Looking Back at JoAnn Hardesty…
- Opinion Piece THREE in a Series of SIX Political Commentaries by Gonzo Journalist Theresa Griffin Kennedy.
December 3, 2017, 4 years ago yesterday, I met JoAnn Hardesty for the first time. We met at one of her very first house parties as she was running for Portland City Council and raising funds. I took several photos of her at The Yard, where the house party took place, including arranging the above photo of Hardesty and myself.
The Yard for anyone who might wish to know, (or as I have nicknamed it, THE BIG UGLY) is that gigantic monstrosity that looms oppressively near the east end of the Burnside Bridge, destroying much of the view and jutting out from the landscape like a mildewing raging torpedo. And The Yard, much to the collective disappointment and dismay of most longtime Portland residents is the single most wholly unattractive monster pushed upon Portland residents by the clueless and unprincipled predatory developers (often with their feet in City Hall) who care only about money and nothing for esthetics. But that’s another story for another day.
At the house party, JoAnn was gracious, pleasant and articulate, and dressed to the nines in an attractive mini-skirt ensemble that flattered her tiny frame. She spent a lot of time explaining her goals for Portland and how she hoped to positively impact the Rose City. She was surrounded by a large group of Portlanders who were mostly white women, and though she had the kind of hipped-up weariness of someone who has seen a lot, she came across as sincere. I had been “hired” by her friend Cynthia Harris, (the same woman I found out later, who was fired as principal from Jefferson High School for stealing over $12,000 in 2010) to be the photographer for the house party.
Harris had asked me to do the job, after I bumped into her at the cable access center, Open Signal, and we began to chat. The chance meeting occurred about two weeks prior to the house party on December 3rd. My husband Don DuPay and I were waiting in the lobby of Open Signal to be interviewed on the Oregon Voter’s Digest talk show with Portland businessman and activist Bruce Broussard.
Harris was waiting to be interviewed on a different cable access program and so we began to chat. She explained her dilemma of needing someone to take photos of this upcoming house party for JoAnn Hardesty and asked if I might consider doing it. I told her I’d be happy to help. When Harris asked me how much I wanted to be paid to do the job, I tentatively said $50 would be fine. She laughed and said: “How about $150?!” I told her that was not necessary but she insisted that I be paid $150. Again I tried to tell her that would be too much money, but she insisted that I be paid that sum. When she told me she’d pay me that much for the job, I was doubtful in the hidden recesses of my mind. There was something about Harris that spelled FAKE to me, a kind of boastful bravado that I didn’t trust. But I did the job anyway, showing up two weeks later, because I thought it would be fun and interesting and I might learn something about Portland politics.
I had told Harris while chatting with her at Open Signal that I was in no way a professional photographer and suggested she hire a professional. I mentioned that a professional would have better equipment, a better knowledge of things like lighting, and would be able to produce higher quality photographs. But Harris said I’d be just fine and that she didn’t need or want a professional photographer.
At the time I did the job, I had no idea who Cynthia Harris was and didn’t know about her embarrassing troubles at Jefferson High School. What the media innocently called “mismanaging of funds” most people know is actually called STEALING MONEY and that is what Harris did as the principal of Jefferson High School.
At the time of the house party, my husband Don dropped me off to The Yard, and picked me up a couple hours later when it was over.
At the close of the evening however, after I’d taken dozens of photos, I was never paid. The topic of money simply didn't come up and was never mentioned. I didn’t complain, though. I wasn’t going to make a stink over a few dollars. I just thanked Harris and JoAnn Hardesty for meeting them and went on my way, going down in the elevator and meeting my husband Don as he waited outside in our Jeep.
During the house party, I could clearly ascertain Hardesty had no prior knowledge of the arrangement between Harris and me. Hardesty didn’t seem aware that anyone had been “hired” to take photos at all, and appeared surprised when I asked her to pose in various ways, sitting on a sofa or standing in front of artwork, for example. I tried to make sure the light was not behind Hardesty but rather in front of her and I did my best, but again, I am not a professional photographer and can’t even say I’m an amateur photographer, still I did the best I could.
Though I wasn’t upset about not being paid, later upon reflection, I have to admit I was offended that I had been lied to and used. I would happily have done the job for free in fact, had that ever been discussed, but that never seemed to be an option with Harris. She was determined to convince me that I was going to be paid $150, which to me seemed far too much money for a person with no experience who was definitely not a professional photographer.
A few days later, when a friend of mine, who happens to be black, complained to Cynthia on my behalf, (even though I had told this friend that I really didn’t care that I hadn’t been paid) Cynthia told my friend she didn’t pay me because I’d never “emailed” her “an invoice.” I don’t believe that was the real reason, though. Harris had told me she would pay me $150 at the close of the evening of the house party, and at no time did she ever mention I would need to email her an invoice.
In my opinion, Harris just wanted something for nothing. She had no intention of ever paying me, even if it was as paltry a sum as only the $50 I had originally suggested. I should have been paid at the end of the evening, if Harris had ever actually intended on paying me. But I was never paid and Harris never brought the subject up with me in either a phone call or an email at any time following the house party, because she had never intended to pay me.
Considering Harris’s history with fraud and theft, I am not surprised she lied and conned me into providing her with a free service. At the time I had no idea who she was and as I’d never been warned about her, I had no frame of reference to consider.
Despite not being paid, I still cropped the photographs I had taken, and created and attached attractive borders on each photo. I then emailed the entire set of photos to Harris the following day. I did this so the photos could be used by Hardesty and her team on social media for any future requests for supporters to attend any additional house parties being planned.
I never heard back from Harris again after I emailed her the photographs. Not even a perfunctory Thank You email from her. Then approximately three months later Harris emailed me out of the blue, and informed me that she wanted me to come to a women’s meeting, fund raising event she was organizing. The event would be attended by primarily African American women and Harris wanted me to read for the group, from one of my social justice essays, or some such.
I told her in my response email, in a formal and detached tone, that I would be busy and could not help her, which wasn’t entirely true. But I felt I had better things to do with my time as I was working on several important writing projects) and was not going to be used or lied to yet again. I wasn’t rude in the email, just very matter-of-fact. I never heard from her again after that, which is what I expected and what I wanted. I felt relieved to be done with her.
Looking back, while I was at the house party, and while listening to JoAnn Hardesty speak, I had high hopes that she would be a good leader for Portland. She had accomplished some positive things already. I really felt hopeful, like a lot of people did. My husband Don didn’t seem to approve of Hardesty, but I wanted to give her a chance. Looking back, I should have taken his impressions of her more seriously, but I wanted to be positive and hopeful and I genuinely thought she would be good for Portland.
I had no idea Hardesty would begin an embarrassing slow-motion political suicide, wherein she behaves impulsively, makes ludicrous statements about police starting “fires” at violent Antifa riots or how police do nothing but “eat all day” rather than do the demanding, often heart wrenching police work that they do engage in every single day they are on the job.
I had no idea that Hardesty would slowly self-destruct and reveal how utterly incompetent she actually is to the entire city of Portland. I had no idea that she would engage in emotional nonsensical outbursts, paranoia and unfounded accusations against the Portland Police Bureau and its officers and commanders.
I want people to understand, I take no pleasure in being a critic of Hardesty, now. It brings me no happiness at all to feel obligated to discuss the glaring ways in which Hardesty is simply unsuited for a career in politics and yet I feel that I must.
JoAnn Hardesty, along with Mayor Ted Wheeler have both had a catastrophically negative impact on the city of Portland and I believe they both well know this.
Historically, they will be remembered for how they destroyed public safety in Portland, Oregon. They must be held accountable for the forces they unleased in Portland and the deadly results that their trendy, stupid, self-defeating Defund the Police agenda has had on Portland and those who have lost their lives.
In a real sense both Ted Wheeler and JoAnn Hardesty have blood on their hands.
Hardesty must be replaced with a person who has the educational background and emotional stability to be able to understand the issues at hand and how they relate to one another as fluid, dynamic forces. What Hardesty has shown us, is that she cannot perform adequately in City Hall in any capacity whatsoever.
I want people to understand, though, as much as I do not enjoy having to be a critic of JoAnn Hardesty, I also believe I have no other option. As a person of conscience, I must do my small part as an activist writer to fight for Portland. If that means exposing Hardesty’s incompetence, malice and emotional instability, then I will have to do that and I will apologize to no one as I work to ensure that process occurs.
I will fight for Portland and so should you.
Theresa Griffin Kennedy