There's never been a more important year to vote than now
Like every person reading this, the Portland Tribune editorial board had to get creative in this time of COVID-19. Gone (for now) are the days of bringing each candidate, and each measure's proponents and exponents, into a conference room to meet the publisher and editors, and to make their case.
We did some endorsement interviews via video conference call.
We also took the unusual step of working with the City Club of Portland to serve as moderators for five debates. In a big way, these served as live, in-real-time endorsement interviews, with voters watching. The debates included the race for Portland mayor and City Council Position 4; Metro Council Position 5, and the statewide races for secretary of state and treasurer. If you missed these debates, they are archived at pdxcityclub.org.
We also dedicated more of our print product to your letters and opinion columns. More than half of the Oct. 21 edition featured readers opinions. This week features closing arguments by candidates for statewide office, plus dozens of letters.
We did fewer endorsements in the general election this year because of time and space constraints brought on by the pandemic, the economy and staff reductions. Here are the major ones:
Portland Mayor: Ted Wheeler
Our endorsement of Wheeler must come with the obvious caveat that his first four years in office haven't lived up to Portlanders' hopes — or Wheeler's promises in 2016. But we believe Wheeler still has the right experience and skillset for the role.
His top issue in 2016 was homelessness and the need to address both the humanitarian and community-livability problems that stem from that nearly intractable problem. Even up to last week, he has continued to increase the number of shelter beds in the community. It's not enough, but homelessness is a problem with no easy solution for every city, town, county and rural area in the Western United States. Wheeler alone can't fix it; no mayor could.
His handling of the Black Lives Matter protests, and the violent vandalism and arson in Portland, has been flawed to say the least. Many protesters still feel unheard by their city leaders; faith in the Portland Police Bureau has been strained as never before, and we're told that morale among police officers is an all-new low. Wheeler clearly has not been able to bring the City Council together as a coherent team on these issues. But then again, with this current council, getting everyone rowing in the same direction likely would be near impossible for any mayor.
Wheeler's strengths include being one of the most experienced budget-writers to hold that position in years. In Portland's form of government, the annual budget begins, and is largely set, in the mayor's office.
His opponent, Sarah Iannarone, brings no experience in governance. And in this uniquely challenging year, now is not the time for a mayor to learn the ropes.
Portland City Council Position 4: Mingus Mapps
We believe Mingus Mapps has the best combination of skills, temperament and experience to help lead the city through what undoubtedly will be one of its most difficult periods.
He is challenging incumbent Chloe Eudaly for the job. We cannot endorse Eudaly to keep her seat this year. The first-term commissioner came into office four years ago with lots of promise, but proved to be needlessly divisive. She may be right that Portland's longstanding neighborhood association system needed a revamp, but she alienated too many people in her attempt to make those changes.
We believe Mapps can listen and has the right background to confront such matters as police reform, looming city budget cuts, rebuilding the local economy, and the continuing issue of homelessness.
Metro Transportation Measure 26-218
As long-time advocates for better transportation in the metro area, we are reluctant to say "no" to any plan that promises to improve our congested roadways. Unfortunately, with the economy in recession, this is the exact wrong time for the Metro regional government to press forward with its $5.2 billion transportation measure — funded by a payroll tax.
We urge voters to reject this plan, and we ask Metro to come back in the future with a more refined proposal that also takes into account the region's changing transportation needs.
We're not the only supporters of mass transit to defect from this measure. State Treasurer Tobias Read, 5th District U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, Senate Revenue Committee Chair Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), Senate Ways & Means Committee Co-Chair Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), and House Ways & Means Committee member Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) all have urged a "no" vote. In normal times, they — and the Tribune — would be reliable supporters. These are not normal times. We urge a "no" vote.
Our final endorsement isn't for a candidate or a measure, it's for the election itself. Everyone who has paid the slightest attention knows the stakes this year at the national level.
But the ballot you received in the mail is about more than just national races. There are state, regional and city races and measures. There are judgeships. There are special races such as water and soil conservation districts. All of these are important. Each of them has the possibility of affecting you, your family, your neighborhood, your job.
This year: Vote, and vote the whole ballot. It's a blessing to be able to pick and choose your governance at such a granular level. Most people on Earth don't have that luxury. And as no lesser a source than a fictionalized Alexander Hamilton reminds us: Do not throw away your shot.
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