"Can we, as a country, all
: May 2004: Me
unexpected foray into Portland politics began nine
months ago when I agreed to work for Phil Busse's
mayoral campaign. But it wasn't until our March
6th fundraiser at Berbati's Pan, during which Miss
Claire of the Big Bang Cirkus Sideshow pierced her
nipples and nether regions onstage, we screened
video footage of Portland police beating up protesters
and candidate Busse dropped his drawers for the
troupe's gameshow, "What's Up Your Ass?", that I
realized, viscerally, I'm in the middle of something
wonderful. Sure, Phil's ass is wonderful, but
the sight wasn't new to me. Our past was one of
the reasons I got involved with the campaign, but
what I've seen and learned since eclipses any failed
believes religion, money and politics shouldn't
about in polite society. Even though I haven't kept
my society that polite, it's taken me thirty-two
years and six cities to really care who my mayor
is. I was always too busy with school or work or
the inside of my head to pay attention. And in Portland,
it's also due to a sort of learned helplessness.
How can you not feel utterly helpless when your
mayor gives herself a 5% pay increase in the face
of 8% unemployment? Or refuses to give up her personal
chauffeur service rather than fund women's shelters
and rape crisis lines? Or when city council (which
is supposed to represent its constituents) ignores
thousands of protesters in the streets and votes
against the Anti-War resolution?
between Portland's city council and Portland's citizens
is one of the reasons Phil decided to run for mayor.
In reporting four years of news for the Portland
Mercury, he saw that local media were unwilling
to examine or criticize the actions of the mayor
and other city politicians. Now, in the thick of
the campaign (the primary is May 18th), it's clear
why change is so hard to bring about: money still
runs the show, and still determines who gets to
speak and for how long.
forums run by business associations have allowed
only the two perceived leaders in the mayoral campaign
to speak. When "lesser" candidates are covered in
the media, the result is a sloppy mishmash of slant,
error and omission. Most recently the Oregonian
painted Phil as a dilettante who'd joined the mayoral
fray in January, when he was actually the first
candidate to enter the race last August. Previously
the Oregonian questioned Phil's journalistic
integrity by saying he worked for a tabloid. Yet
when questions arose about the legality of a donation
given to Jim Francesconi's campaign by a downtown
developer, the Pulitzer Prize winning paper buried
the story (if the donation is proven illegal, it
will be a felony for both the developer and Francesconi).
A few days later, the Oregonian endorsed
Francesconi, commending his fundraising as evidence
of his desire to be mayor. Desire, indeed. I consider
it a greater desire, and a greater sacrifice for
that desire, that Phil has offered to give away
$100 of his mayoral salary, every day, to a needy
person or organization. But back to journalistic
integrity. Writing without bias is a near impossibility,
and I urge everyone to seek out the facts about
all the candidates, or at least see what their platforms
promise, or what their voting or employment records
reveal, and go from there.
my bias is whipping wildly in the wind. If politics
weren't such a new animal to me, perhaps I wouldn't
be so surprised and frustrated to be told, repeatedly,
that although Phil Busse has the most in-depth and
detailed platform, the most innovative ideas, the
most energy and charisma and-- above all else--a
deep desire to help this city reach its potential,
he isn't viable as a candidate because he works
for a newspaper that advertises sex shops, sometimes
paints his toenails blue and drives a motorcycle.
Public opinion is obviously firmly rooted in the
belief that a mayor has to be old, poorly dressed
and unwilling to challenge the status quo. I'm heartened
to learn that some cities will take a chance: Antanas
Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia,
cut traffic fatalities in half by employing 4,000
mimes to control the city's notoriously chaotic
and dangerous streets and by painting stars on the
exact places where pedestrians had been struck.
Mockus was a professor of math and philosophy who,
at the time of election, had no political experience,
just great intelligence, creativity and chutzpa.
And who can forget Bill Clinton playing saxophone
onstage in 2000? I felt truly hopefulthis
man is actually human. We all know that humanness
was partly his downfall, but had Portland been the
stage where that drama unfolded, perhaps we wouldn't
be at war.
work on this campaign I've talked to hundreds of
people about this city and how it could be improved.
We've held rock shows at Holocene, Meow Meow, Red
and Black Café and Mississippi Pizza. We
held a political movie series at the Fresh Pot and
Stumptown which included Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
(everyone should see this film at least once) and
The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary detailing
the rise and subsequent assassination of San Francisco's
first openly gay city councilor (killed by another
council member who was frustrated by Milk's progressiveness
and popularity). We've made many, many pies for
many people and visited their homes to talk and
listen to them. We've developed a hundred plus page
platform and a list of one hundred ideas to implement
during Phil's first hundred days in office. We've
made buttons and t-shirts and bumper stickers and
alienated many of our friends with our single-mindedness.
We've let the hope of change flow into every part
of our lives, for better or worse.
has the potential to be a really radical place.
We fight for our right to speak freely. We have
more strip clubs per capita than any other city.
We led the way in the legalization of medical marijuana,
physician-assisted suicide and same sex marriage
and have been wonderfully vocal and organized in
opposition to the war in Iraq. Do we want a mayor
who placates us with boring rhetoric? Who, though
very nice and grandfatherly, is essentially an aging
policeman? Do we want a mayor steered by the interests
of big business who, as a city council member, voted
against both Dignity Village and the Anti-War resolution?
Isn't it time we had a mayor who had the guts and
smarts to listen to our guts and smarts, someone
who could actually make a change and a difference?
And wouldn't it be an added bonus if that mayor
had an ass you'd actually want to see if he dropped
his pants onstage?
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