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2012 Endorsements: Portland Mayor

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Update on withdrawing our endorsement for Jefferson Smith on October 13, 2012:

Today, The Mother PAC is withdrawing our endorsement of Jefferson Smith for Portland mayor. When we decided to endorse Jefferson this past summer, we believed him to be the better candidate to move forward on the issues most important for Portland families.  At the time, we were not aware of the events in his past that have recently come to light, or the impact those and more recent actions would have on his campaign now.  Now that we are, we unfortunately cannot continue to endorse his candidacy for mayor.

We didn’t reach this conclusion easily and aren’t taking it lightly.  Advising people to vote for a specific candidate is something we take very seriously. And we take it just as seriously when we revoke an opinion we once confidently held.  This decision has taken time because it deserves time.

Our board, which ultimately makes our endorsement decisions, is comprised of nine mother activists with a vision for an Oregon that works better for all families – especially mothers.  We aren’t perfect and you may not always agree with us.  But we promise you this: we approach the decisions we make with thoughtfulness, integrity and every intention of supporting the people whom we believe are most committed to and best equipped to advance the family-friendly policies that will make Oregon a better place for all mothers and the families who depend on them.

One final note: the tenor of much of the entire mayoral election has troubled us. We believe it isn’t serving the people, the candidates, our city, or the public’s perception of government and the political system.  We can do better.

Update to our endorsement for Jefferson Smith on October 11, 2012:

When The Mother PAC decided to endorse Jefferson Smith this summer to be Portland’s next mayor, we believed him to be the better candidate to move forward on the issues we care about for Portland families.  We were not aware of his past or the way he would handle its exposure.  Now that we are, we are weighing that information very seriously.  As we should be.

We are keenly aware of the widespread crisis of violence against women.  And the too-frequent storyline that women victims are to blame.  We’re not complacent about any of that, nor do we condone it.

Our work as a PAC is far broader than one race or candidate – it’s a movement.  Mothers and families in our city, our state, our nation and, truly, the world, need strong elected officials to improve their lives by modernizing the public and workplace policies that keep us down.  That pay us less.  That force us to choose between our children and our own economic security.  That underfund and overcrowd our public schools.  That make paid parental leave available to far too few.  That govern our parenting “choices” as if it were still 1950.

Well it’s not 1950.  If we want to move forward, we need to elect more smart, forward-thinking candidates.  The Mother PAC is uniquely poised to do that, and our mission shouldn’t be undermined by unforeseen but very serious issues in Portland when we have found so many strong candidates statewide who will fight for Oregon families – and need our support to win.

All that said, in a few weeks time we must select a new mayor, making a choice between two people who have different histories – both flawed.  And different visions for our city.  We still believe, as we did in August, that Jefferson Smith’s vision is more like ours.  But we know that vision isn’t all that matters; the person with the vision also has to earn your vote.

So when it comes time to cast your ballot, here’s our advice at this point: consider it all — their views on policy, their values, their backgrounds, and their transgressions. And choose the candidate whom you believe is better able to serve the city in a way that matters to you, your family, and families all across the city. Then hold him to it.

On August 16, 2012, this is how we felt:

We’re endorsing Jefferson Smith for mayor of Oregon’s largest city.  Here’s why:

When you become a parent, you see your kid in every kid.  It becomes more noticeable than ever that some kids are born with far fewer opportunities than others – and that we all suffer when they aren’t afforded the chance to reach their full potential.

Inequality is a problem in Portland.  And it’s hard not to see what a growing problem it is for families all across our country.  In fact, we’re inclined to see inequality as the issue of our time.

Families throughout Portland are struggling in this very challenging economy, too.  But the truth is, some struggle much more – facing institutional barriers to equal opportunity.  We see this in neighborhood infrastructure, educational opportunities, pollution profiles, health outcomes, and economic stability.

To date, The Mother PAC has focused on statewide issues and state legislative or other statewide candidates.  This year, however, we decided to weigh in on Portland’s mayoral race because of our deep concern over a few issues in our state’s largest city: 1) inequitable working conditions for low-wage families, 2) lack of access to affordable child care in an outdated system, and 3) mounting concerns about very poor air quality.

We did not undertake this process lightly.  We hosted a candidate forum (in March), quizzed Portland families about what they think makes a family-friendly city, and interviewed each candidate for specifics about how they would move the city forward – quickly – on these and other issues that matter to families.  We asked them about their state legislative priorities (because local problems often require state solutions, like school funding, for example) and asked how they might manage their offices and incorporate diverse community leaders into the work of the city.Jefferson Smith

We left these interviews feeling strongly that one candidate looks at every issue he considers through an equity lens – which we think is the most important lens through which to view our city right now, especially for its leader.  He understands that for Portland to be a truly great city, we must incorporate social sustainability into our way of doing business as we have done so well with environmental sustainability.  He also thinks big and aims high – as do we.

This candidate is Jefferson Smith.

We know we are fortunate to have two smart, caring, experienced people running for this office – and we appreciate that both have ideas about how to make the city friendlier for families.  However, we think Jefferson is the candidate who is uniquely poised, committed and equipped to boldly and creatively attack the systemic inequities that face Portland families so that Portland is a great place for all of us. In other words, we think he’ll place social sustainability front and center for Portland, where it belongs.  Once there, we believe our city will – as Jefferson says – work better and for more people.

You can learn more about Jefferson Smith and his campaign to be mayor here.

[Transparency is important.  So you should know that Caitlin Baggott, a close friend and colleague of Jefferson’s, is a founding member of our board.  As a result, she recused herself from our endorsement process from the very beginning.  We wanted to give all candidates a fair chance with an impartial audience - because we think our opinion in this race isn’t meaningful otherwise.]

A word on our mayoral endorsement process: We co-hosted a city candidate forum for and about families in March, 2012 (with our sister organization, Family Forward Oregon), that included mayoral candidates.

Four members of our board (of eight) interviewed Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith separately for an hour each in August, 2012 with a focus on three issues that we think are relevant now to Portland’s family livability:

  • Air quality (ours is dirty),
  • Access to quality, affordable, strategically located childcare (ours is unplanned and exorbitantly expensive), and
  • Paid sick days from work (43% of workers in the metro area earn no sick time when they work).

Of course we chatted about other things, too, like their priorities for our state legislature and how they might staff and run a mayoral office.  Our interview committee recommended endorsing Jefferson and our full board approved it.  Questions?  Call us @ 503.208.5722.

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