Outtakes: Charlie Hales on His Candidacy for Portland Mayor

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By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
As you have probably noticed by now, PQ Monthly does not provide political endorsements. But we do want to make sure you have the information you need to make an informed decision in the upcoming Portland mayoral election. So we sent out a questionnaire to candidates Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith and included the highlights of their responses in the Sept./Oct. issue of PQ Monthly. We tried to ask question that forced the candidates to dig deeper than recycled content from their campaign websites and I think, for the most part, we succeeded. Now, we know you want the full scoop, so we're posting the candidate's questionnaires in their entirety. Because Hales and Smith had so much to say, we're giving them their own posts. First up, Charlie Hales. (Look for Jefferson Smith's responses later today.) PQ Monthly: What is the most important difference between you and your opponent? Charlie Hales: I believe that the biggest difference between me and my opponent is experience. I’m the only candidate running for this office with any local government or business experience. I have already proven that I can be effective working in Portland’s unique city government. I’ll be ready on Day 1 to start addressing issues like our gang problem, economic development, the lack of basic services in every neighborhood, and the clean-up of our river. In terms of policy, the area we differ on the most is around gun control. I have always, and will always take a strong stance on guns. We should do everything we can to keep guns under control and illegal guns off the street. PQ: How have you supported LGBTQ rights in the past, and how will you support them as mayor? Hales: As City Commissioner, I joined my colleagues in establishing one of the nation’s early domestic partner registries. This was at a time of the first anti-gay ballot measures sweeping our state – around issues of local anti-discrimination laws. I volunteered on both the first Measure 9 and Measure 13 opposition campaigns. I have long supported marriage equality and will continue to be a vocal proponent until everyone in Oregon can be married to whomever they choose. When asked to write a little bit about why she supports me, Former Representative Gail Shibley wrote this: “I'm with Charlie because of ferocious dedication to justice for all. Charlie isn't afraid to stand up to powerful interests to make sure people have the protection they deserve. And he doesn't just mouth the 'right things' that are politically helpful in 2012; he has a strong track record of walking the walk. In short, he's on OUR side." I am very proud of this. PQ:  Will you carry the torch lit by Mayor Sam Adams and encourage local companies to extend transgender-inclusive health benefits to their employees? Hales: Yes, I will absolutely carry on Mayor Adams’ advocacy. PQ: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing LGBTQ Portlanders, and how will you work to fix it? Hales: Discrimination. Looking forward, I will be an active part of the public education campaign and advocacy campaign to bring marriage equality to our state, and will be an outspoken advocate as Mayor for the freedom to marry for all caring and committed couples. Additionally, I will work with our public safety bureaus to continue to better reflect our community, including LGBTQ members of the bureaus’ workforce. We need to continue to ensure safety for everyone by acting decisively when hate crimes have been committed, threats are issued or safety is at all in question. As Commissioner of the City’s Fire Bureau, a hate crime against two lesbians was committed by a member of the force and I immediately fired him. Although we were forced to keep him due to state arbitration, the perpetrator was assigned to a desk job for at least the remainder of my tenure. Swift, no tolerance action is my response to discriminatory and hateful behavior. PQ: In an interview with CBS, President Barack Obama said that his job is not just about getting the policy right, but also “to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.†Does inspiration play a part in the job of mayor? What story would you tell to the people of Portland? Hales: The Mayor should be Portland’s number one manager and number one cheerleader. I would share the story of two families I spoke with on either end of the same block while canvassing one Saturday. The first was a young family, worried about whether or not they could stay in Portland because job security and decisions about sending their child to the local public school. At the other end was an elderly couple who had lived in the neighborhood for years and were worried about being able to stay in their home because of the ever rising sewer/water and garbage costs. At the end of the conversation both families looked at me and asked, “You aren’t going to forget us, right?†This meant so much to me, that they both asked to be remembered. It really drove home that the voters are desperately looking for someone to be their voice and their advocate. I’m dedicated to representing ALL Portlanders, from the kids still in school to the elderly, and giving them the voice they need and want in City Hall. PQ: Who inspires you? Whose story moves you? Hales: The people who really inspired my interest in local government were Mike Lindberg, Charles Jordan and Vera Katz. Mike is so open to new ideas and other people’s points of view. He also has great courage in his convictions, whether it’s about the LGBTQ community or the arts. Charles Jordan is an inspiring advocate for access to recreation for everyone. He really is a lion for kids. Vera showed us how a Mayor takes almost a parental interest in the people of our city, powering her leadership with love. I aspire to be like these three great leaders. PQ: What does democracy mean to you? How will you engage the citizens of Portland to play a part? Hales: To me, democracy means opportunity - every person should have the opportunity to lead a better life, and our government should be a willing partner to help them achieve it. I will erase roadblocks and barriers that affect Portlanders day-to-day life, whether it is by filling more potholes to protect their cars and bikes or working with neighborhoods to help implement their citizen-led neighborhood plans. The role of government under my administration will be that of partnership to create opportunity. PQ: Everyone makes mistakes. Tell us about something you once did/said that you later regretted. What caused you to have a change of heart, and how did you rectify the situation? Hales: The most humbling experiences I have had in my life typically revolve around fatherhood and wanting to be a good parent. Teaching my children a love for the outdoors is important to me, and so I do a lot of hiking, camping, and sailing with them. On a trip in the Pasayten Wilderness in the North Cascades, I made a bad navigation decision, and then stubbornly stuck to my bad decision. This resulted in a difficult and literally painful couple of days, in which my daughter was injured. The lesson, of course, was to listen to others ideas and suggestions, and to be willing to reverse course in a bad decision. That’s true in more than just a backpacking trip. PQ: Do you think it is appropriate to expect people to pay more for less, as Trimet now seems to? How would you reverse this trend? Hales: No, and getting into that spiral is the wrong direction. I’ll work very closely with TriMet to assure that transit is operated as a public service, not just as a business enterprise. PQ: What will you do to combat homelessness in Portland? Hales: Unfortunately, this is a very complex issue that affects far too many people in Portland. 1700 people will sleep on the street tonight – that’s just not right. I will work closely with the advocates and non-profits already established to identify programs that are working well and help support those initiatives. I will also work with the County to continue our support for full wraparound services offered at places like Bud Clark Commons. Also, I will be a watchdog for the new foreclosure mediation program because one in every 40 residents of Portland is losing their home to foreclosure. I will do what is in my power to helping to enforce this law, ensuring that banks notify and inform homeowners as quickly as possible. I will advocate at the state level to make rules regarding the process of lender foreclosure more widespread so we can find alternatives in mediation and keep Portlanders in their homes. For those who cannot keep their homes, I will work to make more transitional housing and low-income housing available. PQ:  How will you distinguish yourself as the new mayoral intern on “Portlandia� Hales: By demonstrating that makeup artists can make you look really pierced and tattooed, even if you aren’t! PQ: Are there any myths or misconceptions about yourself or your candidacy you’d like to debunk? Hales: There is a misconception that I lived in Washington to evade Oregon’s higher income taxes. This is absolutely false. Just over 10 years ago, I fell in love with my wife, Nancy. At the time, she lived in Washington and had children finishing up their high school education- we felt it was imperative that her kids be allowed the continuity of finishing school where they started, so when we got married, I moved in with her. We stayed in Washington just long enough for her youngest child to go to college, and then we moved back to Portland. It was a personal decision and I do not regret it one bit because it was one made for love. PQ: What’s your favorite gay anthem? Hales: “Born this Way†by Lady Gaga
Erin Rook is PQ's web editor and a regular contributor to the print edition. You can contact Erin at erin@pqmonthly.com.