Q Center’s Mayoral Meet and Greet Takes Speed Dating Approach

Q Center Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones questions Portland mayoral candidates (from left) Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith. Photo by Erin Rook/PQ Monthly.
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Last night’s Portland mayoral candidate meet and greet at Q Center was the final joint appearance for the candidates and the first to which all were invited, according to Q Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones.

Of the 23 registered mayoral candidates, 18 committed to showing up. Still, the crowd — which packed the Q Center — got stood up. While one candidate — Christopher Rich — called ahead to say he had a family situation that would prevent him from attending, the other five no shows — Samuel Belisle, Josh Nuttall, Howie Rubin, Steve Sung, and David Ackerman — had no excuse. And then there were the five who apparently did not respond to the invitation — Max Bauske, Dave Campbell, Robert Carron, Lew Humble, and Blake Nieman-Davis.

As we said before, we’re not going to do any endorsements. But if you’re looking to pare down the list a little, there are 10 names that would be pretty easy to cross off. Another factor to consider: The only candidates who attended last year’s Hands Across Hawthorne (the demonstration in response to the anti-gay assault of two men who were holding hands) were Jefferson Smith and Cameron Whitten (Charlie Hales said he was out of town).

So what about the 12 candidate who showed up for the “date”? If you want the full play-by-play, check out KBOO’s live coverage here. Following are the highlights.

The forum was structured like a dating game, in four rounds of three candidates each. First up were Max Brumm, Loren C. Brown, and Bill Dant.

Max Brumm, a 20-year-old Portland Community College student who aspires to be a firefighter when he grows up, emphasized the need to bring more families into the city and proposed attracting them with sports fields. Sound bite: “If a 20-year-old was mayor, that would be pretty great wouldn’t it?… I’m not your typical politician. I don’t wear a suit. I wear cowboy boots to everything. And mine are better than Kitzhaber’s.”

Loren C. Brown, a screenwriter and on-call firefighter, said he wants to be the voice of the people and is focused on eliminating homelessness. He’s also “not a fan” of the Occupy movement. Sound bite: “I met Cameron [Whitten]. I think he’s adorable. He’s great.”

Bill Dant, a real estate broker and 13-year driver with Meals on Wheels, said that to combat bullying in schools, the mayor needs to set a tone that bullying won’t be tolerated and focus on fostering cooperation. Sound bite: “We say we’re ¬†progressives, but our policies push people into poverty.” (Yay alliteration!)

Round 2 featured Michael Langley, Scott Rose, and Shonda Kelley.

Michael Langley, a self-proclaimed “golf guy,” said that the city needs to focus on both keeping and creating jobs. In response to a question about how he would address the fact that about 40 percent of the youth and young adults Q Center serves are homeless, he said schools needed to be more supportive. Sound bite: “It’s tough to run a city on food carts and non-profits…. To keep Portland weird we have to pay for it.”

Scott Rose, an East Portland resident and school facilities developer, said the Portland Police Bureau needs to be held more accountable and needs better training on mental health issues. He also answered one of the forum’s toughest (and in some ways, lest relevant to the job) questions surprisingly gracefully. When asked how what advice he would give a friend whose 14-year-old child identified as trans, he said (after a heavy sigh), “Embrace your child.” He also discussed how he has taken the needs of trans children into consideration when designing schools, striving to accommodate them without making them feel singled out. Sound bite: “Portland Police Bureau has a reputation of being a very scary force. We have to change that.”

Shonda Kelley, who lists her occupation as a single disabled homemaker, said she supports affordable housing, job creation, and skills training and seeks to understand the psychological underpinnings of social issues. She was honest about her ignorance regarding the LGBTQ community as well as her schizophrenia diagnosis. Sound bite: “I know there’s a big parade once a year…. I don’t know how to include the differently sexual community in Portland.” Bonus points for most original hair (blue and red yarn!).

Up in Round 3 were the “major three” candidates, Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith.

Eileen Brady, co-founder of New Seasons, began by mentioning that the forum was the final joint appearance of “the mayoral candidate” (apparently referring to herself, Hales, and Smith). She said that she supports continued budgetary support of the Rental Assistance Program and collaboration among non-profit, business, and city leaders. Brady also talked about the impact of LGBTQ people in her approach to policy, relating her experience extending domestic partner benefits to employees as human resources director for Nature’s. Sound bite: “I have a lot of hope and faith we will pass [marriage equality] in the near future.”

Charlie Hales, former city commissioner, applauded the “rich fabric” of Portland’s non-profit community. He also discussed his attempt to fire a firefighter who ran a lesbian couple off the road and shouted anti-gay slurs at them. Though the arbitration process resulted in the firefighter getting his job back, he said, “It was an experience that was seared into my consciousness.” Sound bite: “The number one social issue facing the city is the condition of its children.”

Jefferson Smith, state representative and founder of the Bus Project, emphasized the importance of approaching everything with equity. He shared two stories (about his gay school friend and his gay brother) to illustrate his understanding of how difficult it is for LGBTQ people to come out. Smith got a little confused about which cars say, “The City that Works” on the side (hint: it’s not the police cars — as candidate Tre Arrow later pointed out, those say “Police.”) Sound bite (post-forum, to me): “If I don’t make it past the primaries, this campaign is going to be [loud snoring noise].”

Round 4 featured Scott Fernandez, Cameron Whitten, and Tre Arrow.

Scott ¬†Fernandez, a microbiologist, talked about the importance of protecting the area’s prime example of sustainability — the Bull Run water supply — from privatization. He also spoke to the importance of ensuring LGBTQ homeless youth have access to medical services and proposed a relationship with OHSU to provide those services. Sound bite: “Basic rights is what we based our platform on.”

Cameron Whitten, a queer Occupy Portland activist, lost his voice in a rally at Portland Public Schools earlier in the day but did his best to represent nonetheless. He said that sustainability needs to take a three-pronged approach focusing on the environmental, economic, and social justice components. Whitten also shared that he spent his first two months in Portland living in a shelter and so is inherently concerned about providing appropriate resources to LGBTQ homeless youth. Sound bite: “I love the queer culture we have in Portland…. I want everyone to see its vibrance and beauty.”

Tre Arrow, an environmental activist with a criminal record, emphasized the importance of bringing healing to all aspects of society. He also advocated for granting the planet the same rights as people. He said he is an avid supporter of Q Center and SMYRC. Sound bite: “We need to look at how we treat the planet and each other and heal our wounds.” (Side note: While Arrow’s felony conviction was for eco-arson, he was recently arrested on charges of domestic assault).