Charles Lewis in his own words

T.A. Barnhart

I have a habit of supporting no-hopers. In 2006, I was a supporter of Pete Sorenson. I was the first person to back Steve Novick on BlueOregon. I became an active backer of Barack Obama in early 2006 at a time when he was just a novelty act and the few people around here who were bothering to express an opiinion were for Hillary or Edwards; I sent money, started two websites, posted for him here on BO and campaigned for him on the streets of Portland in the summer of 2007 with a handful of others. Oh, and I started campaigning for some guy named Howard Dean in March 2003 when his national name-recognition was around 2%.

Front-runners are not my political inclination.

And I have to say: My instincts tend to be pretty good. Pete Sorenson would have been a far more innovative, courageous partner with the Merkley-Brown 2007 Legislature than the timorous Gov K. Steve Novick would have run an exciting, hilarous, no-holds-barred campaign that would have left Gordo dizzy and lost (although I have to say Merkley's slow-and-steady race is proving its own effectiveness). Obama has been all that I believed he would be — and more. As for Dean, he's proven that no one in America knows more about the progressive movement and how to use it to bring political success.

I am confident that I recognize a good candidate, which is why I am confident in making the following statement:

Portland should elect Charles Lewis to the City Council.

I first heard Charles speak when he came to the Multnomah Democrats endorsement forum in April. I was immediately struck by his passion (yes, it's a quietly expressed passion), his intelligence and the nature of the work he has done, especially with Ethos. Apart from the damage done to academic basics, nothing has been more harmful to our schools than the near-eradication of music and arts programs. In starting and making a success of Ethos, Charles has done something of huge value for his community. He earned the Mult Dems' endorsement (as did a number of other candidates), and no other candidate we met in that process earned my attention more.

I got together with Charles recently at Washington Park (nice backdrop, and a great bike ride — down) to ask him some questions and let him present the case for his candidacy in his own words. (And then I spent a week dealing with the kind of technical difficulties that accompany a new video camera.) I tried to keep the questions basic and non-softball: What makes you qualified? How do we create "Portland" neighborhoods? Why should we elect another white male to the exclusively white male Council? All the answers are one-take, with no do-overs, no editing (apart from where I asked the questions); it's Charles having his say, directly and straight to the camera.

And while I do not want it to sound hyperbolic, and given that I am a supporter, I came away from that interview even more impressed with Charles. I had not realized how well he understands the nature of the problems facing Portland, how prepared he is to bring that understanding to the Council and work to find solutions that do not put Portland's essential integrity at risk. Charles is smart, well-versed in the issues, a proven innovator and community activist, and he really is, I believe, to be the right person for this job.

Don't take my word for it, of course: listen to Charles yourself. And remember: I know what I'm talking about. Just ask Barack Obama.

Watch all 6 clips (twenty minutes total) at

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    Jake, Charles' campaign manager, asked if i would include an ask for lawn signs. so here it is: please put up a Charles Lewis lawn sign: elegant, informative and proof of your higher expectations for political candidates.

    Campaign Office: 8 NE Killingsworth St Portland, Or 97211 (503) 616-2655

    Email: [email protected]

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    Our two younger boys take music lessons at Ethos - our oldest attended nearby Jefferson. What Charles did for our neighborhood, in creating a vibrant, useful community resource that provides jobs and fosters creativity, energy, hope - he could certainly do for the city as a whole.

    Charles identifies community needs and addresses them with effective action - he gets good things done. We live in a better city because of what he's already accomplished.

    I definitely prefer the candidate who created jobs, and served real community needs - who has an actual track record of success.

  • Sunnyside (unverified)

    Charles is an extremely bright young man on his way up. He has a vision for including ALL of Portland, and has given attention to parts of the city that others would like to sweep under the rug. He does seem to be the underdog in this race, but that doesn't mean he isn't qualified.

  • Nicholas Carroll (unverified)

    Thanks for posting this. We're on the same page...supporting Dean in 2003/2004, Obama for 2008, and Charles Lewis for City Council. To say that you have a tendency to support "no hopers" is a little harsh. There's always hope that voters will see through the establishment's choice.

    Though Dean didn't win the nomination in 2004, his strategy of using a 50 state campaign helped Democrats win red districts in 2006 and helped Obama rack up delegates to defeat Hillary in the primaries and is now giving McCain a run for his money.

    Some newspaper endorsements seem to take issue with his age, but the U.S. Constitution set the age requirement for President at 35. If a candidate can run for president at 35, why not City Council at 36? Especially one who started his own non-profit organization ten years ago and successfully saw it's expansion with number of employees, youth served, and operating budget. He'll be the only person on City Council with executive experience, who has created jobs, and kept a budget. With a tightening economy and a sluggish job market, he has right experience for the job in this critical time.

    Fritz would make a great auditor, but Lewis is ready to help lead Portland through the visionary planning for the next 25 years. I trust him to keep the best interests at heart of those who are starting their careers, raising a young family, and buying their first home in Portland. He not only received a great education and learned about Public Policy, his actions with being a Peace Corps volunteer as well as starting a vital non-profit organization for low income students wanting to learn how to play instruments speak loudly what his values are. Our city should not wait until another election for this candidate to serve on City Council. His experience proves he is ready to lead now.

  • Chris Myers, Southeast Portland (unverified)

    T.A, I think you've summed up Charles's attributes nicely. I have met Charles three times during this campaign, and he continues to impress me with his intelligence and humility, his understanding of Portland, his commitment to innovative and effective solutions to economic and housing challenges, and his sincere concern for the public schools and for the youngest of our citizens. He is a superb candidate and would be a terrific addition to the City Council.

  • rw (unverified)

    I was afraid this was going to happen, T.A. I decided to go ahead and get my voting done, not wait any longer. And now, at the last moment, come more of the kinds of presentations that would have helped me tremendously more! Ah well, I did my best with what I had. Hopes that I can sit on it longer next time, wait for these edge of the cliff, last ditch helper-posts. There were some folks on these ballots I did not have enough information on to make a real judgement,and had not seen enough discussion to rat out angles and issues.

    Thanks for this anyway. He's on the radar now, for me.

  • Jim H (unverified)

    I was very impressed with Charles Lewis during the primary. I wish I didn't have to choose between him and Amanda - but Amanda won out for me. I hope Charles runs again.

    btw, what happened to his ads? I remember he had a number of clever ads in the primary, but haven't seen any during the general. Didn't he take public financing? I thought they got a new batch of dough for the general election.

  • Jim Robison (unverified)

    I first met Charles shortly after he moved to Portland, and I've always felt he would be a good candidate some day. Fortunately this year we have two very good candidates for City Council (actually, we had five or six good candidates for the same seat). I have known Amanda Fritz for a few years as well, and have seen her work with people in the community, in the neighborhoods around the city, and in city government, to make things happen. Much of what she does is bringing people together to improve their neighborhoods.

    Amanda has a solid understanding of what needs to be done at the city, and has a track record of bringing people together to find common ground and a common understanding. Perhaps this is why she was the only candidate to be endorsed by BOTH the Democratic and Republican Parties. Even though Republicans are irrelevant in electing someone to the Portland City Council, it is good to know that a potential City Councilor can work well with divergent groups of people.

    While I hope Charles does run for another office in the future, I encourage the election of Amanda this year.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    A dissenting opinion....

    I recently listened to Lewis and Fritz on the KBOO morning talk show hosted by Joe Uris. Fritz unsurprisingly came off as enormously wonkish, and I found this rather tedious. But Lewis' responses I found more troubling. His one-size-fits-all recipe for solving Portland's problems seems to boil down to "City Hall ought to promote small business, and by golly, look at me and my non-profit as examples." I'm sorry, but when a candidate starts telling me, hey, I've got business cred, let me run the city, I get very nervous, because no government agency is like a business, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.

    I was also quite troubled by Lewis' response to a question about whether or not the City Council should reconsider having Portland participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. He indicated that the council ought to consider participating if the FBI is "more open" with the city about data. Uris, the host, rather pointedly criticized this stance and cited police over-reaction againt protestors in Minneapolis, during the GOP convention, as a good example of where things like the JTTF actually lead. (In fairness, Fritz also waffled about the JTTF, making some vague remarks about holding more hearings.)

    For better or worse, Lewis has become the favored candidate of the "all politicians are either incompetent or thieves" crowd. This isn't Lewis' fault, I suppose, but it does suggest to me that he has not been averse to playing the resentment card. And folks, in this election cycle, we are seeing (I hope) a clear rejection of candidates who stir up voters' resentments.

    In the end, I decided to vote for Amanda Fritz.

  • Terry (unverified)

    While Amanda Fritz may well have an auditor's mentality, Charles Lewis, based on what I saw in the Willamette Week interviews, is simply an angry young man. His grudge against the Portland Development Commission clearly has a lot to do with his involvement in Ethos.

    Lewis, as Joel Dan Walls put it, does play the "resentment card" for all it's worth.

    Speaking of Ethos, no one in his right mind should consider Ethos an effective substitute for full funding of music programs in Portland Public Schools.

  • MCR (unverified)

    I did not support either Fritz or Lewis in the primary, and unfortunately have been left with the two of them to choose between in the general. It's a fairly easy choice: Lewis

  • Judee (unverified)

    I too listened to Lewis and Fritz on the Abe and Joe show and wanted to clarify Lewis' remarks regarding JTTF. Lewis said he supported the City not participating in the JTTF. I've included a link to the audio file:

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    Speaking of Ethos, no one in his right mind should consider Ethos an effective substitute for full funding of music programs in Portland Public Schools.

    But where is this "full funding?" Portland voters, by passing property tax limit legislation (Ballot Measure 5), effectively slashed adequate public funds for important public programs.

    And Charles, who saw opportunities for music education vanish, stepped up and did something productive. Thanks to Ethos, a lot of Portland kids, many of them low-income, learn to play instruments, and experience the significant developmental benefits of early exposure to music.

    That's your "angry," "young" Charles - he stood up, took action, and made things better. Sounds great to me.

    So would Fritz sit and wait for state money, or for Portland voters to rescind those property tax limitations they voted in, while Portland kids just do without..? (It might keep a few more beans in the city jar...)

  • Nicholas Carroll (unverified)

    I can assure you that Charles Lewis is not an "angry young man" and that is not his motive for running in this election.

    Yes, his complaints against PDC are fairly well known. However, if you look at his background (Political Science degree; Masters in Public Policy; internship with Senator Mark Hatfield; ombudsman for Mayor Katz), it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that he would eventually run for political office someday.

    I've had quite a few conversations with him and I don't sense any trace of "anger". I've known people with a chip on their shoulder or have "anger issues" and Charles is not one of them. He's running for the right reasons and even the Oregonian seems to want to see him in political office someday. The question is...why wait?

    Charles should boldness when he announced his campaign months before Mayor Potter or Commissioner Adams indicated their intentions in the upcoming election. Everyone else waited until those two made a decision before they jumped into the race. What that tells me is that Lewis is a bold decision maker. Anyone who dismisses his ten years work starting up and operating Ethos Music Center, well...I'd like to see you try to establish your own non-profit organization without any funds and see how successful you would be. I know I couldn't do something like that. I would like to see more of that kind of boldness in City Hall.

    Fritz's natural abilities seem to be looking at the details and getting bogged down in minutaie, thus why I can see her as being a perfect City Auditor. For City Commissioner? No thanks.

  • Landon (unverified)

    I've met Charles Lewis before and got a very bad impression.

    He was arrogant, and gives feel good answers about hard choices like paying adequate taxes for our transportation system. He said we just need to be more efficient and can get the job done. Sorry, that rhetoric is way too Republican for me. Glossing over hard decisions that must be made is to some extent understandable during a campaign, but his statements about various components of the city's budget have been very misleading or simply uninformed.

    He has absolutely no public sector experience, and does strike me as an overpriveleged white guy who feels entitled to represent a populace he doesn't know that much about. You get the feeling that he feels that because he went to Harvard that he is ready for the job. Sorry, but while that is a nice little resume item, it is not sufficient experience to be in city council.

    I am not sure what it is- another person posted that he is an angry young man - but something about him deeply rubs me the wrong way.

    Maybe some of it was the way he took pot(hole)shots at Mayor-elect Adams early in the race. Talk about personal opportunism and not working for an overall progressive movement! Sam is a good one that does not need shots from his own side.

    He strikes me as deeply ambitious, but not in a good way. And he does seem to have a chip on his sholder of some kind.

    But please, do not invoke Bobby Kennedy in one breath and employ the conservative rhetoric of bashing taxes in th enext.

    I am all for underdogs, but this one deserves to lose. I hope he stays out of local politics in the future.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)

    Amanda is detail oriented, that's for sure. But I think we need more of that on the city council. Commissioners usually "broad brush" the proposal and they fail to dig in and find the unintended consequences that often result from the details. I'm convinced Amanda will be a tireless watchdog when it comes to city contracts, etc.

    In addition to her prior experience on the planning commission, Amanda has also been tireless when it comes to participating in council meetings and keeping us informed of the goings on through her blog.

    She would make a good auditor, for sure, but she isn't a CPA so that precludes her running for that position.

    Charles Lewis is an appealing man who has done a lot of good. He needs to take the next two years to mature his positions and broaden his issue base. If he's in it in 2010 I'll be giving him a good long look. But for this election, my vote went to Amanda.

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    I sure liked Charles's talent act in Candidates Gone Wild this spring more than I liked Amanda's. I think it was her husband's guitar playing that carried her, and I'm no fan of black pleather pants no matter what the occasion, whereas Charles's playing seemed heartfelt and note perfect.

    I've not spent time with either of the top two candidates for this position - I myself was a Bissonnette supporter this spring (and hope he takes another crack at seeking elected office when the time is right for him.)

    But I digress.

    The question I have for you is what do you say with respect to the landslide of endorsements going towards Amanda Fritz?

    I pulled the list of her endorsers (below) from her website and it has a lot of names of folks I recognize and hold in some esteem (to be sure, some more than others.)

    What did they miss that caught your eye?

    Am I right to be gathering that you like his passion and the fact that he founded an auxiliary music teaching program outside of the public schools. OK. Good stuff. Anything else?

    At this point I'll agree, then, he does seem quite the under-dog.


    ELECTED OFFICIALS SUPPORTING AMANDA: Governor Barbara Roberts Mayor Tom Potter Mayor-elect Sam Adams Former Portland City Commissioners Gretchen Kafoury and Mike Lindberg Former Portland City Auditors Barbara Clark and Jewel Lansing Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair, Lynn Peterson Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Chair, Ted Wheeler Washington County Board of Commissioners Chair, Tom Brian Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder Metro Councilor Robert Liberty Former Metro Presiding Officer Jim Gardner State Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson State Senator Avel Louise Gordly State Senator Rod Monroe Former State Senators Bob Boyer and Dick Springer State Representative Jackie Dingfelder State Representative Tina Kotek State Representative Greg Macpherson State Representative Mary Nolan State Representative Diane Rosenbaum State Representative Mike Schaufler State Representative Chip Shields State Representative Carolyn Tomei Former State Representatives Cindy Banzer, Chris Beck, Jo Ann Bowman, Jane Hardy Cease, Ron Cease, Mike Fahey, Anitra Kitts Rasmussen, George Starr, and Tom Whelan Democratic nominees for State Representative, Jules Kopel-Bailey and Michael Dembrow Multnomah Education Service District Director Geri Washington Parkrose Public Schools Board Director Alesia Reese Portland Public Schools Board Director Ruth Adkins Portland Public Schools Board Director Bobbie Regan Portland Public Schools Board Director Dilafruz Williams * West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District Director Terri Preeg Riggsby


    • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 189
    • Communications Workers of America Local 7901
    • Joint Council of Teamsters Local 37
    • Laborers Local 483
    • Multnomah County Democratic Party (co-endorsement)
    • Multnomah County Republican Party
    • National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 82
    • Oregon Arts and Culture Political Action Committee (Oregon ArtPAC)
    • Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV)
    • Oregon Natural Resources Council
    • Oregon Nurses Association
    • Oregon State Council for Retired Citizens
    • Portland Business Alliance
    • Portland Fire Fighters' Association Local 43
    • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49
    • Sierra Club
    • Teachers' Voice in Politics/Portland Association of Teachers
    • United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 247
    • United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555


    • Just Out
    • Portland Mercury
    • Portland State University Daily Vanguard
    • The Oregonian
    • The Skanner
    • Willamette Week
    • Green Light from Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC (co-designation)
    • Green Light from NARAL ProChoice Oregon (co-designation)
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    one of the reasons i support a candidate is, i'll admit, what amounts to gut-feeling. it's not independent of good, solid reasons, but "qualifications" are not enough. i supported Steve Novick not because he would be a better Senator -- i actually think Jeff will be a better fit in that club -- but because his intelligence, energy, willingness to take the fight to Gordo, etc. i supported Obama very early because "Audacity" impressed me (the man can write, duh), because of his history on the streets and in the Illinois Senate, but ultimately all those pieces came together in a way i cannot qualify beyond saying that i knew he was the person i would support.

    Charles has more of a public sector background than some have said. Ethos is a public-private enterprise. he's worked in the Leg & for Mayor Katz. the comment above that he has "no" public sector experience is flat-out wrong.

    and like many voters, i really don't care too much about endorsements. people endorse for all kinds of reasons, including that they got asked first. i do believe many support her because she is the only non-male with a chance to be on the City Council -- and i seriously considered voting for her myself for that reason. diversity on the council could soon be "one gay man" and that's not necessarily the best thing for our community -- the man part, not the other.

    but i really don't care what a bunch of pols whom i do not know think about Amanda. i certainly don't care what the O or WW think (both endorsing John Nelsen fergawdsake). i know what i have come to believe in meeting Charles and learning more about him (and about Amanda, as a candidate): he's the person i think would be a better City Councilor.

    now if someone wants to rip me for making my political decision based on the combination of looking at the issues, the candidates' proposals and my own person reaction to them: why would you do that? that's how we make our best political decisions. sheesh. you'll note my piece was about one person only, not about his opponent. there's no need to denigrate her (as some here have done to Charles) when his strengths and qualities more than suffice to earn my vote.

    and thousands of others in Portland.

    <h2>(rw, when we meet on Election Night or some point, we'll toast Charles, come what may. he has a future, whatever Nov 4 brings.)</h2>

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