The post-pandemic Portland of 2022 is much different than it was in 2018 when Jo Ann Hardesty was elected to the Portland City Council.
The problems that seemed acute four years ago — homelessness, housing affordability, mental health issues and drug addiction — are no longer simply vexing or intractable. Instead, they are an unfolding catastrophe.
We certainly don't hold Hardesty responsible for everything that's happened during the past four years. We applaud her for some very concrete accomplishments — such as her leadership on the Portland Street Response Program, which assists people experiencing mental health crises.
It's not easy to suggest unseating an incumbent city commissioner — especially one who has brought much-needed diversity to a historically white and male-dominated local government. We have disagreements with Hardesty on specific issues. For example, she continues to insist there's no reason to pause the Portland Clean Energy Fund, which has collected far more money than projected and is still struggling to put systems in place to spend those funds responsibly. But our recommendation in this race is influenced more by the need for a change in rhetoric and priorities.
The passion that fueled some of Hardesty's first-term successes and served her well as a state lawmaker and community activist has undermined her effectiveness on the Portland City Council. Portland's unusual commission form of government requires elected officials to enter into a five-way power-sharing arrangement in which they must manage massive bureaus and work closely with Multnomah County commissioners.
Hardesty's public criticism of her colleagues and Portland police officers during the protests and riots were a divisive distraction at a time when unity was needed. Her list of public endorsements includes only one fellow city commissioner (Carmen Rubio) and only one of the five county commissioners (Susheela Jayapal).
So, in 2022, with crime, graffiti and litter rampant in the city, and with houselessness and urban camping completely out of control, we believe a new direction is needed from the Position 3 commissioner on the council.
Of the candidates challenging Hardesty in the May primary, Vadim Mozyrsky, has the most relevant experience. Mozyrsky, who fled anti-semitism in Ukraine to come to the United States in 1979, is an administrative law judge who has immersed himself in volunteer roles, including the city's Committee on Community Engaged Policing and the Charter Review Commission. He also serves on the board of directors for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and the Public Safety Action Coalition.
Mozyrsky has accumulated an impressive and diverse roster of endorsements, even gaining the support of a potential future colleague, City Commissioner Mingus Mapps. Mozyrsky argues he is ready to step into the job on Day One, and we are inclined to believe him to the extent that anyone can be prepared for the mostly thankless task of serving as a city councilor.
In addition to Mozyrsky, challenger Rene Gonzalez also is impressive for his business experience and volunteer activities. His critique of Hardesty's tenure is similar to Mozyrsky's, and he is particularly vocal in support of greater police funding. Not coincidentally, he won the endorsement of the city's police union.
With three serious candidates in this contest, it's not likely to be decided in the May 17 primary. If no one gets more than 50% of the votes, the top two candidates will advance to a November runoff. Our recommendation is for voters to make sure Vadim Mozyrsky is one of those candidates.
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