May 3rd, 2012 3:44 pm | by COREY PEIN News | Posted In: City Hall, PDX Votes, Politics, Media

Charlie Hales' Bookshelf Gloomier Than He Lets On

murmurs.charlie_hales_3824Charlie Hales - IMAGE: Kenton Waltz
One thing colleagues of Portland mayoral candidate and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales find noteworthy about him, as WW reported in its recent profile, is that his core political beliefs are hard to pin down.

Once a registered Republican, then a non-affiliated voter, and a Democrat since 1998, Hales maintains that he's more pragmatic than ideological. Adversaries have described him as opportunistic.

But perhaps the closest thing to a philosophical touchstone WW could find with Hales is his fondness for a foul-mouthed car-hater who despises both major political parties and believes America is in an irreversible decline.

Hales, it turns out, is a longstanding admirer of the writer James Howard Kunstler, who attacked suburbia in his 1993 book The Geography of Nowhere, and now spins dark doomer prophecies of a post-peak oil world on his blog, Clusterfuck Nation.

The feeling is mutual. “When I met Charlie, I was tremendously impressed that in this whole country full of city officials, he was one of a handful—a number you could count on one hand—who had both good intentions and brains and the will to act on them politically,” Kunstler, pictured right, told WW in an interview last month. “Anybody who gets into politics now is sort of looking for trouble…. But not everybody who steps up to the plate is going to be a scoundrel.”

The two met decades ago when Kunstler was researching Portland's urban planning system, and stayed in touch. While serving on the City Council in the 1990s, Hales quoted Kunstler in speeches. And Hales and his son Gavin once visited Kunstler at his home in New York state.

"I read all his books about city planning. I've even read some of his fiction, including his most recent post-apocalyptic novel set in New England," Hales told WW.

"I'm not a doomer, but I do think the issue of Peak Oil is real," Hales went on. "You need good ideas from smart people. Kunstler is controversial and sometimes bombastic, but he has some good ideas. He's not right on everything. But he's got some good ideas."
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