Jefferson Smith, founder of the civic engagement effort known as the Bus Project and a state representative from East Portland, announced his campaign for mayor of Portland on Tuesday. I've worked in one capacity or another with each mayor since Bud Clark was in office during the 1980s (when I was a very young activist working on poverty issues). Our city has been adrift for a long-time. We need an activist mayor with a vision of how to engage the citizens of this great city. Jefferson Smith has that vision and that set of skills.
He is also a leader who understands Portland isn't just about downtown Portland or the hip inner-city neighborhoods. As a leader in East Portland, Jefferson understands inequity and what it means for people to feel abandoned by their government. He'll fight for jobs, affordable housing, safe streets, youth programs, efforts to support our schools, and the environment of the precious place we call home. On the first day of his campaign - on his website and in interviews - Jefferson was talking about the issues that matter most. One of the other leading candidates in this race (who has been running for months and raising lots of cash) hasn't issued a platform or gone on the record about how she'd govern. It's still early in the campaign and I think all the candidates are great Portlanders but the race for mayor ought to be a contest over ideas and not fund raising.
I hope that all Portlanders will meet the candidates, attend forums and debates, and talk one-on-one with those who hope to be the next mayor. I've known Jefferson Smith for a number of years now and believe he'll inspire a new generation of leaders in Portland to public service at a time we need all hands on deck to solve the difficult challenges of our time.
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I trust deeply in the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state and my endorsement is therefore a personal one and does not reflect on my denomination. But as a citizen I believe that all Americans must engage in the political process as individuals for democracy to thrive. So I choose to participate in the political process as an individual when appropriate. This is one of those times.
Photo: Taken at a Kitzhaber for Governor event in 2010 that Jefferson Smith spoke at.