Portland City Council, Position 4
Warning: We're about to flip-flop.
We endorsed City Commissioner Steve Novick, 53, in the May primary even while admitting that he had been a major letdown since winning election in 2012.
He'd irked Portlanders with his ill-fated "street fee," weaving in and out of his lane over the course of several months while claiming to still have control of the wheel. He embraced Uber after initially opposing the ride-hailing company's expansion in Portland—a reversal that looked worse when WW revealed his former political consultant was on the Uber payroll. He oversaw a 911 system that has left Portlanders on hold in their most desperate hours.
He seemed by turns irritated and distracted—so busy thinking globally that he snapped at anyone who asked him to act locally.
Voters wondered what had happened to the progressive firebrand who had so enamored Portland during his failed 2008 U.S. Senate race.
So did we. But we also believed then that Novick faced no credible challenger.
We've changed our minds.
Since May, we've seen tremendous political maturation in Novick's opponent, Chloe Eudaly, owner of the independent bookstore Reading Frenzy. In our joint interview with Eudaly and Novick, she displayed the kind of confidence and knowledge of city issues that comes only from having done lots of homework.
She remains laser-focused on what we and many others consider the most pressing issue facing Portland today—its threatened supply of affordable homes. For Eudaly, 46, this issue is personal. As the single mother of a physically disabled teenage son who uses a wheelchair, Eudaly has long grappled with a limited stock of suitable housing for her family. Eudaly says her own rent in the Woodlawn neighborhood has increased 60 percent in four years.
She's not alone. The rapid spike in rents across the city has alarmed residents and policymakers alike, for good reason. There is now a significant threat that without immediate and strong action, our city could turn into San Francisco North—a playground for life's lottery winners where the only people who can afford to live within five miles of Big Pink are cushioned by tech money.
We're not persuaded by Eudaly's argument that the answer to Portland's housing frenzy is an immediate rent freeze leading to rent control. Economists have long contended that rent control keeps prices low for only a small subset of the population. Everywhere else rents rise. Rent control also constrains the people it purports to help, by discouraging them from moving when they change jobs or when their families grow.
That said, Eudaly is not so myopic to believe that a rent freeze alone is enough to solve Portland's problems. She acknowledges that increasing Portland's supply of housing is crucial, too.
More than Novick, however, Eudaly is intent on keeping roofs over the heads of Portland's most vulnerable residents. And that means interventions that don't rely solely on market forces, she says. "We need to treat affordable housing as a part of our essential infrastructure," she says.
We agree. And if we aren't yet on board with a rent freeze, we're ready to consider government limits on the rental market—especially if paired with incentives to build more units for less money.
There are other compelling reasons to support Eudaly.
If elected, Eudaly would be the only member of the city's five-seat council to live east of the Willamette River. She would be the only small-business owner. She also would be only the eighth woman to serve on the council in the history of the city.
If Portland voters want the city to act on its stated intentions of better serving East Portland, it needs representation attuned to the needs of eastsiders. Novick says repeatedly he's helped the eastside by investing in improvements along 122nd Avenue and persuading TriMet to bring a rapid bus line to the thoroughfare. His achievements are real. We simply think Eudaly can and will do more.
The knock against Eudaly is that the bookseller lacks experience managing complex bureaucracies, which is perhaps the biggest task facing a city commissioner. But the same could be said four years ago of Novick. We trust Eudaly will be a quick study—the degree of improvement she's shown this year alone is remarkable.
For progressive leadership with heart, Eudaly is our pick for city commissioner.
What reality show would Eudaly compete on? Project Runway or The Voice, she says—"if they had The Voice for old people."
Multnomah County Commission District 1
If this contest came down to polish alone, our pick would be Eric Zimmerman. On the challenges the county tackles—homelessness, lack of affordable housing, inadequate mental health treatment—Zimmerman, 31, talks a better game. An Iraq War veteran and Oregon Army National Guard captain, Zimmerman can fluidly explain county issues—policies he's come to know well as chief of staff to departing County Commissioner Diane McKeel.
Dr. Sharon Meieran, 52, an emergency room physician, lacks Zimmerman's smoothness. At times, she struggles to express in plain terms her ideas for transforming the county's outdated health care systems.
But this race, a nonpartisan contest for a swath of Multnomah County, including most of inner Southeast Portland and the westside, isn't about who is more suave. On the qualities that truly count—experience, commitment, heart—Meieran is by far the better candidate. We trust her more, and agree with her on some key issues.
Take the most glaring example: the county's mothballed Wapato Jail. Zimmerman, who expressed little interest in addressing homelessness during the seven-way May primary, has made reopening the $58 million facility as a homeless shelter a campaign rallying cry. His solution has turned into a direct attack on County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury, and cost him the endorsement of the man he seeks to replace, departing Commissioner Jules Bailey.
It also puts Zimmerman at odds with good sense. The never-opened Wapato facility in outer North Portland is 15 minutes on foot from the nearest bus stop on a TriMet line that doesn't run on weekends. It's too expensive and too far from key social-service agencies to operate as a shelter. (Meieran has mostly sided with Kafoury, while leaving open the possibility of revisiting the issue.)
Kafoury, who endorsed Meieran, has rightly called out Zimmerman for using the issue to score political points. We'll go further: He flirts dangerously with the idea of rousting homeless people from doorsteps and banishing them to a compulsory camp. That's a dog whistle Portlanders should reject.
Our previous reporting and May endorsement of Meieran both pointed out that Zimmerman has at times displayed a willingness to push ethical boundaries, by interfering in a land-use issue to benefit his boss, for example, and seeking county money for an anti-HIV drug from a manufacturer that employed McKeel's son.
Meieran is a better pick.
Her 14 years as an emergency room doctor (she was a lawyer before she went to medical school) give her much-needed insight into how the county could better treat its mentally ill and drug-addicted clients. She persuasively advocates better aligning the health care records of county inmates with those in hospitals so people getting mental health treatment in jail can continue their care elsewhere.
Meieran was among the first Oregon doctors to sound the alarm about the opioid epidemic. She turned her concern into action, helping establish the forthcoming Unity Center for Behavioral Health, a psychiatric emergency facility slated to open in a year. With time, we expect Meieran to become a better communicator. She's already an effective leader. And the county, which counts health care as one of its core services, doesn't have a single elected official with practical experience in medicine.
Meieran is our prescribed remedy.
What reality show would Meieran compete on? Finding Bigfoot.
Multnomah County Commission District 4
We endorsed Lori Stegmann, 56, in the May primary against Amanda Schroeder, 40, and a third minor candidate. But Stegmann didn't cross the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright, drawing 46 percent of the vote compared with Schroeder's 39 percent. That means they're facing off again in the November general election.
We still think Stegmann, a Gresham city councilor since 2010 and a Farmers Insurance agent, is the better choice because of her experience in elected office and her strong ties to the East Multnomah County communities this seat represents.
Schroeder, a veterans' services representative and former president of her U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs union, takes a tougher stance that Wapato Jail is not a suitable place for a homeless shelter. (Stegmann says she's still weighing the facts.) We like Schroeder's straight talk on the rental-housing crunch, too—she's eager to squash bad landlords.
But Stegmann strikes us as the more prepared replacement for departing Commissioner Diane McKeel. She's served on the Gresham planning and redevelopment commissions; as a city councilor, she's helped revitalize Rockwood and fund crucial public safety measures. If elected, she would be Multnomah County's first Asian-American commissioner and only the sixth person of color elected to the board.
What reality show would Stegmann compete on? Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "They're just living the dream."