Steve Duin on Friday's City Club Debate

Steve Duin's column today offers his take on Friday's debate. Duin writes:

Sten was upbeat and combative, Burdick wooden and over-rehearsed, Boyles flamboyant and unfocused. Lister? He was something of a revelation. An eastside guy who's still annoyed by the Eastside Esplanade, Lister came across as a self-deprecating gentleman who's just trying to help. ...

But the most curious performance of the lunch hour was that of state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who wouldn't admit to being a professional anything. As is the case with most of her campaign literature, Burdick dodged any mention of her job at Gard & Gerber, the Portland public relations firm that has industriously defended PGE's funneling of local tax revenue to Enron, and promoted Oregon Health & Science University's stake in the tram. ...

Sten, Boyles and Lister are happy with their resumes and determined to promote them. Burdick, alone of the four candidates, wants the voters to forget who she is. If I were a betting man -- not merely the father of one -- I'd be tempted to wager that there will indeed be a runoff for this council seat . . . and Burdick won't be in it.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • (Show?)

    I didn't attend this event and so I would like to read more from those who did. However, I take Steve Duin's comments with a healthy grain of salt. He has been a strong supporter of Sten so he is not exactly an unbiased observer. Most of the bloggers on this site support Sten's goal of taking over PGE, but it is my impression that this is not supported by the majority of Portland residents. Keep in mind that the last poll I saw, Riley I believe, had "anybody but Sten" in first place. Given a choice between Sten and PGE my guess is PGE wins. I know that is not a popular sentiment on BlueOregon and I would defer to someone who has seen other poll data. The people I meet who are not Democratic activists do not like Sten. The most common reaction to his name is a rolling of the eyes. Burdick is the one name that others have heard of and in a multiple candidate race like this sheer name recognition goes a long way. If this were a Democratic primary, I would bet on Sten. Since independents and Republicans get to vote it remains to be seen.

  • NWW (unverified)

    Right now, Erik has my vote, but...

    If Sten continues to use George Bush's 10-year plan to end homelessness as a campaign slogan he's going to get broadsided. Let's be clear - the 10-year plan to end homelessness is not Erik Sten's idea - it's a federal program being implemented in every city. Yes, 668 people where housed last year, great! By this calculation thr BHCD should be able to end homelessness in 3 years! Let's be clear, we are losing the battle for affordable housing, and gentrification in Portland...

  • (Show?)

    What is interesting and telling is that none of the Sten supporters ever mention Ginny Burdick's actual voting record in the Senate. The one thing Sten supporters can come up with is to trash Burdick for some bill in the Senate Judiciary that never got to a hearing. Burdick has made it perfectly clear when she's serving her constituants whether in Salem or on the City Council she is driven by their interests and their interests alone. Her voting record reflects that. Burdick works as a private sector communication advisor/crisis management specialist. I'm sure her clients understand they are paying for good service, and not any preference when it comes to serving the voters who have placed their trust in her.

    All you have to do is look at her record on PGE, a client of Gard & Gerber, where she works. Burdick has consistently voted against pollution tax credits, of which PGE is one of the largest recipients. Burdick voted for SB 408, which prohibits utilities from collecting taxes they don't pay and it became law thank heavens! Burdick also voted to allow a state take over of PGE. She is correct in her thinking that if the state takes over PGE it will be done right. Sten's record with the Water Department and the Tram speak for themselves and speaks volumes. I honestly believe voters are smart enough to see through Sten. As John mentioned in the previous post, take Duin's comments in his column with a grain,(ton) of salt.

  • Jeremy (unverified)

    I went to the City Club Debate, and here is what I think:

    In rank order of how the Candidates did, I would say:

    First: Sten. stuck to his guns, and defended his resume.

    Very Close Second: Boyles and Lister: Boyles and Lister were surprise candidates and proved that they are both real contenders for this position. Boyles injected good new ideas but could work on her presentation. Lister was very poised and came across as extremely competent and reasonable. He could add a little more on the "idea" side to complement his apparent managerial competence and likeable demeanor.

    Distant Fourth. Burdick: unappealing, uninspring, and unimaginative. I'm not sure why she is in this race other than that it was a good personal opportunity.

    I think the real quality debate is going to exist between three of the candidates: Lister, the guy who wants to be a bureau manager, Boyles, the gal who wants to find new and creative sources of money to take on important projects, and Sten, the fighter who wants to remind voters of the reasons why they voted for him in the first place and why he remains a great candidate for the job.

    That's just my take from one debate.

    I can't wait.

  • (Show?)

    John, I was there. The audience was clearly stunned when Ginny blamed voters and the city council for the legislature's inability to properly fund schools.

    To me, the most compelling graf of Duin's column was this one:

    And she slammed Sten and the rest of the City Council for failing to adequately fund Portland schools, an especially cynical riff for a seasoned pro at the Oregon Legislature, the organization responsible for school funding and one that has failed Portland schools for the past 15 years.

    "The voters," Burdick finally said when reminded of that, "have made it very difficult for the Legislature to do our legal and moral duty for our schools."

    Her opposition to voter-owned elections and her view that voters are to blame for all of our problems betrays an anti-voter view that is stunning in scope.

    Don't get me wrong -- I get it that Measures 5, 47, 50 have hurt our state. But, leadership is about seeking creative solutions to tough problems, not throwing up your hands and crying impotence.

  • Jeremy (unverified)

    Lets not also forget a few facts:

    1. Burdick DOES work for the PR firm that is charged with making PGE look good (or not as bad) and that worked on the tram project. Whether or not this affects her decision-making, it certainly looks bad...and it begs serious questions.

    2. Burdick IS a member of the legislature which has failed to find a solution for school funding (and a host of other problems). I know that this isn't her fault, but the Senate Dems did little to impress (at least me) last session. While the voter's of Oregon haven't done much to help the legislature, recent polling shows that the voter's of Portland aren't excited to do much either. Get creative or get out, but don't blame the voters.

    3. I'd like to openly call out Riley here on this blog. He is the worst pollster in the state, and maybe the country. His polls are designed for nothing other than political motives and helping his favored candidates and ballot measures raise money.


  • (Show?)

    Anybody reading right now -- 4:45 Sunday -- should flip to Comcast cable #30. A rebroadcast of the debate is just getting underway.

  • Fly on the Wall (unverified)

    tell you what was funny --- standing quietly in back of the elevator after the debate and hearing Ginny's pals discuss amongst themselves how bad she was. they were just despondent. Duin was right, she was wooden and over-rehearsed. Watch her fundraising dry up now since she might not even beat the Listerines.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    Burdick doesn't just work at Gard & Gerber. She's a member of the senior staff, which means she has a lot to say on what the firm does and does not do.

    From their web site (on a page listing all the senior staff):

    Ginny Burdick, Senior Counsel/Public Affairs, ran her own communications firm specializing in crisis management for 15 years before joining Gard & Gerber. A former reporter, Burdick has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1996 and represents Southwest Portland and Tigard. She also serves as a citizen trustee on the City of Portland Fire and Police Disability and Pension Fund board. At Gard & Gerber, Burdick specializes in crisis communications and strategy.

    Let's not also forget the push polling she did, which turned off many Democrats. Many people in her own party aren't happy with her.

  • (Show?)

    A former reporter, Burdick has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

    You'd think someone with a degree in journalism would know how to fool the local media better than she has, which is to say not much at all.

  • LT (unverified)

    So I clicked on the "her own party" link and found this" Burdick's campaign manager,Ed Grosswiler, says the D's are just enthralled with Sten and his campaign manager, Mark Wiener.

    Which reinforced my impression after reading the Steve Duin column.

    Sadly, I have seen any number of instances where a really quality political figure "goes establishment" and forgets those magic words from the Preamble to both the Oregon and US Constitution, "We the people....".

    Attention public figures: It doesn't matter if you are beloved by insiders, if you have the best PR and the best consultant. If the voters don't like you, it is all over. In a totally different context, Warren Rudman said to Ollie North in the Iran-Contra hearings "...what you think, or I think, or the President thinks matters not one whit if the American people say ENOUGH!". I believe that applies in politics.

    Along the same line, I had a conversation with an old friend this morning. She and her husband had graciously been invited to an event where they met a young man who is running for office. Such a nice young man. The result: "we are telling all our friends to vote for Brian".

    My guess is that Duin's conclusion (a runoff with candidates named something other than Burdick) is quite possibly true. All it would take is people like my friend saying nice things about Sten and the other candidates, and people who previously supported Burdick saying "I'm disappointed in Ginny because...". There is an old saying that respect is earned and once lost is very difficult to earn back. My guess is that this is less about who employs which campaign consultant than it is about whether ordinary folks in Portland are willing to say to their friends "I am supporting ---- because...". Consultants have no control over such conversations and often don't know when/ if they take place. They can't be measured by polls and any other tool of modern campaigning.

    But a vote for someone one knows or one's friends admire may be a more solid vote than one based on a campaign ad or what a consultant does.

  • City Clubber (unverified)

    While I agree with most of Duin's observations, I was a little suprised at his characterization of Boyle's performance as being a "trainwreck" and "unfocused." Of the 20 or so people I talked to after the debate, there was a consensus that Boyles was the suprise standout in the event. She may not have had the most polished performance (Lister seemded the most comfortable on stage), but she was the most detailed and direct in her answers, even throwing a couple of well placed jabs at Sten and Burdick. Boyles was also the only candidate that didn't get called on the carpet by the moderators to re-answer a question with an actual answer. I'm left wondering exactly what Duin saw that I didn't. Of course, had I seen Steve at the debate maybe I could have asked him.

  • Bob (unverified)

    As someone who was there this is how I saw it and bare in mind that I don't live in the City of Portland and therefore can't actually vote in this race:

    Boyles: I like here, I really do, but she lacks real experience and simply saying "get federal $" every time is not terribly productive. I think she would be better suited to an advisor role within an office as I am not sure she has the experience, yet, to run one herself.

    Burdick: I came into this debate liking her most of all and came out very disappointed. She has a good record to run on and yet she just went attack, attack attack. She seemed to be more interested at times in stating her talking points than actual answers. I also think she failed to respond to any of Sten's charges and while this may not necessarily be a bad strategy, she cannot afford to be seen as beholden to G&G if she wants to win.

    Lister: The only one who I truly did not like. Lister was trying to hide the fact that he really is an archconservative and he did so pretty well (except for his "homelessness is a choice" line). However, I think anyone who simply claims government needs to be more efficient and that taxes should be cut in order to do that is out of touch.

    Sten: He has some major gaps in his record and his biggest weakness is "Why should we trust you when you've f-ed up in the past?" He was the only candidate who generally stayed positive which I appreciated, but I think he got a bit too personal with Ginny at times.

    Overall, my grades are:

    Boyles: B- Burdick: D Lister: C+ Sten: B+

    A weak win for Sten but his record is definately dragging him down.

  • Anonymous (unverified)


    Which is strange as the web site lists someone else as Sten's campaign manager.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I was at the Guv. Didn't see Steve Duin there, but he got it pretty much right. Sten did a great job with citing facts and history to defend his positions (at least, they sounded like facts and accurate history), as well as with that upbeat rhetoric. The only thing that clanked was his repeated reference to the "success" of getting 663 homeless people off the streets and into homes. I remember the number exactly, because he repeated it so often. Is 663 that much to brag about? Sten's took a couple of jabs at Burdick and scored with both of them.

    Lister seemed pretty comfortable and from a debate performance probably came in second. But neither he nor Boyles have enough tools in their chest (every problem looks like a nail because all they got is a hammer). In Lister's case, it's his experience running a small business, but as a somewhat successful small businessman, I know you can't always do the same thing in government. At least he didn't trot out some of the goofy ideas that Brainstormers like to tout.

    As for Boyles, her experience in securing federal grants, while useful in some instances, was all she had to offer on almost every issue. The details she gave out almost all came back to federatl title grants, and if the city starts counting on federal aid to keep it afloat, it's in worse trouble than now. She showed a lot of rookie anxiety, as well.

    Burdick did seem stiff and even apprehensive about the reception she was getting. The City Club is a pretty liberal organization these days and she is a liberal, but she wasn't getting anything from this crowd, except the people at her table. I actually sensed she toned down her attacks during the debate, went out of her way to find a couple of areas of common ground with Erik. She also totally failed to answer the last question, which was about which bureau assignments she wants.

  • (Show?)

    The Erik Sten campaign's manager is Jennifer Yocom, previously of the Oregon Bus Project. Mark Wiener is his strategic consultant.

  • (Show?)

    Paulie says: Burdick voted for SB 408, which prohibits utilities from collecting taxes they don't pay and it became law thank heavens! Burdick also voted to allow a state take over of PGE. She is correct in her thinking that if the state takes over PGE it will be done right.

    Actually, the bill creating a state power authority expressly disallowed the entity use of eminent domain to acquire PGE. So it did not "allow a state take over of PGE" at all. Instead, it would have allowed a state entity to get the same bad faith treatment that the City got from Enron and PGE, assisted by ... Gard & Gerber.

    Also, re SB 408, Burdick voted for it, but so did all 29 other Senators.

  • (Show?)

    Ginny Burdick does not always vote with the utilities, however.

    In 1999 she was one of only 4 Senators who voted against HB 3220, which sought to retroactively legalize PGE's charging ratepayers for $304 million in extra profits on the dead Trojan plant (by retroactively gutting Ballot Measure 9 of 1978). That bill easily passed both the Senate and House and was signed by Gov. Kitzhaber. But the Utility Reform Project and others collected 70,000 signatures in 90 days to make it a statewide referendum in 2000 (Measure 90, which defeated HB 3220 by a vote of over 88%). The Oregon PUC has nevertheless let PGE keep all of the money, which I am challenging in 3 different courts.

  • jrw (unverified)

    This is totally subjective, but...

    I have been suspicious of Burdick ever since she first ran for office. The way she collected passionate True Believers for what were essentially pretty moderate and mild positions kinda made me nervous. Like I said, totally subjective. I can't remember now who she ran against that first time, but the way she painted her opponents then--at least in the Sellwood neighborhood scuttlebutt--bothered me for someone claiming to be the Liberal White Knight. Especially since her opponents were decent folk as well.

    I've not been greatly impressed by her overall record, either. Yeah, yeah, she's liberal, but liberal does not necessarily equal progressive--and her connections to Gard and Gerber are not what I want to see in an elected official (note, I live in Tomei and Brown's districts). The Burdick supporters I see on this blog now kinda fit the pattern of her first passionate supporters, and to be honest, it bothers me more than a little bit to see how intense they are and the underlying semantic similarities in their writing patterns and arguments. I'd almost say they're scripted.

    Short take: Not impressed by Ginny in the past; even less impressed by what I'm seeing of her campaign now; plan to continue past pattern of not voting for or supporting Ginny.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    Ginny's right: the voters refuse to increase taxes, and because the Oregon House has been Republican, the legislature can't do anything themselves, except refer measures to the ballot, which the voters then kill. If the Legislature does something good, the anti-tax folks will refer it themselves, and likely win.

    If the voters were ready to put people into office who could fund schools, they would have. Fact is, the voters want their cake (funded schools) and to eat it too (no new taxes).

    The Chalkboard Project is working to find a third way: reform of some expenses, plus increased taxes. Hopefully they'll succeed. Until then, blaming the voters seems perfectly accurate. Or your solution is....?

  • Jonathan (unverified)

    I'm surprised that so many of the people commenting were impressed by Boyles. She seems to be against public schools -- where does she get off saying that the students graduating from Portland's schools are not qualified to work? And her answer to nearly every question was about how there's federal money out there to solve every problem. E.g., her answer about how to solve the water bureau problem -- "one phone call" brings in lots of "older" volunteers to make phone calls. You must be kidding me.

    I appreciate that her background is in trying to cobble together grant money and federal money (that's only based on what I read and saw at the debate); maybe she should have some kind of job consulting with the City about how to get more grant money and federal money. But on policy issues -- for me, particularly schools -- she does seem like a trainwreck.

  • Lee (unverified)

    Response to Gill Johnson: After hearing Sten at City Council hearings for the past ten years, the hours of deliberations; you begin to realize Sten's "facts and history" with his continious stream -of -consciousness thoughts that you tend to always ask yourself after he has spoke-"what is the substance of what he said?".

    In just the 45 -60 second answers at the Gov. I found myself asking the same question again. At least with Lister and Boyle you got an answer.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Consultants have no control over such conversations and often don't know when/ if they take place. They can't be measured by polls and any other tool of modern campaigning.

    This is naive. Consultants, especially Weiner, are very adept at creating the correct buzz for their candidate. But they also understand that what people say only matters if it is reflected in the media where 90% of the voters will get their information. The conversations over the backyard fence stopped determining election outcomes a long time ago.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    Er, 90% of the voters don't get their information in "the media" -- they get it from advertisements (direct mail, tv, radio, phone calls).

    90% of the voters don't pay attention to the articles in the newspaper, TV news, etc., could not tell you who these people are, and do not take the time to find out. They get told who these people are by the campaigns.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Dan Meek noted of Ginny Burdick that "In 1999 she was one of only 4 Senators who voted against HB 3220". She did not work for Gard&Gerber then, so this is not an example of her independence from her employer.

    On Burdick's vote to allow state takeover of PGE, paulie wrote " She is correct in her thinking that if the state takes over PGE it will be done right." As Dan Meek pointed out, this bill was toothless as it prohibited use of Eminent Domain. PGE has never opposed a public buyout on their own terms, so Burdick's vote was not a case of her standing up for ratepayers. Paulie's suggestion that it would take the state to do a proper job of making PGE public is contradicted by reality. Amost all publicly owned utilities are owned by cities, counties, or the ratepayers directly. They work just fine, supplying great service at lower cost. While a state power authority could do the job, as well, it would need the hammer of Eminent Domain in order to negotiate a price that would benefit the ratepayers.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    they get it from advertisements (direct mail, tv, radio, phone calls).

    And this is not "the media"? What do you think you are watching on TV and listening to on radio? I doubt anywhere close to even half the voters read the direct mail sent to them and I know half don't get phone calls because they don't answer the phone to take them. And half of those who do hang up. And in most races, candidates aren't mailing to most voters, just likely voters and often a targeted subset of those.

    In any case, the point was that "the buzz" was only useful to the extent it was reported in the media.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    I was making a distinction between reporting and advertising... so TV news, no, TV ads, yes.

  • (Show?)

    I was at the debate. I think Sten showed, finally, that he's not afraid to take a punch and counter. Boyles' stance on schools is a bit alarming, but refreshingly honest. Lister came off well, but lacked any real ideas or specifics. Burdick did herself a disservice by her performance. Stale, rigid, talking point bound only made her attempts at attack limp and her "positive" record opaque.

    If you want someone to fight for Affordable Housing, Economic Equality, and Progressive Reforms - Vote for Sten.

    If you want someone to turn to the federal government and the City's elderly population to solve our City's most pressing problems - Vote for Boyles.

    If you want someone who thinks homelessness is a personal choice, and can make jokes about not knowing the issues - Vote for Lister.

    If you want someone whose ideas are tired, old, and stale - Vote for Burdick.

    <h2>That's what I took from the debate.</h2>
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