Why I'm Supporting Jefferson Smith for Mayor of Portland

By Bob Stacey of Portland, Oregon. Bob was recently elected to the Metro Council for District 6. He has worked on smart planning and sustainability for over 35 years, mostly recently serving as Executive Director for 1000 Friends of Oregon.

I am supporting Jefferson Smith for Mayor. I hope you’ll let me tell you why.

But first, I want to tell you a story.

In December 2004, 1000 Friends of Oregon really needed more friends. For the second time in four years, my organization had failed to beat a ballot measure aimed at destroying Oregon’s system of planning for the state’s future. Measure 37 had passed overwhelmingly that November. The only things preventing destructive development on Oregon’s farm and forest lands were the sloppy drafting errors of Measure 37’s authors; but the Governor and legislators were hard at work preparing to fix those flaws in the 2005 session.

1000 Friends put out the call to smart people across Oregon and across the country who could help us figure out what to do to save Oregon’s future. Jefferson Smith was one of the dozen brilliant strategists who joined us in our brainstorming sessions that bitter winter. He was with us six months later, after we’d defeated the legislation that would have “fixed” Measure 37, in our first “Envision Oregon” town hall in Corvallis. He was with us a dozen more times over the next year, in LaGrande and Newport and Medford and Eugene, as we asked Oregonians what they wanted for our state. He helped us turn the answers we got into a campaign to limit Measure 37. And Jefferson was still with us when I climbed on a chair in a packed room on Election Night in November 2007 to announce that Measure 49 had passed and the threat of Measure 37 had finally ended.

You learn a lot about someone you work with in the course of an intense campaign. I got to see how Jefferson inspired crowds of Oregonians in Hood River and Bend to think about the future of their state, just as he inspired the young people he called to community service in the Bus Project. At the Bus Project I also saw him draw in smart people who’d been around longer than he, people who challenged his assumptions. I saw him listen as well as argue, be persuaded as well as try to persuade. I saw his more seasoned advisors learn from him, as I did. And I saw him eagerly seeking knowledge from those around him. When he became a State Representative, I saw him champion smart planning, and our environment. I saw him stand up against the CRC - one of the first leaders in the state to do so.

Jefferson Smith is still doing those things in his campaign for Mayor of the City of Portland. He has developed well-informed positions on key issues facing the city. He has thought deeply about the structure of Portland’s unique form of government, and he has tested his insights by reaching out to many people who have served in that government, even as he shares his thinking with the public. And he continues to engage and inspire those who hear him.

I ran for Metro Council because I’m passionate about protecting our quality of life as our region and city grow. I want to protect both the countryside beyond the urban growth boundary and the natural areas and neighborhoods within the boundary, by putting new homes and jobs where they will strengthen and improve our communities. I’m working for more choices in how we get around, not more lanes of traffic. Jefferson is committed to those same goals, and he’s committed to ensuring the city of Portland leads the region by example. And he is superbly capable of inspiring Portlanders about these goals, speaking to them in their own language, rather than the planning jargon of the 1990s that folks my age too often use.

I want Jefferson Smith as a partner in regional planning and policy. I want Jefferson Smith to be the next Mayor of my hometown. I hope you’ll join me in supporting him.

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    First, lest anyone think that my purpose here is to lend any shred of support to Charlie Hales, please see my earlier comment on his endorsement post. As I said there, I no longer live in Oregon and have no skin in this campaign, just a curiousity. I don't follow this closely, but doesn't your guy have a personal and professional history that should make any reasonable person who cares about Portland fear his victory? I am told that the list might include some or all of the following or more: 1) discipline from the Oregon State Bar for failure pay dues; 2) punching out someone in some sports contest; 3) inattentive driving or something; 4) a career marked primarily by its brevity and serially brief employment (like my own)...? But you get the idea. Looks like you're all screwed either way.

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    Rochelle: Are you paid to feed opposition research to Nigel Jacquiss and Beth Slovic, those willing receptacles of anything negative? Jefferson has flaws, but people in glass houses...He did work for more than eight years in one job, starting the Oregon Bus Project and building it into an anchor of Oregon democracy. People forget how important ballot measure 49 was to Oregon, and the incredible role that Bob Stacey played in creating it and making it happen. Jefferson's commitment to the public interest, as described by Bob, is also peerless.

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