Portland's next top politician

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The three mayoral frontrunners talk to you, PQ readers

By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
  You've seen them everywhere; they've been shaking hands, kissing babies, and holding debates and forums at breakneck speed, spreading the good news, each clamoring to gather enough votes in May to avoid a runoff -- or build momentum heading into November's election. On May 1, Q Center will hold a forum open to all official candidates dubbed “Welcome to Our Home.†Q's executive director, Barbara McCullough-Jones, will moderate and will ask the candidates questions submitted by community members through Q Center's website. In the spirit of jumpstarting dialogue, PQ chatted with the three frontrunners -- Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith -- about LGBTQ issues. We asked each candidate two “big picture†questions. First, we asked about the candidates' personal connection to the LGBTQ community and how those experiences have shaped their perspectives. Then we asked how each candidate, as mayor, would support Q Center, Q Patrol, and other programs designed to keep LGBTQ citizens safe and protected. Their responses follow. Eileen Brady: “It's a two-fold perspective for me. ... I'm also an old human resources director, and some of the things that gave me the most pride was putting together progressive workplaces. We designed a program that offered health care to everyone -- part-timers, domestic partners, and their children. At the time it was pushing the envelope ... [and] certainly not the norm. And now New Seasons boasts trans-inclusive benefits. I've always been a promoter of workplace benefits for all people.†She continues, waxing more personal: “My daughter is marrying her girlfriend in less than three months, so it's a family issue for me. It's heartbreaking for me to worry about my own daughter holding hands with the person she loves and that it could be a safety issue for them. It's distressing that she can't get legally married in Oregon, which is why I've been so heavily involved with organizations like BRO. I was one of the ones who cried when BRO decided not to put marriage before voters this year. It's hard to be a parent and to want your child to be happy with full rights and, right now, they don't have them. But I believe this is our time.†On safety: “Q Patrol has done a lot of great work; what an incredible opportunity for partnership and empowerment. In Old Town and areas we want to have a safe nightlife, we have to be vigilant -- for all the most vulnerable populations: people of color, women, LGBTQ people. It takes more than police. It takes citizens, activists, patrols -- like Q and those who work on TriMet, for example. That active citizenry forges real partnerships and promotes safety for everyone. We have many tools and resources, and I look forward using all of them [to address safety concerns].†Charlie Hales, on perspective: “In the mid-90s, I was the city commissioner in charge of the Fire Bureau and a member of the force ran a lesbian couple off the road, approached their car, and shouted epithets against their sexual orientation. I fired the guy. This was the period of intense anti-gay measures, statewide and town-by-town, throughout Oregon. The fire union fought for his reinstatement and won. Nonetheless, I took a stand against that behavior and helped to set a longer-term example.†“Professionally, I have stood with the LGBTQ community on domestic partner benefits, making Portland a leader in civil rights and civic health, and against Measure 9. I have worked alongside the LGBTQ community for 20 years and I will be with them again -- on marriage equality, the fight against HIV/AIDS, and in creating and sustaining a community of respect in our city. I will take public steps to combat HIV-related stigma and use the bully pulpit to bring awareness to the huge need for early testing. I will work for universal access to testing; if everyone was routinely screened, the number of newly-detected infections in the U.S. could go down from 40,000 a year to just a few thousand.†On safety: “I'm a strong believer in community policing, which serves to deter and prevent crime, instead of solely depending on responding to emergencies. If it's easy for perpetrators to pick on victims because of an absence of oversight, then we need to do something about that. Police officers should be walking the neighborhoods in Old Town and the Stark Street area, not just sitting in their cars or in their Old Town station. They should know the names of the workers at the establishments in the area and vice versa -- and of the neighbors.†“The Q Center was established to be a safe place for the community to congregate; it is also essential to employ safety measures around it, and to address specific safety challenges.†Jefferson Smith, on perspective: “It's no secret my opponents and I share some basic values around social equality, and I'm sure we're all strong supporters of the LGBTQ community. The reasons the LGBTQ community would support me aren't that different from why other Portlanders would -- I have the right experience, values, and vision. I have experience leading an organization and managing staff, as well as operating in politics. I have a record of bringing people together, developing new leaders, and advocating for progressive policies and social justice. I take the work seriously, but I don't take myself too seriously. And I'm pretty tall.†Smith cites the need for public advocacy, political partnership, and policy decision-making. “I will continue my outspoken support of key issues facing the LGBTQ community. This isn't a new commitment; I've had the support from this community to win previous elections, and I've been there to stand up for shared values. I've gone toe-to-toe with Lars Larson on the air specifically supporting the freedom to marry. I've walked (and occasionally cartwheeled) in more than a half-dozen Pride Parades.†“A mayor should also play a role as a partner in regional, statewide, and even national political fights. The Oregon Bus Project has knocked on thousands of doors for marriage equality. ... [As mayor] not only will I be able to participate in strategy meetings and fundraisers, but we're building a campaign organization I don't plan to jettison after the election. We'll have bodies and voices to apply to progressive priorities.†“Many of the more obvious things a city can do have already been done -- that's a credit to the city. We need to continue and amplify our reputation as a gay-friendly city. Not only do we have a moral commitment, but our reputation boosts our ability to attract and retain talent, boosting our economic competitiveness. But we still face challenges. Gay people have been victims of violence. I think Q Patrol is a great thing -- but we need to do more. I will push for more 'eyes on the street,' from foot patrols to police officers to Clean and Safe personnel to street-oriented commerce. I want to hear your ideas, too.† 
To submit your questions for Q Center's Candidate Forum, email Info@pdxQcenter.org with the subject line “Candidate Forum.â€