Oregon Primaries Provide Hope

By Dom Belcastro|May 22, 2018Student Writing|

The relationship between people and politics in the US continues to warp as public figures expose their own corruption and depravity. At the same time, survivors, like the Parkland students and the women of Tarana Burke’s #metoo movement, organize against power imbalances in our communities and institutions, largely through social media. Voices all over are speaking against the status quo. This wave of populist political activation has enabled more and more bold, powerful grassroots leaders to emerge.

In the quickly approaching Oregon primary elections, two candidates stand out for their policy platforms and local impact on civic engagement. Jo Ann Hardesty and Shemia Fagan are running for Portland City Council Position 3 and Democratic Senate Candidate for District 24, respectively.

Hardesty, former president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP (which she stepped down from earlier this year), by all rights, convinced Dan Saltzman to make this his last year on City Council. Hardesty told Saltzman in person last August, of her intentions to run, saying, “I think the city is ready for new leadership,” according to the Willamette Week. Soon after, he announced his retirement, kicking off one of the most competitive races in years.

Hardesty’s platform includes: public election finance reforms, anti-police brutality measures and accountability standards, housing affordability, houselessness and tenant protections, as well as the environmental justice ballot initiative darling, Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF, formerly PJET).

These are not just platitudes. Jo Ann actively organizes alongside her constituents who are demanding these policies. Her work with the NAACP as a volunteer president, as a former Democratic state representative in a majority Republican legislature, and her involvement in myriad community organizations from NARAL to Human Solutions inform the values she will bring to City Council.

Recently, Hardesty pilloried the mayor, Ted Wheeler, for his opposition to the PCEF initiative, which he opposes in favor of a smaller business tax that the Portland Business Alliance approves. Wheeler, commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau, is frantically trying to find revenue for scores of new police in the coming city budget.

As reported by the Oregonian, “[Hardesty] said private negotiations between the mayor’s office and the Business Alliance ‘threaten the public’s faith in our government’s transparency and democratic process.’”

Her consistent advocacy and steadfastness in the face of corporate interests attracted the endorsements of Portland institutions, such as The Willamette Week, The Oregonian, The Mercury, The Skanner, the Portland Teachers Union, and PCC’s very own PCC Federation of Classified Employees to name a few.

One of Jo Ann’s most important policies in her platform is rent control, which cannot be won without a change in state laws.

To this end, Shemia Fagan, former state representative and public interest lawyer, is running against Democratic incumbent senator, Rod Monroe. The Senate district 24 race is a closed Democratic primary, so if you have not already registered as a Democrat, you cannot vote in this election.

Fagan’s platform includes progressive ideas that failed to pass the legislature in the past, like ending no cause evictions and the preemption on local rent control. She also believes that healthcare is a human right, and that our governments should provide it. Fagan also stands against the NRA’s influence over our country, best expressed by her NRA Oregon Candidate Questionnaire ‘answers.’

If Shemia Fagan replaces Monroe, these badly needed legal changes could become a reality.

Fagan understands Oregonians need for stability and the laws that can ensure this because she grew up with parents who constantly struggled with housing issues. When asked about her housing priorities, Fagan endorsed the idea of universal representation of tenants in eviction court. This is the type of bold leadership coming from a lived experience that our frozen senate needs.

This primary we have the opportunity to elect two strong advocates for economic justice. Portland and the whole of Oregon would be served well by either, but Oregonians and Portlanders would be best served with both capturing their respective seats.

Vote Hardesty and Fagan this Tuesday.

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