Rex Burkholder gives Dave Lister a smackdown

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Dave Lister, the City Hall gadfly/candidate/columnist, is now complaining about Metro saying that it is "driven by a left-leaning minority that's out of touch with regular working men and women." Metro, of course, is the elected regional government for the 27-city area that includes and surrounds Portland.

Of all the arms of local government none are regarded by conservatives with more mistrust than Metro, the region's odd, elected governmental overlay. Born of Oregon's 30-year-old system of centralized land-use planning, touted at the time as the way of the future but yet to be imitated by any other state, Metro has been composed of the far left, advocating for the far left.

Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder takes issue with Lister's whine, writing in the Oregonian:

After reading Dave Lister's columns over the years, I am convinced that he seriously doesn't like democracy.

In his latest attack on his favorite whipping boy, he infers that the directly elected Metro Council is somehow dominated by a "leftist" conspiracy. Well, every one of those councilors (as well as the Portland city commissioners he regularly berates) are duly elected, by the people. No tricks, no conspiracies, just a battle of ideas. That's how it works in this country.

For a failed politician like Lister to complain that his losing ideas should somehow (not through democratic election) become policy is un-American. Period.

Bravo, Rex. You're exactly right. This is how democracy works. If you don't like it, Dave, then run for office. Go find some of your fellow citizens to put you in charge. (Oh yeah, you tried that. Didn't work out. Guess we're not such a "minority" after all, eh?)

Incidentally, the subject of Lister's column is an exhortation to conservatives to join Metro's Opt-in Panel - a new experiment in which Metro is trying to pull together 10,000 residents who will participate in the steering of the regional government by answering questions. The whole thing is managed by the polling firm of Davis, Hibbits & Midghall and they hope to get enough people in the mix so that representative samples - by age, gender, ethnicity, region, political ideology, etc - can be assembled.

I have no complaint with Lister exhorting conservatives to join the panel. In fact, I think that's a great thing. I'm confident that when conservative local residents wrestle with the choices inherent in managing our urban growth, they'll come to many of the same conclusions as the rest of us. The more voices heard, the more the conclusions reached are meaningful - and the more that Metro's decision-making becomes trusted.

But smacking around Metro as undemocratic and left-leaning is just silly. That might be a reasonable complaint about every other regional government in America, but here, where we've got the only elected regional government? Absurd. This is what democracy looks like.

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    The op-ed piece by Lister is a great example of rhetorical overreach. While he might have some valid points worth debating he goes so far in his claims that he loses any respect for his arguments. Metro is "eradicating the automobile"? Come on Dave.

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    Didn't the center-right Tom Hughes just beat the left of center Bob Stacey for Metro's leadership? Dave is a frustrated conservative living in a largely liberal metro area.

    But let's not kid ourselves, Rex & Kari--our representation is only about and the result of democracy, to the extent that money stops talking. It's probably not fair to say that absent political $ the elections would be flipping from leftist to right-wing in the metro area--but who people want is not at all necessarily who they're getting.

    I would suggest demography is what's frustrating Dave, not democracy. But he deserved the smackdown anyway.

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      In general, I agree with you about campaign money.

      But it's worth noting that Metro campaigns are just about the cheapest major campaigns around here - mostly because there are very few donors who have a self-interest in Metro.

      For example, Burkholder spent $400k in the primary; Stacey spent $650k between the primary and the general; and Hughes spent $525k between the two elections.

      And that's for a competitive race in an electorate that's 2.5x the size of a congressional race.

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    "Failed politician"? Rex should know.

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      Most elected officials lose a race or two.

      Rex was elected twice to his council seat, and earned support from 28% of the region's voters in a tight three-way primary for Metro President (as Kari noted, an area a little less than half the electorate of Oregon).

      Lister got 14% for a city council race.

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    Lister is classic trog - conservative without depth of thought. I am reminded of the Frank Ivancie period of Portland politics.

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