Chuck Currie: Why I'm Running

Chuck Currie: Why I'm Running

Chuck Currie

By Chuck Currie of Portland, Oregon. Rev. Currie is a minister in the United Church of Christ and a candidate for Multnomah County Commissioner in District 2. Learn more at

If you believe people deserve access to good jobs, quality primary and mental health care, affordable housing, a clean environment, safe communities and a fair and sustainable tax system, then please support me in my run for Multnomah County Commissioner.

When you look at the roles and responsibilities of Multnomah County government it is notable that economic development is not a function of the county. I believe, however, that the elected leaders of Multnomah County can take a role in economic development that helps create jobs.

Businesses will be more likely to locate in Multnomah County – and bring jobs to the area – if our schools are top notch, the environment sustainable, our social services effective, and streets safe. Multnomah County plays a role in all these areas. As a Multnomah County Commissioner, I want our government to help build a climate that attracts jobs that pay family living wages. A focus on better developing our infrastructure could be beneficial to our economic development needs as well.

In short, while Multnomah County doesn’t have a direct role in economic develop we can help create a climate that people want to invest in. Right now families are taking their children out of public schools and younger people are moving away (or not moving to our area at all). That’s a big difference from the 1990s when Portland was THE destination city for many people.

Multnomah County is where the issues I’m most concerned with are debated.

The county runs human service and health care programs, provides support for public education, and helps secure the public safety of the community. These are the issues I’ve passionately worked on my entire adult life. And, I’ve spent the last 25 years building powerful partnerships with non-profits, religious organizations, businesses and local government to address these issues and make our county a better place.

Over the years I’ve been willing to take on issues that other people have shied away from. I’ve taken risks, fought hard for the common good, and always put principles before political gain.

I have a record that few can match in this race.

We can bring this same leadership and experience to Multnomah County. Multnomah County is fortunate to have several well qualified people running for this position. All counties should be so lucky. What sets me apart from this good group of people is the range of experiences that I have working with government, non-profits, community groups and the faith community. I also run for this office beholden to no other politician or special interest group. My only allegiance is to the people of Multnomah County.

As a Multnomah County Commissioner, I want to expand programs for children (like SUN Schools and School Based Health Care Centers), fight for the needs of mid and East County (part of the county so often ignored but where I recently served as the long-term interim minister of Parkrose Community United Church of Christ), and to use the bully pulpit of the office to fight off environmentally damaging projects like the proposed Columbia River Crossing which would inflict deep harm on N/NE Portland and instead work to build up a green economy that is sustainable for the long-term. And I want to build support in the community for new sources of revenue that would allow us to accomplish these goals and more (like fixing our broken mental health system).

I’ve lived in Multnomah County since I was a teen-ager (and in the Metro area since I was 11) and I’ve dedicated my professional career to making this a better community for all people. Too often people see the Multnomah County Commission as a stepping stone to higher office. I’m running specifically for this seat because this is the area of government that matches my expertise. I have a passion for the issues dealt with by Multnomah County and would be deeply honored to serve as a Multnomah County Commissioner. The road ahead won’t be easy, but together we can build a better community.

  • (Show?)

    Chuck's a workaholic with a heart of gold. He's made a career (since high school, when he led the Washington County Young dad remembers him from those days, when WashCo was redder'n'hell) of building a better community in the Portland area and has the right skills and perspective to be an effective commissioner.

    His work with the homeless, nonprofits, faith communities and local governments has given him a well-rounded view of the problems facing Multnomah County and how we can address them. He's the only candidate in this race with real ideas and positions up on his website at

  • (Show?)

    Chuck, I respect the work you do. However, let me ask you this: What do you make of the fact that the commission will be all white folks if you and Cogen are elected?

    • (Show?)

      That’s a fair and difficult question. I’ve spent a big part of my life working for racial justice and equality. As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I’ve been part of a program called “A Sacred Conversation on Race” and I was one of the few white clergy to join AMA and my colleague Rev. Jackson after the shooting of Aaron Campbell. The color of your skin doesn’t necessarily serve as an indicator of how you will respond to issues of racial justice. I’m not aware of any of the other candidates in this race, for example, responding as forcefully as I have over the conduct of the Portland Police Bureau. And I’m not new to that fight. I’m been raising these issues my entire career. As you may know, I was one of the clergy who officiated at the memorial service for James Chasse. None-the-less, I agree that we’re not diverse enough in our politics and I will not begrudge anyone who factors that reality into how they vote. But I do believe it should be one factor among many. When I stood up for Jesse Jackson back in 1988 and for Barack Obama in 2007 – back when he was 30 points behind in the polls – it wasn’t because of their skin color but because of their positions. I hope that is how all of us are judged in this campaign.

  • (Show?)
    When you look at the roles and responsibilities of Multnomah County government it is notable that economic development is not a function of the county.

    Actually K-12 education is less a function of the county than is economic development.

    I also question the seriousness of claiming that the Columbia River Crossing is an environmentally detrimental project. SUch claims are specious at best, but I am will to hear you out if you care to explain exactly how you see it as a serious negative environmental issue.

    • (Show?)

      Mitch, the CRC's DRAFT environmental impact statement has been challenged in court by environmental law professors at Lewis & Clark.

      The project itself will be a 12-lane monstrosity (although they have now rebranded it as a 10-lane, wide enough for 12 lanes) that will encourage more vehicle trips and prioritize single-occupancy vehicles over mass transit and active transportation.

      Additionally, the bottleneck that currently exists on the bridge will simply be shifted into N/NE Portland where I-5 will have fewer lanes than the bridge does. The pollution and particulate matter will then not be swept by wind up the Gorge, but rather sit around in N/NE neighborhoods.

      This bridge proposal will increase greenhouse gas emissions, put the automobile over all else and abandon our commitment to developing livable communities in the region.

      There's a reason that Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Coalition for a Livable Future, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Environment Oregon and Upstream Public Health oppose the project. What more convincing do you need?

      • (Show?)

        So you (and presumably Chuck Currie) are hanging you hat on the "it will induce more cars to take to the road" claptrap?


        The hyperbolic "12 lane monstrosity" rhetoric is such over-the-top nonsense as to make such "arguments" laughable, given that none of the plans had 6 through lane plans each direction.

        • (Show?)

          Mitchell - The plans clearly have six lanes in each direction across the river - making it a 12 lane bridge. The "through lanes" spin is what's disturbing... what's next, taking the lane count at Centralia and using that?

          Study after study - and common sense - demonstrate that when you make something easier to drive on, people will shift in three ways - time of day, mode, and route - to driving on the expanded road. It's called triple convergence. You could look it up. Or just call names and pretend the evidence isn't there.

          • (Show?)

            Please cite a single "name" I called anyone, thank you.

            As to the substance, the "induced traffic" study claims I have read through (via links provided in numerous previous threads on the subject) do not hold up under scrutiny.

            • (Show?)

              Your tinfoil's a bit tight!

              If you build it, they will drive it. My dad knows directors at Exxon-Mobil that believe that.

              "Claptrap", offering no supporting evidence? That's just trolling!

              • (Show?)

                Not trolling at all. I have read numerous links provided in previous post on the topic which claim to prove an induced increase in traffic with road improvements, i.e. assert that road improvements are a causation of increased vehicular use, is dubious at best.

                • (Show?)

                  Triple convergence is a legit way to analyze this stuff. Just think about the way you drive. If you're in a grid system (like in SE Portland), and there's suddenly stopped traffic in front of you, you swerve off to a side street and go around -- that's route displacement.

                  Now, there's a bit of an exception to that for bridges where there's no route alternative.

                  That said, there's definitely all kinds of time displacement happening for folks who are Vancouver commuters -- folks who work a 6-3 or 7-4 shift to avoid traffic, etc. There are clearly mode displacements - folks who prefer C-TRAN to sitting in traffic, or folks who carpool.

                  If there's a perception that the preferred route/mode/time combo (say, I-5, by myself, at 8 a.m.) is now more available then more people will choose that combo -- right up to the point where it starts to encourage displacement choices again.

                  So, folks need to understand that building new capacity won't reduce peak traffic at peak times. It may, however, reduce traffic on the edges of the displacement (fewer 6 a.m. commuters, more 8 a.m. commuters; fewer C-TRAN/carpool users, more SOVs.)

                  To the extent that there will be more folks driving alone and more cars sitting and idling on the freshly-wider freeway, you're probably talking about higher levels of auto pollution.

                  Advocates who argue that a wider road will speed cars through at peak times are pretending that folks won't adjust their behavior to the new capacity.

                  • (Show?)

                    Well aware of the claims about induced traffic. I simply don't see the evidence persuasive in the studies that are cited, and there is claims of causation (when it is an issue of correlation) that simply isn't supported. Furthermore capacity does in fact reduce travel times in peak periods, and so idling is reduced.

                    Add to that, this is a bridge that will be in use for more than half a century and given the direction of low to zero-emission vehicles that will come to the fore over the next decade, I simply don't buy the environmental negative impact that people railing against the CRC assert.

                    In addition, with the larger lane capacity, this affords the flexibility to be creative in encouraging low-emissions vehicles and mass transit (i.e. bus and high-capacity vehicles) in commuting in that you can dedicate lanes for such vehicles with permit stickers etc.

                  • (Show?)

                    Kari, if I could Super-Like this, I would.

    • (Show?)

      And also, I think you're selling short your definition of "education." The county runs the library system, administers youth programs and works in a number of ways to strengthen the education and opportunities available to our kids.

      This requires the sort of coalition-building that Chuck has done among faith communities, nonprofits and local governments to make the most of the chronically underfunded schools we need to support.

      Chuck has been involved in the SUN Schools program and brings great depth of knowledge on education achievement gaps and barriers to access that will serve Multnomah County well.

      • (Show?)

        I don't disagree that the county has areas which are tertiary to K-12 education and can strengthen it. Same can be said for economic development, but it, like education, is not bailiwick of the county.

        All well and good that Chuck has a diverse background and has involvement in SUN schools. But it is similar to someone running for city commissioner and talking about schools. It tells me very little about things pertinent to the issues at hand vis-é-vis the office the person is seeking (and in some cases, though I am not leveling this at Chuck, makes me question the candidate who bring sup issues not relevant for that office).

        I suppose what I am hinting at is I would like to hear more about what Chuck would seek to accomplish and how in the areas of the core function of the County Commission.

        • (Show?)

          If you didn’t find all the answers you wanted here please visit my website at You’ll find additional information on my positions (including a link to questions asked by The Oregonian). But with respect, I think you’re missing something very important concerning the role of Multnomah County Commissioners. Those that hold that office should be advocates on a large range of issues because the programs operated by the county intersect with every other level of government and facets of life for residents. Commissioners should be experts on county programs, of course, but they also need to be experts / advocates on issues that the county commission doesn’t necessarily have jurisdiction over but that still impact the life of Multnomah County.

          • (Show?)

            Thanks for the link.

            Over the last ten years, the county budget has shrunk year-over-year. What ranking in priority would you place the services the county fulfills in order of budget priority?

            What programs would you cut to meet decreased revenue levels, which would you keep at current levels, which (if any) would you increase?

            • (Show?)

              I’d prioritize programs that serve the most vulnerable. There are also ways to save tax payer money if we better organize corrections. A debate needs to be had over whether or not we need an elected sheriff. But to continue to provide the core services of the county which are so important we need to find ways of increasing revenue. Obviously, we need tax reform on a state level. But I also believe that we need to look at local options. The majority of Multnomah County residents, for example, voted for an increase in the cigarette tax. That failed statewide but we might look there for increased revenue locally. I’m not running to continue cutting budgets. I’m looking to help create an environment where we can expand programs that help children succeed in school, for example, and to building critically needed affordable housing for those struggling just to get by.

              • (Show?)

                Thanks for the reply. I would however like to press you on the question of what you define as "the most vulnerable" and thereby what specific programs you would cut (not sure if you I should read into your statement about Sheriff elections as to if you see a major reorganization of the Sheriffs office as a way to save money, if so how?)... what programs you would keep at current funding, and what ones you would increase spending on (if any)...?

                I appreciate your emphasis of finding more and stable revenue sources instead of constantly trying to stretch fewer dollars further and further (which I am open to) but it would also be good to know how someone who seeks to be commissioner would handle the very real possibility that such a task would be handled.

                • (Show?)

                  Commissioners don’t have the power to simply cut programs. That’s a collaborative process undertaken by the board during the budget process and with input from citizens. I know you want a clear cut answer: “Chuck will cut x, y and z.” I’m not prepared to do that and because of the limitations of the position it wouldn’t matter anyway. I will tell you, however, that as someone who has worked with non-profits that contract with the county I’m not convinced that every agency that is provided funding is asked to show meaningful results for the investment put in by tax payers. I’d review all county contracts – and ask the county auditor to join in this effort – to make sure that programs receiving money from the county are being held responsible for producing results. Most are, I think. But I know some are not. We need to fix the contracts to demand accountability or stop funding the projects.

  • (Show?)

    This quote reminds me of Chuck: "if you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room". He is RELENTLESS in his crusade to make a difference in enhancing and protecting the quality of life of families in the community.He already has a list of the impact he has made over the years. He is not afraid to ask hard questions and make thoughtful decisions. I alwasys thought Chuck would end up in politics and I'm glad he has chosen NOW to run because that's what the world of politics needs desperately right now: integrity, compassion, action

  • (Show?)

    our schools are top notch now because portland public schools all funds budget per pupil this year is 14,889.00 and thats almost 5,000.00 higher than the national average and should shoot down this non stop liberal baloney about how underfunded our schools are.their all funds budget is 630 million this year and thats 185 million more than they tell the school parents and the public they get.enough talk about education importance because big deal education dont gurantee anything if schoolkids cant find a job in oregon anymore and have to move out of oregon to do so.there are many educated kids now who cant find jobs because of stifling anti business friendly liberal regualtions,fees,taxes and etc on businesses.

    • (Show?)

      Really, like companies that are moving to Oregon like Genetech, Facebook and Ferrotec?

      They must not have gotten the memo that we liberals and our taxes and regulations are so terrible and that they should create jobs in this liberal hell hole you call Oregon.

    • (Show?)

      Really, funny they tell everyone on their website their all funds budget is $649,727,533 (more than what you claim they are secretly not telling parents) and given they have a current enrollment of 46,596 students as of October of last year, me thinks someone needs to go back and take remedial math if they say the district is spending 14,889 per student.

  • (Show?)

    "Businesses will be more likely to locate in Multnomah County – and bring jobs to the area – if our schools are top notch, the environment sustainable, our social services effective, and streets safe."

    There's some truth in that statement. However, serious entrepreneurs will pass if the cost of doing business is exceedingly high, environmentalism appears to be the dominant religion, public safety is iffy at best and traffic gridlock is considered a good thing. Otherwise what type of businesses are you hoping to attract? I certainly hope it's something more a bicycle riding free spirit looking to sell a small volume of hand made craft goods.

    Kudos to Kari on the site update btw.

    • (Show?)

      Thanks for the kudos.

      But, I think it's quite clear that a number of businesses have located here over the years in part because of Oregon's environmental ethic.

      We have a thriving fitness apparel industry here -- an industry that is largely populated by those "bicycle riding free spirits" you deride.

      Perhaps you've heard of Adidas?

      Sure, they moved here in part to poach Nike staffers - but if Nike had been in New Haven, Connecticut, I doubt very much that Adidas would have landed there.

      • (Show?)

        I've know Chuck since he was a 17-year old volunteer at a local homeless shelter. Since then I have watched him develop into a well-informed and thoughtful adult with a solid command of the issues facing Multnomah County and its residents. That is why I am chairing Chuck's campaign committee.

        There are many talented candidates in the race for Multnomah County Commission Position 2. Chuck is my choice because he has over two decades of experience working with individuals and families who are homeless. More importantly, he has educated himself on the root causes of homelessness and poverty in our community. He will use that knowledge and experience to do good things as part of the County Commission.

  • (Show?)

    Wendy has nailed it!

    Relentless and passionate about social justice and the quality of life.

    We need him in government.

  • (Show?)

    Chuck, thanks for answering my last question. I do have another question for you, if you'll indulge me.

    As an atheist and a strict supporter of the Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state, I have concerns about a minister (no matter what stripe of religion) who runs for elected office. I have a friend who is a minister who also feels that clergy shouldn't be involved in politics for a different reason, to wit "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."

    Can you please explain how I have any assurance that you will not attempt to bring your belief into this office? In a time when America is more dangerously close to becoming a theocracy than ever before, I believe it's incredibly important to ask these kinds of questions.

    • (Show?)

      I'm not sure if Chuck has seen this, but I feel qualified to answer your question. I can assure you that Chuck honors a strict separation of church and state. How do I know? I'm married to him and I'm an atheist.

    • (Show?)

      Jefferson never intended that people of faith be excluded from participating in government. After all, Jefferson was a person of faith. I concur strongly with a statement issued by the United Methodist Church on this issue:

      “The United Methodist Church believes that the church has the moral imperative to act for the common good. For people of faith, therefore, there are no political or spiritual spheres where their participation can be denied. The attempt to influence the formation and execution of public policy at all levels of government is often the most effective means available to churches to keep before humanity the ideal of a society in which power and order are made to serve the ends of justice and freedom for all people. We believe that the integrity of both institutions is best served when both institutions do not try to control the other. Thus, we sustain with the first amendment to the Constitution that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” We live in a pluralistic society. In such a society, churches should not seek to use the authority of government to make the whole community conform to their particular moral codes. Rather, churches should seek to enlarge and clarify the ethical grounds of public discourse and to identify and define the foreseeable consequences of available choices of public policy.”

      My faith will obviously inform my decisions as a public official but if you excluded people who have a faith tradition from serving in public office you’d be discriminating against the vast majority of Americans. At the same time, as a public official my views will not only be informed by faith but primarily through the lens of public policy. My advisors and staff will not be chosen because of their faith (that wouldn’t even me a question I ask). Frankly, my closest advisor is my wife, a former Congressional staffer and public policy advocate for a state-wide non-profit that works on children’s health care issues, and she does not share my faith. I will represent all the people, not only those that have a religious tradition.

      If you are interested in learning more about my views regarding the separation of church and state I invite you to read a sermon that I delivered on the subject back in 2007 where I attempted to explain why such a separation was vital to my own congregation:

      Your friend, by the way, picked an interesting piece of Scripture "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's” to make his point. The theologian in me needs to point out that Jesus was actually saying here that nothing belonged to Caesar and all belongs to God. But that’s a discussion for a Sunday school class.

guest column

connect with blueoregon