl and undercutting any idea of being environementally friendly in the first place...

  • Ted Gleichman (unverified)

    I personally strongly support Sten, but "Voter Owned Elections" (VOE) is a marketing term, and not accurate.

    This state-of-the-art experiment in municipal public financing should be called "Taxpayer Owned Elections" (TOE)-- since we taxpayers are footing the bill (quite appropriately and economically, I believe).

    There may be a few voters who really are not taxpayers, but very few: you'd basically have to be an indigent homeless person who does not drink, so that your income is too low to require filing, you aren't paying property taxes (either directly, or indirectly through renting), and you aren't paying our hidden sales taxes on alcohol.

    Whereas, there are hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Portland who are not voters.

    YO THERE, non-voting taxpayers: Thanks for subsidizing better municipal elections for us voters! We appreciate the help!

    And now that we've got our TOE in the water in Portland, let's work on extending TOEs to county government, state government, etc.

    Which is exactly the kind of thing that Senator Burdick's corporate sponsors are afraid of.

  • Jerry (unverified)

    I hope some of you that can attend tomorrows "debate" will ask some hard questions about how misuse of Urban Renewal has affected the general fund tax base for Portland.

    Urban Renewal costs the general fund for Portland by over $68M .Consider a reasonable use of UR of say a 50% reduction, that would be $34M that could be used for schools, police/fire. jails, human services, etc. If we downsize the PDC because of reasonable use of UR, then even the average property tax bill of $350/year we each pay to run PDC could be reduced. Then, maybe some of us would be more inclined to support additional taxes for specific needs the voters find relevant.

    The four candiates should have divergent views on this issue, considering their past history and positons. Should be interesting.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Varner wrote:

    "There should be room for debate, but Ginny is using some really extremely negative tactics that I believe are beyond fair play."

    In general, it seems to me that Democrats campaign at a higher ethical level than Republicans do. That is, except in Multnomah County, where Democrats are nasty as hell running against other Democrats.

  • Wendy (unverified)

    -OK, Wendy, I'll bite. The Kyoto stuff is right here at BlueOregon. Oh, and here.-

    I thought that might be what Charlie was talking about.

    I'm surprised anyone would bring that up since that report was provne to not only be incaccruate but that emissions were never really measured.

    In short, it is a bogue report and claim.

  • Andrew C. (unverified)

    Ginny's G+G attack dogs seem in full force here on BlueOregon, attacking Sten for lack of accomplishments when she has so very little to show for herself, beyond corporate servitude coupled with lip-service to the liberal positions so popular in Portland.

    The public relations industry, by definition, buries substance in style. That's their job. It's what they do. How could any sane person want a professional PR flack in public office?

    Ginny Burdick, the PR flack, brought to you by PGE/Enron

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    Here's a link to a New York Times piece, Portland Shows Way to Green A City. Also, here's link to some of what Sten has accomplished. And the environmental groups who've compared the accomplishments of Sten and Burdick - Oregon League of Conservation Voters and Oregon Natural Resources Council - have given Sten their sole endorsements.

    It's clear that the Senator from Gard and Gerber has no hope of winning in May - and is desperately shooting for a runoff. She can't win on her own record, so it's more spin, rhetoric and big money attack politcs from her campaign and surrogates.

  • JTT (unverified)

    While I don't have a dog in the race...I had to respond to this load of cr**:

    Erik has spent his entire adult life on the public dole.

    You mean being a public servant?

    Now, whether he has been a good public servant is totally up for debate...and that is what elections are for. It is crass and worthless statements like yours that diminish the honor and calling of public servants. In our democracy, I can see no greater calling than serving the public. So, cut the cr** about "living on the public dole". Sheesh.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    OLCV, the same group that called Senator Ringo, who looked to expand Measure 37 and has been the king of misinformation about Oregon voters desires, the environmental defender of the year?

    OLCV, the same group that called the 20% to 0%-scoring Ben Westlund the consensus builder of the year?

    OLCV, the same group that endorsed Ted Kulongoski, who tried to make Measure 37 waivers transferrable?

    <h2>Yeah, I trust their endorsements like a hole in the head.</h2>

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