Oregon’s primary election is less than two weeks away (ballots have already been mailed out) and the race for Portland City Council gets nastier by the day as candidate Ginny Burdick launches misleading attacks against incumbent Erik Sten.
Burdick, a candidate backed by the downtown business community, has targeted Sten’s support for public financing of campaigns. Portland, thanks in large part to Sten, provides public support for candidates running for City Council. This has made the business community furious. The Portland Business Association and their allies like to buy their candidates outright and public support for candidates gets in the way of that.
Burdick has charged that public financing is unwise and that the public money used to fund campaigns could go to other causes – like homeless problems. She doesn’t tell you that as a state senator she supported public financing of state races and that her campaign is telling supporters to use a tax credit for contributions they make to her campaign. Nor is Burdick regarded as a homeless advocate. Unlike Sten, Burdick has never used her public office as a platform for creating affordable housing. In all my years of working on homeless and housing issues there has never been one time or one cause that Burdick has been involved with.
Willamette Week endorsed Sten today and spoke the plain truth when they said:
Here's who doesn't want Sten re-elected: Portland General Electric, NW Natural, Qwest, Comcast, Schnitzer Steel, The Oregonian, property magnate Pete Mark, power broker Tom Imeson, the Portland Business Alliance and any number of other fat cats used to getting their way. See any trend there?
Sten, who was elected to City Council at age 29, is now the longest-serving member, with 10 years on the job. In that time, he's parlayed his interest in creating more public housing to help generate 10,000 new low-income units.
He has worked to get the homeless off the sidewalks, and although the problem may seem as bad as ever, nearly 700 street people found permanent residences last year thanks to his efforts.
Sten has provided leadership both this year and three years ago to help solve funding crises at Portland Public Schools.
So why do the monopoly utilities and entrenched downtown business interests ache to get rid of a guy who's doing good work on tough issues?
….it's Sten's pursuit of Portland General Electric that put the bull's-eye on his back. When he saw that Enron and its local subsidiary PGE were ripping off ratepayers to the tune of about $100 million annually, he, unlike other public officials, actually tried to do something about it by pushing (unsuccessfully) for a public purchase of the utility.
It's difficult to overestimate what his actions did to rattle a significant slice of Portland's business elite. For decades, PGE has been a comfortable and largely unregulated monopoly, one that charged virtually whatever it wanted in rates, became a cozy landing spot for political officials who had been kind to the utility, bought off high-profile progressives with well-placed contributions and sloshed ad dollars among local media.
Sten jeopardized all that when he suggested that Portland follow the lead of Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando and scores of other cities that already own the electric utilities that serve them.
The utilities and their pals didn't like that. That's why PR king Brian Gard and Portland Business Alliance chief Sandra McDonough, acting as the utilities' proxy, recruited Sten's chief opponent, state Sen. Ginny Burdick (who happens to work for Gard).
We are aware that we are leveling serious allegations against the forces aligned against Sten.
But anybody who reads the list of Burdick's contributors or the name of those paying to kill publicly financed elections knows what we say is true.
You won’t find me often praising Willamette Week. But in this case: Preach, brothers!
For the record: So today I make the rare move of praising WW. But it wasn't because they mentioned my blog in their endorsement issue. I just found out about that. No Quid pro quo here.