The Oregonian has endorsed Charlie Hales for the next Portland Mayor, and I strongly disagree. The Oregonian endorsement is based on specific qualities of their candidate: "a mayor who's ready to lead...experience on the Portland City Council...a record of accomplishment on jobs, transportation, parks and public safety...leadership." This sounds all too familiar, like this Oregonian endorsement of another former City Council member: "City Commissioner Sam Adams has delivered on his promises to businesses, bicyclists and other Portlanders. He has the drive, political savvy and vision to be mayor" (2008).
The mistake made by the Oregonian is to choose a candidate based on a stereotype of what qualities the right candidate should have. Leadership, accomplishments and experience are certainly admirable qualities, but are these the only things a good mayor needs? I think not, as history has shown. Each of the three mayoral candidates has her/his own unique set of experiences, accomplishments and leadership qualities. Choosing between them on this basis doesn't get us very far. The Oregonian would have us only elect someone who has already served on the City Council; this is a very limiting proposition.
Portland is a good city aspiring to be a great city. There are certain things that hold us back, some of them inherent in our specific form of government, some based in the different visions of people in city management positions, and others based in the agendas of the multitude of interests and groups that make up our citizenry. What can a mayor do with this mix to move Portland forward? What qualities need a mayor have to change our direction on those pathways that need a new direction? I have seen the qualities needed in Eileen Brady.
Paul Hawken, the businessman, author and sustainability guru who spoke at an Eileen Brady for Mayor event, used the term "reimagine" when discussing how to effect change in our society. That word stuck with me, and the following day I realized that it is the perfect word for articulating a major quality Eileen has, the ability to reimagine. Eileen's experience, accomplishments and leadership are forged from her ability to bring people together to not merely solve a problem, but to reimagine an issue in a way that avoids problems rather than having to solve them because they can't be avoided.
As a business owner in Portland for the past few decades, I've experienced first hand the multitude of issues one often hears from our business community when it comes to doing business here. As a consultant to both the public and private sectors, including contracts with the City, I've seen these issues from all sides. Portland does a lot right, but it also does a lot wrong, and this holds us back in many ways. Eileen Brady talks about the issues that she sees not only holding us back as a city, but, more importantly, holding us back as individuals who are the moving parts of the city. She voices concerns about the future, based on her view of the pathways leading forward from the place we are now. This is not a message of doom and gloom; this is a message of hope based on her firm belief that working together, we Portlanders can steer a course to a vibrant and thriving future.
The Oregonian endorsed Charlie Hales because his set of experiences, accomplishments and leadership as a City Council member resulted in his knowledge of where the levers of city government are and which ones need to be pulled in order to keep the City that Works machinery working. That's fine, if what we want is yet another political lever-puller.
I endorse Eileen Brady for Portland Mayor because she understands that moving Portland forward from these troubled times into a better future for everyone simply cannot be accomplished by keeping the old machinery running. We need a leader of a different kind, one who can help us reimagine the City of Portland as a great city, a city that works for everyone because we all make it work together.