WW’s November 2020 Endorsements: Metro and Multnomah County

This year, Metro Council elections feature an exciting, momentous race that could shape transportation policy in the region for decades.

Metro Council, District 3

(Beaverton, Tigard, Sherwood) 

Gerritt Rosenthal

This year, Metro Council elections feature an exciting, momentous race that could shape transportation policy in the region for decades. But that's in District 5 (see below). Over in District 3, things are as sleepy as they used to be at the regional government, which runs regional parks and the zoo, collects trash and determines the boundaries of where developers can build. More recently, Metro has upped its horsepower and begun raising big money for affordable housing and homeless services.

The low-key nature of this contest is a little surprising, given that this district would be the destination for a new light rail line proposed in Metro's $4 billion transportation measure. The district, which covers the length of the Southwest Hills from Beaverton to Sherwood, is choosing between Tom Anderson and Gerritt Rosenthal.

Anderson, 58, a real estate broker and Tigard city councilor, is the more polished candidate. He shares WW's alarm at the never-ending blank check that would be created by Metro's transportation tax, and we appreciated his candor in opposing the cash grab by a government he may soon join. But we remain troubled by the financial boost he's receiving from real estate interests' and homebuilders' political action committees. These interests clearly want their own man in the seat, and that matters because Metro has to decide whether to let developers press farther into farmland and woods, or hold the urban growth boundary tight and require building up rather than out.

This is the issue where Rosenthal, 75, has the edge. He's an environmental consultant who used to handle city planning in Eugene, and he lives on the rural edge of Tualatin. Rosenthal—a progressive who tried to unseat Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn) from the Legislature before it was cool—lives in a place that would be affected by changing the boundaries of development, and his experience gives him a useful perspective from which to weigh those choices. Land use is Metro's core work, and housing density is one of Portland's most important principles. For that reason, we pick Rosenthal.

Rosenthal's most awkward moment on Zoom: He, too, has been Zoom bombed while chairing a meeting.

Metro Council, District 5

(Northwest, North and Northeast Portland)

Chris Smith

Voters are fortunate to have two strong candidates vying to replace Councilor Sam Chase, who is stepping down after two terms.

Mary Nolan, 65, brings a diverse and impressive résumé to the race. She's led the city of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services, capped a distinguished career in the Oregon House by serving as majority leader and, most recently, served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. She's smart and well-connected and brings the kind of practical toughness sometimes in short supply at Metro.

So why are we picking Chris Smith, a retired tech-industry engineer whose only previous run for office ended in a sixth-place finish for City Council in 2008? Because he offers a clearer vision of what he wants to do on the job.

Smith, 60, has put in time in the trenches of public process: He served on key Metro transportation committees and the board of the Portland Streetcar and sits on the city of Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission. In the latter role, he's been a staunch advocate for bicyclists and pedestrians and an opponent of projects that could frustrate the region's climate goals, such as fossil fuel terminals. Smith opposed the Columbia River Crossing project a decade ago and, as a founder of No More Freeways, is battling the state's ill-conceived plan to expand Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter.

It's that last role that's especially important. Smith has been among the most consistent and outspoken critics of widening the highway in the middle of a historically African American neighborhood. His advocacy makes him both an heir to Portland's proud tradition of opposing highway projects—dating back to the blocking of the Mount Hood Freeway, a civic victory that practically wrote modern Portland's creation story—and someone who is seeking to rectify a more shameful history of displacing Black Portlanders in the name of progress.

For years, Smith's dedicated opposition to the Rose Quarter project looked quixotic. But in June, the Black neighborhood nonprofit Albina Vision withdrew its support for the highway expansion. Now every elected official and office-seeker in Portland wants out—including Nolan. But Smith was on the right side of this fight from the start.

He lacks Nolan's political experience, but Smith is a data-driven policy expert—unafraid, and in fact eager, to challenge conventional thinking. He's the kind of tireless citizen volunteer who adds richness and depth to our civic debate.

If Metro is to accomplish its goal of leading the region on transportation and the environment, the agency needs somebody with Smith's focus on these issues. He's the better choice in this race.

Smith's most awkward moments on Zoom: He is persistently trying to light himself so he doesn't have a shiny forehead.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge, Position 12

Adrian Brown

It's unusual to see a November runoff for a contested judge's seat. Just as rare is a race with two candidates as promising as Adrian Brown and Rima Ghandour.

Brown spent the past 13 years working as the civil rights coordinator of the U.S. Attorney's Office for Oregon. She was the lead attorney on a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Portland Police Bureau. In 2014, that probe revealed an unconstitutional pattern of use of force against people with mental illness—and forced the police into a settlement that constrains their actions to this day.

Brown has received endorsements from a striking array of civil rights leaders. Most striking: Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, as well as his challenger in the primary, Ethan Knight, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Two men who agree on almost nothing around criminal justice agree on Brown's ability to make fair decisions.

Ghandour is a founding member of the Arab American Cultural Center and former president of the Multnomah County Bar Association, where she is currently a board member. Ghandour now owns her own law firm, and she has spent the past 17 years in private practice, including as a senior counsel for Safeco Insurance and partner at a local firm, Wiles Law Group. Ghandour last worked in criminal law back in the early 2000s in Orange County, Calif., where she tried public safety cases. Ghandour, too, has received a tidal wave of endorsements, most of them a little to the left of Brown's. (They include House Speaker Tina Kotek, Sen. James Manning (D-North Eugene), and Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center.)

Both candidates would make great judges. They have a strong sense of justice and have spent decades practicing law. But Brown has significantly more experience in federal court than Ghandour. That doesn't mean Ghandour isn't qualified for the position—she is—but Brown's work parsing complex investigations and prosecuting criminal cases gives her an edge. She's also the candidate with the most relevant experience with Portland police—which matters when so many of criminal cases currently before the Multnomah County Circuit spring directly from police clashes with demonstrators. We believe she is better prepared to be a circuit judge in the county. Vote Brown.

Brown's most awkward moments on Zoom: Having children run around in the background during calls.

Correction: In our endorsement for Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge, Willamette Week incorrectly stated that Adrian Brown has more state court experience than Rima Ghandour. In fact, Brown has more federal court experience, and Ghandour has more state court experience. WW regrets the error.

Endorsements: Federal

Endorsements: Statewide office

Endorsements: Oregon Senate

Endorsements: Oregon House

Endorsements: Portland City Hall

Endorsements: Metro and Multnomah County

Endorsements: State measures

Endorsements: Local measures

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