Defining Jefferson Smith

By Jerome Brooks of Houston, Texas. Jerome calls himself "a forward thinking policy wonk with a body across the country and a mind and heart still in Portland."

Growing up in rural Mississippi and Alabama, I've always been cognizant of the ideology that politicians can only be trusted as far as your campaign contribution carries them. Add to that, a molding of sorts, in the belly of the the DC political system and it's safe to assume that politics has always left me jaded. Now don't get me wrong, politics has always been something I've been interested in as a necessary means to a public service end. However, it was something that I always felt I had to be abrasive in negotiation, distrusting of people in general, and willing to do "whatever was necessary" to get my way. Needless to say, it didn't make for a very pleasant outlook on society in general.

Fast forward four years to April 2010 and I found myself debating where I would spend my summer. I had offers all across the country, ranging from spending the summer working on the Immigration Law Project with the ACLU in San Francisco, to working for the world renowned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in Washington, DC. All of the options on the table had the potential to catapult my career to where I'd always wanted it to be, but there was one that stood out for all of the wrong reasons. When I say all of the wrong reasons, I speak from the perspective that if there is not a clear end goal, then it's not worth your time. I was offered a spot as a Summer Fellow with the Oregon Bus Project. While I had never heard of the organization, nor had I ever thought about working in the Pacific NW, something about it called out to me. I'm a person who operates a lot based on gut feeling and discernment. I thought about it for all of a day and made the decision that I would turn down financial and career perks for an unknown that I had a great feeling about.

Fast forward to the middle of my summer with PolitiCorps. Having never been in the Pacific NW almost everything proved to be an absolute culture shock. I enjoyed myself from day one, but my viewpoints, comfort zone, and way of operating had all been continuously challenged from day one too.

Enter Jefferson Smith.

I'd seen Jefferson here and there, but hadn't really had a chance to connect with him because he was in the middle of a million and one things. However a random experience in Hillsboro turned negative brought us together. I was having somewhat of a hard time adjusting and really needed someone to hash things out with. I was passing Jeff on the stairs one day and he asked me a simple question "Hey, are you alright?". My response was a meager "I'm fine", fully knowing that I really wasn't; I just knew he was an extremely busy, extremely important person. Jeff saw right through that and directed me to set up a meeting for the next morning so we could sit down and talk. Over a very delicious breakfast at the Cadillac Cafe, I laid it all on the table - hopes, insecurities, fears, judgement, etc. In the most bare form of myself, I made one statement - "I just don't get it". In turn Jeff did the same, but also did a lot more. He met me where I was at and walked with me through a lot of different things providing insight and advice at every step. At the end of our morning journey, which felt like a lifetime of processing, I was alright. I was grounded and focused, ready to both give everything I had and benefit from the opportunity before me.

Since then I've been all across the country, from working for Rahm Emanuel in Chicago to working for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in Houston, TX. I've had years of experience in the political/government affairs arena that provides me with a wealth of knowledge on how to get things done. Yet, out of all of the things I've experienced, Jeff has taught me the most. When he says "Not left, not right, but forward", I see an ideology that will ensure that regular people needing representatives to be servant leaders rather than political actors will get the resources needed to be successful. When he says "The definition of priceless is 'worth a lot, not for sale'", I see a statesman whose only reason for serving in an elected capacity is because he knows that he has something to bring to the table that will benefit his constituency. I see a humble leader who is willing to admit that he doesn't know the answer, but will also put in the time to find out what that answer should be. He is a leader that has inspired hundreds of young politicos to not only serve, but serve in a way that bucks the traditional system of governance. We no longer have to bend or bow to the politics of service because we know that the most powerful special interest group is the people we wish to serve.

I'm proud to consider Jefferson Smith a friend and mentor. I am also proud of the way he has decided to run this race to be the next Mayor of Portland. You can tell a person anything, but your actions are the true testament of your heart. Jeff is the perfect mayoral candidate at the perfect time for Portland. We must not play trial and error with the values and future of Portland, because Portland deserves more. When the next Mayor of Portland acts, he must act with the integrity and deliberate intent that many of the issues in Portland require. When he acts, he must not only act in response to the issues at hand, but also in response to the need long past due.

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    "You can tell a person anything, but your actions are the true testament of your heart."

    i'm afraid that's the part too many people are having problems with.

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        i'm only relating what people are saying, using the writer's words as context. you can protest to your heart's content, but this is the conversation that's going on. he didn't lose the endorsements because the firefighters & cops suddenly don't like his politics.

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      Yes- both candidates have done bad things- one in his personal life, one in his public life. With so many great folks in Portland, how did we end up with such a depressing choice?

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      Jerome Brooks:

      Not everyone has a past that involves punching people. Jefferson Smith's tendency to punch people has been documented as recently as last year's basketball game where a punch got him ejected.

      By contrast, a lot of us get through life without ever punching anyone.

      Are Smith's violent habits relevant to the election? They are for voters who think good character is important in a mayor. I know that "morality" is an old-fashioned concept, but I think it's profoundly immoral to punch people. I'd prefer to have a mayor that didn't do that, whatever his other qualifications might be.

      I just can't get past the image of 6'4" Jefferson Smith punching a 5'3" 18-year-old woman in the face so hard that she required six stitches.

      The punch landed near the eye, so Smith had to be punching down. She's looking up, angry and upset, and Smith, looming over her, slams his fist down on her face without pity and with enough force to cause significant injury.

      Her face could be that of my grand-daughter once she grows up, my three lovely great-nieces once they grow up, or my two wonderful nieces when they were a few years younger.

      The image is both defining and relevant because it could happen to any young woman in my life if she happened to cross the wrong angry young man.

      If Smith were elected mayor, I would see that image of his fist smashing into a young woman's face every time I saw his face on TV.

      No thanks.

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        But here's the dilemma: Charlie Hales has been bought and paid for by the real estate developers. Hales punched the Richmond Neighborhood in the face. Who can we vote for? The immediate threat to our neighborhoods (Hales) or a man with anger management issues? I sincerely welcome your thoughts on how to solve this dilemma. Lavonne Griffin?

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          How did Hales punch the Richmond Neighborhood in the face?

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            The rack and stack no parking buildings financed by tax abatements. Remember that 40% of Hales money came from developers. He used to lobby for them. Now we face a taxpayer financed apartment bubble. Hales has ruined inner SE. Foster-Powell begs for development, but I have to finance the destruction of those features that made Richmond special because Hales & Adams et al are beholden to the Wemmers and Arbor Custom Homes etc.

            I note that Hales insulates himself in low density Eastmoreland.

            Our choices are bleak.

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          Write in Eileen Brady. There is a new page on Facebook called Write In Eileen. #writeineileen. You can read more about it on

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      If it was just one thing he did in his early 20s that be one thing. However, it appears that Smith has displayed erratic behavior, disregard of the law and self-responsibility even until recently.

      It was less than a year ago or so when he punched someone during a basketball game and was also ejected from a soccer game. I have been playing basketball my entire life and never once, no matter how heated or competitive the game was, did I ever punch someone. He obviously still has anger issues.

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    Here's a little exercise as you prepare to vote for Portland's next mayor. It's a word game and here's how it goes.

    In a single sentence, use these three names:

    1. Jerry Sandusky
    2. Lance Armstrong
    3. Jefferson Smith

    And these words and phrases:

    1. Deceit
    2. Conspiracy
    3. Denial
    4. Cover-up
    5. Long-term
    6. Bullying
    7. Exploitation
    8. Manipulation
    9. Witchhunt
    10. Character
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    Kari, your reply is so inscrutable that I can easily agree. To "move on", here is what we all should be extremely worried about. I'm here, and I know it's for real:

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    It's not the twenty years ago part of this that bothers me. It's the lack of impulse control part of it, that comes up to the present.

    Specifically, Jefferson S.'s decision to approach the woman in question, personally, unannounced, on her doorstep, bothers me.

    Not, say, have one of his many friends reach out to her and say: "Look, Jeff is concerned about this, he feels really bad about what he did twenty years ago, he'd like you to know that, and if it would help you believe he's changed to talk to him he's available, if not no worries."

    Some kind of approach like that would have given her the chance to have control over how she responded.

    It would have shown that he understood after twenty years the problems with the power dynamics in his callower youth -- that the pressure he put on her then actually was a kind of sexual harassment even if University and frat culture led it to go unquestioned mostly, that as a really big guy he had a responsibility to control his violent reaction to her reaction of surprise, even if he didn't get that at the time and everybody was drunk or hung over.

    It would have shown that he understands that he might appear threatening, being a big guy with a lot at stake who sent her to the emergency room once.

    But that's not what I see or hear.

    So that raises the question for me about what difference the 20 years have made.

    It also bothers me that he lied about what happened, that he claimed at first that he never encountered her before the couch tipping incident.

    Just as Hales' residency stuff has bothered me.

    But the power of this criterion no to distinguish the candidates seems to have massively degraded.

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      I don't see it as that clear at all Hart. A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to ask Hales directly about CRC and what he said to me was that he thought the whole thing needed re-examination.

      Will have to look at coal trains if I can find them about either of them.

      When I listen to Jefferson S., I often find it hard to understand exactly what he's saying.

      When Brady, Hales and Smith were duking it out they seemed to reflect different parts of Portland's establishment -- a liberal establishment, but still an establishment -- and I thought and still think that whoever gets elected will end up mending the fences and not challenging very much. I still think that of the remaining two.

      Also, I'm guessing you may not have daughters.

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      Hart is right and everyone not in 100% agreement with him is with 1) wrong 2) dumb 3) a right-winger or 4) all of the above.

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      For what it's worth, we don't elect a mayor based on one or two issues, regardless how important they maybe.

      The Mayor of Portland is not the main driver (pun intended) of the CRC. Governors of both Oregon and Washington, the Federal government (DOT and Coast Guard) as well as other regional officials, like the mayor Vancouver. While the city of Portland should have a strong voice, we are not the only voice.

      Regarding Smith. This is not a single incident that happened in his 20s. Less than a year ago, he decked someone playing basketball and was also ejected from a soccer game for over-agressive behavior. Add on to that his multiple driving suspensions, missing court dates and self-admission ADD (likely ADHD) and so on, and I don't know how anyone cannot seriously and critically question how he would represent our city without blowing a casket or worse.

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    Just read the apology Smith published. It at least speaks to some of the things that bother me.

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    Interesting that Mr. Smith would choose late Friday to make his apology, the time when politicians typically release news that want to bury.

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      The internet knows no weekday, his apology has been reposted on the innernettes by just about everyone I know.

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        Hart Noecker:

        It's not a question of when something can be published but when the readers are interested. The Internet knows no weekends but people do.

        A Friday afternoon release dumps a story into the Bermuda Triangle of news impact, today just as much as 20 years ago.

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      Spot on. Despite the quickness of news to make it to the "series of tubes", it is still very common to dump bad news on Friday

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    I personally give Jeff the benefit of the doubt, but he doesn't have a chance to win this election now. Charlie is owned by development interests AND I can't support him because I don't like how he's run his campaign. I want a mayor who practices honesty and transparency--two critical core tenets of sustainability that are too often overlooked by those who claim to practice it.

    A movement has been brewing to write in Eileen Brady. I just learned about it and it seems to be developing some serious buzz with a new Facebook page (Write In Eileen) and a twitter hash tag #writeineileen. I am so excited to feel like I have a choice again. Eileen's not perfect and wouldn't claim to be but I've known her for 20 years and I know she's honest, compassionate, generous and smart as a whip. I don't need perfect but I cringe to vote for "flawed."

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    Does anyone know if Charlie Hales has given back that $10,000.00 in dirty coal money yet? If he hasn't I'm concerned that he may allow dirty coal trains to rumble through Portland several times a day, which would cause an ecological menace akin to a collective act of violence on our community.

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      Hart: Start off by saying that I don't really support either of the candidates, nor do I support the possibility of coal trains running through the city.

      However, you are becoming insufferable with this one particular cry. You cleverly say "he may allow" knowing full well (I assume) that the mayor is only one vote on the city council. You are simply spreading irrational fear tactics with your rhetoric.

      Do you care that Jefferson took a campaign contribution from a member of the Tonkin family (i.e. Tonkin auto dealerships) or took over $17,000 this year from Plaid Pantry whose business relies on selling junk food and sugary products?

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