Portland Tenants United grades the candidates: Portland City Council
Once again, we sent out questionnaires, looked at past action (or inaction) on tenant issues, and followed candidates on the campaign trail for the May 15 primary elections to evaluate their attention and policy commitment to tenant rights and protections.
Last week we published our grades for the Democratic primary in Senate District 24. This second article will specifically address the primary races for Portland City Council.
Portland Tenants United does not endorse candidates, but we have kept a critical eye pointed at their platforms. Grades were weighted toward candidates who championed bold action to address the housing crisis in our city and county, and against candidates who have accepted substantial sums of cash from landlord, real estate, and corporate interests.
City Council position #2
Julia DeGraw: A
Julia DeGraw has worked as an environmental advocate for 12 years and helped fight a successful campaign against Nestle’s water bottling plant in the Gorge. DeGraw has also spoken out in support tenant protections at city hall, the county, rallies, and actions on multiple occasions. DeGraw not only had a perfect score on our questionnaire but impressed us by promising to challenge the “for-profit” status quo that has helped perpetuate our housing crisis. Another example of DeGraw’s desire to challenge “business as usual” was her strong repudiation of campaign donations from landlords, developers, and corporate interests.
Nick Fish: B
Nick Fish has served as city commissioner for ten years and prior to that practiced employment law. Fish was instrumental in consolidating Portland’s housing programs into the Portland Housing Bureau. Fish has been consistent advocate for affordable housing, championed a city resolution that would create 2000 units of supportive housing, and recently helped pass Portland’s Renter Relocation Assistance law. However, his response to our questionnaire left something to be desired: He was a “maybe” on tenant right to collective bargain and tenant opportunity to purchase, two critical renter protections we urgently need. As a lawyer, it’s understandable that Fish would be cautious about endorsing some of our asks, but we believe the ongoing housing crisis merits a bolder approach. We also find it worrisome that Fish said he might accept donations from landlord lobby PACs that have worked tirelessly to destroy Renter Relocation Assistance and other basic tenant protections.
City Council position #3
Jo Ann Hardesty: A+
Jo Ann Hardesty experience as a county aide, state legislator, director of advocacy organizations, and most recently as president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP speak to her commitment to fashioning a more just and equitable society. Hardesty’s accomplishments in the fight against Portland’s legacy of racist displacement, gentrification, and unequal access to basic services are many but her role in shedding light on civil rights abuses stand out. Her advocacy was instrumental in getting the Department of Justice to *begin* to hold Portland’s police bureau accountable for its history of violence towards people of color and the houseless — and especially those in the midst of a mental health crisis. When it comes to fighting for tenant protections, Hardesty has a strong record of supporting and helping organize tenant-led rallies and public testimony. Hardesty’s responses to our questionnaire also stood out in that they emphasized the continuing trauma that our unjust rental housing economy inflicts on people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities. When Jo Ann wrote that “everyone deserves basic dignity”, we believe that she can help Portland move towards this goal.
Andrea Valderrama: B
Andrea Valderrama has many years of service as an adviser to Commissioner Novick and as senior policy adviser to Mayor Wheeler. Valderrama is a first generation Peruvian American and has organized with the Voz Workers Rights Education Project, a nonprofit that seeks to educate and empower day laborers and immigrants. Valderrama’s response to our questionnaire showed in-depth knowledge and, more importantly, outlined detailed proposals. Valderrama also has been a supporter of tenant protections, using her position in the Mayor’s Office to advocate for Portland’s Renter Relocation Assistance law. However, the fact that Valderrama has taken large donations from big developers and landlord-friendly City Hall insiders gives us pause. We would like to see more evidence that she is willing to challenge the wealthy power-players who have funded her campaign.
Although Loretta Smith did not return a questionnaire we feel obligated to point out that she has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in cash from wealthy landlords, real estate PACs, large corporations, and other wealthy individuals. Stuart Emmons has also received large cash contributions from developers, landlords, and real estate companies and deserves special condemnation for a campaign mailer that dehumanized houseless people using Trump-like fear mongering.
Stuart Emmons, Felicia Williams, Loretta Smith, and Lew Humble did not return a questionnaire.