Standing out in the Crowd for the Right Reasons

Pat Ryan

Standing out in the Crowd for the Right Reasons

Big Doins here on BO when Kari put out the story that our favorite irascible city commissioner, Randy Leonard became the first on the council to endorse my guy Jefferson Smith for mayor. Gotta give props to Kari for maintaining his careful balancing act and evenhandedness, which keeps Blue Oregon viable as we go through the biannual rituals of more or less genteel progressive fratricide.

Anyhow back to the Boyz. Randy’s a guy after my own heart, who has carefully crafted and nurtured his blue collar street cred since back in his Portland Fire Bureau days, and has been a reliable populist icon for the marginalized East Side. Not a surprise then that he came out for Jefferson, who upon embarking on his elective political career, left the environs of the somewhat upscale and reliably progressive Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood, to buy a home in the decidedly grittier, and less reliably liberal east Parkrose area. I lived and worked in Parkrose for several years back in the eighties, and the eclectic mix of light manufacturing, weekly rental motels, massage parlors and strip joints, it was a world away from Northwest or the Hawthorne. In a word, this ain’t Portlandia.

Jefferson swims in hipster and hippie culture with ease of course, given his years of creating and nurturing the Bus Project, so you might see this move, and his moves in the legislature as counter-intuitive. Look a little closer at Jefferson’s personal and family history though and you’ll see what a natural fit it is. Start with RP Joe, Jefferson’s dad, himself an attorney who cut his teeth (and made some serious career and personal sacrifices in the interest of personal integrity) out on Oregon’s High Plateau east of the Cascades decades back. Jump ahead to the last session of the legislature and there’s Jefferson working with Republican rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendlton) to successfully write and pass HB3369 by a huge bipartisan margin, 43-16 to address pressing issues of water allocation in Morrow County.

Well, of course the Dems have their carpetbaggers and their blue collar upstarts who sometimes morph into seedy imitations of Mafia Dons once elected, so whither Jefferson after the cool populist move in the beginning of his first term in the lege? Why, full bore support for measures 66 and 67 which he knew would be demagogued to death by NFIB, AOI and the rest of the Usual Suspects. But, well, it was the right thing to do and if you can’t stand the heat, get off of the danged stove.

Jefferson’s a total wonk who loves nothing more than making a good TED presentation, but his feet stay on the ground. Utilitarian Progressives are scarcer than hen’s teeth, since too much introspection/dissection often winds up overriding any hope of the practical execution of elegant theory. Jefferson can brainstorm with the best of ‘em and still put something useful and practical on the table at the end of the last chorus of Kumbaya. He's a monster around a conference table and has spent years getting things done with all sorts of disparate players. This guy’s tailor made for the Mayor’s job, and with his lovely wife Katy and the third best dog in the world (Sorry George Bailey, loyalty first and all that) at his side, what’s not to like?

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    Thanks for the props, Pat, but entirely unnecessary. Just call 'em like I see 'em.

    And thanks for checking in here again. Keep 'em coming!

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      Well, perhaps Hales and Brady completed their preparations before entering the room.

      (And perhaps Jefferson was also prepared earlier, and his furious note-scribbling was entirely unrelated.)

      Full disclosure: My firm built Eileen Brady's website. I speak only for myself.

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        Could be, Kari. I wasn't looking over anyone's shoulder. Although, Mr. Smith struck me as being the best prepared of the three.

        Ms. Brady continually made "We need..." statements that sounded as though they had passed intensive focus-group testing, and Mr. Hales spent a lot of time reciting his past accomplishments.

        Mr. Smith, I thought, was far ahead in discussing forward-looking policies and how to pay for them.

        (I have no connection anyone's campaign and haven't decided who to vote for.)

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    I don't care how he prepares, really--it could just as easily mean he is scrambling to get his mind together at the last minute--but what comes out of his mouth when it's time to talk is what tells the tale, for me. I haven't heard the AARP transcript, but the OPB one was an eye-opener, even for someone who has already made their decision. Jeff was on another level. I thought it was very farsighted, for instance, to think about how the world would have viewed Portland if they had attempted to roust Occupy in that first week or two. There was enough notoriety from the pepper spray incident to prove that they were indeed "watching."

    It showed up for me most in the way Brady and Hales seemed to compete on who was the better "big project" candidate. Brady kept exhorting us to think big, Hales would chime in and say "I already did one of those last time I was on Council"...and Jefferson would say "yeah, but do we NEED that big thing, is it more important than these other things, and does it really solve a city problem, or just show that we can do big things?" They also both seemed to indicate that they'd try to rise above the "weak mayor" label. I believe Smith views his task as one where it's imperative to work WITHIN that circumstance, not try to subvert it or dominate it.

    Thanks for the read, Pat.

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    Pat I don't mean to sound snarky, but your profile has about as little content as most of the campaign. Can you give me at least a few specifics?

    Honestly, it's the lovefest that worries me, it feels oh so familiar from four years ago.

    A "monster around the conference table", what's that supposed to mean? He's been in the Leg how long exactly?

    He supported 66 and 67 from a totally safe legislative seat. I give him props for supporting fiscal sanity, but this distinguishes him from the other candidates how?

    The story about Jenson, I don't get the point. He worked with a member from the other party to pass a bill that received overwhelming bipartisan support. Ok. So the lesson is ... that he can identify a winning issue? Or did he actually build that bipartisan coalition? I honestly don't know, but just citing a random story doesn't do much for me.

    I am looking for some stability, some competence. I don't want big ideas. I want a well managed city. Economic development is a number one priority for me.

    And I am very concerned about what appears to me to be cronyism in a number of recent high profile city appointments, an issue that Jefferson has been notably silent on. Perhaps unfair, but it makes it seem like he's the candidate of the current power structure.

    I don't know who I am supporting yet, but Jefferson is not at the top of my list. He was a great legislator. I have a lot of concerns about him as chief executive.

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      When Jefferson and Jenson were assigned the water issue, there was a collective belief that they wouldn't be able to find a solution that would have broad support.

      As they say, "whisky's for drinking, and water's for fighting over."

      Instead, Jefferson and Jenson worked hard, thought creatively, and managed what many thought was impossible - craft an agreement to do something about Eastern Oregon water that users and conservation advocates could support.

      Here's a newspaper clip from early in the process, demonstrating the skepticism.

      Here's an East Oregonian editorial praising the work, "Many agree its approval was among the bigger accomplishments the 2009 Legislature."

      The Oregon League of Conservation Voters called it "the most important water bill in more than 20 years."

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