Open and Accountable Elections Portland

November 1, 2016

The Problem

Many communities face barriers to their voices being heard in our democracy.  One in three Portlanders are people of color, and yet we have only had two people of color ever serve on our City Council.  The majority of our population is female and we have had just seven women on the City Council.  And sixty percent of our city’s population lives east of 47th Ave, but only two commissioners have come from these neighborhoods

One major reason for this is the high costs of running for office.  Candidates are forced to spend time raising money from a small group of donors.  In the 2012 elections, sixty percent of all money raised came from just a few hundred donors giving over $1000 each.  And they gave three times as much as the six thousand small donors giving less than $250[1].  Candidates today need networks of wealthy donors to run for office.  That prevents everyday people from getting elected and representing their own communities.

The Solution

We need Open and Accountable Elections.  Under this reform, if a candidate agrees to only take small donations from individuals, their small donations are matched and amplified.  This reform ensures that every Portlander–regardless of their background—has a set at the table and a voice in our democracy

Small donor matching has been successful all across our country.  New York City has had it for over thirty years, and Maine, Connecticut, Seattle, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and Montgomery County Maryland have seen this reform work.  Portland could too.

The Impact

Small donor matching changes how candidates campaign.  Because donations from ordinary people are amplified, candidates have more incentive to campaign in all neighborhoods.  That means candidates spend more time interacting with renters, students, working families, people of color, and Portlanders of every background.

Small donor matching also allows more people to run for office.  Big money acts as a barrier to candidates from low-income communities.  But if we do not need networks of wealthy donors to run for office, people of all backgrounds can participate in our elections.  The people with the most talent—not just the best connections–should be able to serve our city in public office.

Open and Accountable Elections is how we engage more people in our elections, and how we make sure that every person has a voice in our democracy.

Our elections are dominated by big donors.  But we can restore balance to our democracy.  If we match small contributions from ordinary Portlanders, every person can have a voice in our community.

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City Hall, Portland, OR

How Open and Accountable Elections Works

Our democracy can be put back in balance

  • Candidates for mayor, commissioner, or auditor must agree to not take any donation over $250 per election, and to only take donations from individuals.
  • Donations under $50 are matched six-to-one by the city, as long as the donors live in Portland, are over eighteen years old, and can give under federal and state law
  • Spending caps keep the costs down. Mayoral candidates cannot spend more than $380k in the primary and $570k in a general election.  Commissioner or auditor candidates cannot spend more than $180k in a primary election and $270k in a general election.

Our democracy can be responsible

  • Candidates must prove they have community support to qualify for the program. Mayoral candidates must raise $5000 from 500 Portlanders.  Commission or auditor candidates must raise $2500 from 250 Portlanders
  • Throughout the program, all candidates must disclose their contributions and their expenses more frequently than they do now
  • Candidates cannot use public funds to travel out of state, to throw expensive parties, or give the funds to another candidate. They cannot hire their family members, and they cannot go into debt.
  • Candidates must provide receipts to see a donation matched
  • Regulators have ten days to verify each donation
  • The verification process is transparent, fair, and open for the public to review

Our democracy can be a budget priority

  • The program is capped at 0.2% of the general fund, or $1 million a year
  • Public funds are protected, because mayoral candidates cannot receive more than $304,000 for a primary election and $456,000 for a general election in matching funds. Commission candidates or auditor candidates are capped at $144,000 in matching funds for a primary election, and $216,000 for a general election
  • There is no tax increase planned for this program

Our democracy can be fair

  • Violators and law-breakers can be fined up to $10,000
  • Independent expenditures and SuperPACs must be more transparent, and must disclose their donations and expenses on a faster timeline than they do now
  • An oversight commission will evaluate the program and can continually make recommendations to adjust for new dynamics

Open and Accountable Elections can make democracy work for all of us.  Join the many community-based advocates and support this reform for our city.

For more information, visit to www.AVoiceForAllPortland.org

Or contact Daniel Lewkow, Political Director for Common Cause Oregon at 503-283-1877 at Dlewkow@commoncause.org

[1] “In Portland, Elections 600 Big Donors Tip the Scales” The Sightline Institute.  May 27, 2016.  http://www.sightline.org/2016/05/27/in-portland-elections-600-big-donors-tip-the-campaign-scales/

 


Solar Inclusion Project

October 26, 2016

The Marys Peak Group (MPG) has developed a project to support the Sierra Club’s efforts to increase the use of solar power and to become more inclusive of diverse communities. Up to this point, the marketing target and users of solar energy have primarily been restricted to the upper economic classes of our society.

The MPG has long taken the position of “action over words” and “put our money where our mouth is.”  In an effort to broaden the usage of solar power throughout the economic spectrum, the MPG initiated and collaborated with Benton Habitat for Humanity, Seeds for the Sol and Abundant Solar, LLC to initiate the Solar Inclusion Project (SIP).

SIP has 3 goals:

  1. Inclusion and Independence – Provide solar energy systems on Benton Habitat for Humanity homes to include a wider economic diversity of families into the solar energy revolution and to provide a greater opportunity for the recipient families to experience economic independence.
  2. Collaboration – Create a unique collaboration of a social services organization, environmental non-profit, a funding organization and a for-profit business to help resolve some fundamental community problems.
  3. Model Project – Create a project model and process that can be used at the community, state or national levels by both the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity organizations.

The MPG provided $6,500 to kick-start and help fund this project. Seeds for the Sol is providing creative funding sources for the remaining funds. Abundant Solar is installing the systems below the profit threshold.

The kick-off ceremony on September 20, 2016 included the contribution of the funding by the MPG to Benton Habitat for Humanity, a signing of the commitment by the four member organizations,  plus speeches by the four organizations, including Oregon Chapter Executive Director Erica Stock and the Director of the Oregon Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to providing solar energy to low-income housing families, the MPG has also received very positive publicity and recognition.

In very quick fashion, all necessary funds and donations were raised and as a result of the publicity. Another donor has also stepped forward to fund the 3rd Habitat Home solar installation. The MPG is now seeking additional community benefactors.

The first project will be the installation of solar systems on three Benton Habitat for Humanity homes in Corvallis in the first half of November 2016.

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This collaboration is the first collaboration of its kind locally among environmental, social services, financial and business organizations. Karen Rockwell, the executive director of Benton Habitat said of the venture that, “I couldn’t be more excited about the Sierra Club’s decision to select Benton Habitat for Humanity to partner with on this project. Providing these funds allows us to provide Habitat homeowners with increased affordability and environmental sustainability. Not only will the cost of power to the families be substantially reduced, the project also goes hand-in-hand with our community’s sustainability goals!”

The MPG has met the first two parts of our SIP mission – inclusion and collaboration. In an effort to meet the third mission point – to model – the MPG encourages other Sierra Club groups to consider similar Environmental/Social/Financial/Business collaborations. Interested groups can contact MPG ExCom Chair Robert White at lwii47@gmail.com for further information.


Call for Nomination Petitions

October 18, 2016

Sierra Club Oregon Chapter Executive Committee welcomes nominations by petition!

Each year a portion of the Sierra Club Oregon Chapter’s elected at-large Executive Committee (ExCom) reaches the end of their terms. Some decide not to run again, others do. The Chapter uses democracy to hold itself accountable to its membership, so we need good candidates to best represent our members’ interests.

The ExCom sets the Chapter’s budget and strategic direction, is deeply involved in the Chapter’s conservation and political work, hires the state director, fundraises, chooses a delegate to the Council of Club Leaders, and approves litigation and electoral endorsements.

To accomplish all of this, the ExCom meets quarterly at different locations around the state to better facilitate involvement of our Chapter and Group leaders across Oregon. There are opportunities to participate remotely in these meetings and there is periodic e-mail and phone correspondence between meetings. ExCom members sit on or chair subcommittees to further contribute to the Chapter’s work and governance. The ExCom also participates in a planning an annual retreat and additional important events throughout the year.

This year, our Nominations Committee has identified five candidates to run for four vacancies on the ExCom. We value the Oregon Chapter membership’s involvement in this process and welcome additional nominees by petition in accordance with our bylaws.

After receiving additional nominations by petition, we — the Nominations Committee — will finalize the candidate slate for this year’s election ballot, which will go out to members in November. Chapter members interested in getting on the ballot by petition must submit a written petition with the names, member numbers, and signatures of at least 1%, or 200, of the Chapter’s 20,000 members in good standing to the Nominations Committee within two weeks of this notice. The Nominations Committee will accept petition nominations until end-of-day November 1, 2016.

Candidates then get space on the Chapter website to advocate for their election in a brief candidate statement.

The four-week election period will commence later in November and close in December.

The four candidates receiving the most votes will start their two-year terms in January 2017.

Have ideas on who would be a great Executive Committee member? Interested in petitioning for nomination as a candidate in this year’s Oregon Chapter Executive Committee election? Send completed petitions or other inquiries to Nominations Committee Chair, Drew Kerr at kerr.drew@gmail.com. Please send nomination petitions no later than November 1, 2016.

Thank you!

– The Nominations Committee

 


UPDATE #2: Portland Fossil Fuel Policy Zoning Heads Back to City Council

October 13, 2016

By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team

A governmental journey of a thousand miles begins with scaling multiple bureaucratic mountains – a step at a time.  Portland’s path to Keep It In the Ground – working to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure – got major trailblazing from the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) this week.  We are now on track for groundbreaking new zoning code amendments.

So please Save the Dates: the mayor has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, November 10, at 2 p.m., with the City Council votes planned for Thursday, November 17.  As always, please wear red.

The high-level backstory, critically important for carrying momentum through to the City Council, was this: in split votes, the PSC basically rejected false equivalency.  Governmental agencies – like the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) – have long felt obligated to balance stakeholders, theoretically treating everyone as equal in a Civics 101 sense.

Of course, some animals were always more equal than others: typically, on zoning, it was developers and business special interests.  But the classic theory that everyone has a valid tale to tell no longer works on energy and sustainability issues, because of the rapidly-expanding climate crisis.

BPS has done some terrific work on this, but it is difficult for an agency to recognize that the fossil fuel industries cannot be allowed to be the deciders any longer.  Thankfully, an educated and courageous majority on the Planning & Sustainability Commission generally rejected the weakest parts of the newest BPS recommendations.  Notably, the PSC unanimously refused to carve out special exemptions from the most important infrastructure limits for Northwest Natural.   Overall, the PSC will be giving the City Council a pretty good road map for this effort at a climate landmark.

There are still some stumble-spots on the trail, of course, and we’ll be working with eco-coalition partners* to identify to the City Council how to smooth those out.  We will give you the full detailed wonk-post in the near future.

In the meantime, if you run into the mayor or a city commissioner at, say, a political event, or the grocery store, be sure to mention that:

 Just like false equivalency has been a core fallacy in our nation’s presidential race**, so too it is a dangerous trap on the path to solving the climate crisis.

The City Council’s core responsibility is to defend the commitments in their November 2015 binding policy resolution to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure.  Let’s make that happen!

* Columbia Riverkeeper, Audubon of Portland, 350PDX, Center for Sustainable Economy, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and many others.

** Sierra Club has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Beyond Gas & Oil Campaign Work

October 13, 2016

The Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas and Oil Team (BG&O) is doing awesome work throughout the region to  move Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in the right direction—away from dirty fossil fuel extraction, transport, and export. A summary of their ongoing work on gas infrastructure and oil trains is below. Contact Gregory Monahan, Chair of the Beyond Gas and Oil Team, if you would like more information or if you would like to volunteer with the Beyond Gas and Oil Team: gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org.

GAS

Owing to the revolutionary improvements in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology, there are abundant sources of natural gas in the Pacific Northwest which the producers are seeking to get to market, with catastrophic impacts on planetary warming.  Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is produced by compressing and cooling natural gas and requires massive amounts of energy to create, resulting in greater global warming impacts. Methanol is essentially another liquid form of natural gas which also requires massive energy inputs to produce. All of these products, while being touted as clean energy solutions are dirty fossil fuels and need to be left in the ground if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a world in which they can thrive.

If you have not already seen it, take a look at the LNG video produced by the 8th grade Sustainability Cohort from Sunnyside Elementary School last year:

Jordan Cove Export Terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline Not Dead Yet

The proposed Jordan Cove LNG Export Terminal, Pacific Connector Pipeline and associated South Dunes Power Plant live on as a “dead project walking”. FERC has denied the permits for the pipeline and terminal because of a lack of customers and because too few landowners have signed easements. The applicants have filed a “request for a rehearing” with FERC and have been busy trying to create the impression that they now have contracts to sell gas (they don’t) and that they made headway in signing easements (they haven’t). FERC has is not to make a decision on the request for a rehearing until after the November elections. The companies are paying state agencies to continue to evaluate permits (DEQ water quality permits for the 400+ stream crossings and DSL for the lease of public lands). DEQ has a deadline for issuing a decision by Nov 8th while the deadline for DSL is Nov. 10th. The BG&O team is working closely with our allies in the Statewide No LNG coalition to help educate the public about the status of the project and the threat this project represents to both the impacted landowners and to the health of the planet.

Proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery and Export Terminal
methanolThe work to block the proposed Kalama Methanol terminal and associated natural gas pipeline continues with organizing leadership being provided by WA Chapter of the Sierra Club organizer Cecile Gernez and Jasmine Stukey-Zimmer, Senior Organizer with Columbia Riverkeeper. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was released on September 30, 2016. There are significant information gaps in the FEIS, which is supposed to address the potential effects on the environment from the project. Columbia Riverkeeper will appeal the FEIS. Once the appeal is filed, it will take a few months for the Cowlitz County commissioner-appointed Hearings Officer to make a decision.

Expanded Use of Natural Gas for Electrical Power Generating at the Carty-Boardman Site.

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Photo credit: Steve Nehl/The Oregonian

When the Coal to Clean legislation was passed earlier this year, it was with the expectation that Coal fired power sources would phase out and be replaced with renewable energy sources. PGE recently announced its intention to add another Natural Gas powered generator to the Carty-Board man site making this a Coal to Natural Gas transition. The BG&O Campaign is partnering with the Beyond Coal campaign to stop this wrong-headed idea in its tracks. We need to directly transition to a carbon free grid and skip the 30 year side trip that new natural gas powered power plants represent.


OIL TRAINS

meganticMany of the existing and proposed oil terminals and refineries in the state of Washington plan on using the rail lines that run on both sides of the Columbia River through the small towns and cities in the rural areas, through the National Scenic Area of the Columbia Gorge and through the metropolitan areas of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Regardless of which side of the river they run on, these trains represent a threat to the health and safety of the people and environment on both sides of the river.

Trains carrying Bakken Crude have a history of derailments with explosive fires such as the one in Lac-Mégantic. Canada which killed 47 people and demolished the central portion of the town.

Proposed Shell Rail Expansion in Anacortes, WA withdrawn

Shell has withdrawn its proposal to expand its Anacortes Refinery rail siding capacity, which would have resulted in as many as 6 additional explosive crude by rail running through the Columbia Gorge every day.

 

fireball

Photo credit: Dawn Faught via NT

Southern Willamette Valley Crude by Rail Work Beginning

Interest in blocking crude by oil trains through the southern Willamette valley is increasing in the wake of the derailment and explosive fire this past June in Mosier, Oregon. The BG&O team will participate in a 350 Eugene sponsored Expert Panel on Oil Trains as part of their “Awareness and Resistance” Oil Train campaign scheduled for Nov 15th. Preliminary discussions have taken place exploring the idea of establishing a Statewide No Crude by Rail Coalition loosely based in the successful Statewide No LNG Coalition.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Westway oil terminal in Grays Harbor released on September 30th

This proposed project would be another source of long, explosive crude oil trains running through the Columbia River Gorge. Read the working summary of the main points of the final EIS from the Stand Up To Oil (SUTO) Coalition website. Join with over 600 members of the Yakama nation and urge the Mayor of Hoquiam and city manager to deny permits for Westway oil terminal proposal by using the SUTO web site.


Rally sends clear message to State Land Board: “Keep the Elliott Public”

October 13, 2016
On October 11th, nearly 125 Oregonians from across the state gathered on the lawn of the State Land Board building in Salem to send a loud, colorful, and clear message to the State Land Board: the Elliott State Forest needs to be protected and it needs to be kept public. Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler are in the midst of a process that could see the Elliott sold off, most likely to a timber company with its sites set on logging some of the last remnant old growth forest in Oregon’s coast range.
Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

It was an excellent turnout with a broad cross section of Oregonians that included native Americans, Coos County residents, hunters, anglers, campers, educators, and kids who are growing up with access to the forest.  One of the most pressing and common concerns is the loss of access to the forest if it is privatized. It is unclear exactly how much and how often the forest would be made open to locals and visitors if it was sold. This is just one of the sale “sideboards” that is inadequate or vague. Protection for aquatic habitat would be reduced by the implementation of weak stream buffers from logging and it appears that much of the old growth would be on the chopping block.
Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

38 Oregonians testified before the Land Board, and all of the speakers, except one, provided excellent and powerful testimony on the importance of keeping the Elliott in the public trust. One comment that stuck out was by Fregus McLean.  The economic study commissioned by the state land board to determine the “market value” of the Elliott failed to account for carbon sequestration benefits. Mr. McLean, who is running for Oregon House District 7, provided the economic benefit of saving the Elliott for carbon credits.  His figures indicated that carbon credits could be worth as much as $1.25 billion which is six times greater than the “market value” estimate by LandVest Consulting, the State Land Board’s consultant. It is also worth noting there may be a potential conflict of interest by LandVest that should be investigated.
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Speaking up for all the salmon who couldn’t make the trip to Salem (photo by Josh Laughlin)

The economic value of the Elliott far exceeds the value of timber if you account for carbon sequestration and sale of credits plus recreation, habitat preservation, coho salmon fishery, and many other attributes. This is on top of the hugely important ecological and climate values that the Elliott represents. The Oregon coast range is dominated by private timber holdings—lands that have largely reduced to monoculture tree plantations with bare hillsides and a steady stream of toxic herbicides being sprayed from above. Oregon’s three largest state forests, the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott are some of the last refuges for threatened coho salmon, endangered marbled murrelets, threatened northern spotted owls, and an abundance of other fish, wildlife, and plants. These forests are also a massive carbon sink that has the potential to slow and mitigate climate change.

All this could be lost if Governor Brown and Treasurer Wheeler don’t step up with a real, innovative, and collaborative solution. It would be a low point in Governor Brown’s nascent governorship. For Wheeler, who begins his first term as Mayor of Portland in January, selling the Elliott would run counter to the progressive policies he has promised. Hopefully, our elected leaders heard what they needed to.  Lon Otterby, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group and long-time forest advocate said, “in all my session with the State Land Board this was the most exciting and effective event I have participated on.” Let’s hope Lon is right!
Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Written with significant contributions from Howard Saxon and Lon Otterby of the Many Rivers Group. To get involved in the Sierra Club’s effort to protect the Elliott, email Chris Smith (chris.smith@sierraclub.org).

Save Our Elliott State Forest

September 29, 2016
spawning_coho_

Threatened wild coho salmon spawning in upper Lietel Creek, a tributary of Tahkenitch Lake (photo by Jim Yuskavitch)


Governor Kate Brown and the State Land Board are considering a proposal to sell off the Elliott to logging corporations
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Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, theElliott State Forest is a 93,000-acre state owned forestland containing some of Oregon’s last remaining coastal old-growth. Approximately half of the forest is over a century old. It provides a home to threatened and endangered species, vital habitat to elk, black bear, and deer, and some of the strongest wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Oregon Coast. Biologists estimate that 22% of all wild Oregon coastal coho salmon originate in the Elliott.

Unfortunately, privatizing the Elliott will almost certainly lead to industrial-style logging of the surviving old-growth, and the destruction of salmon and wildlife habitat. It would also mean the loss of public access to the land – including hunting and fishing – something we treasure as Oregonians.

There are three ways you can get involved in protecting this Oregon gem:

1. Learn More –  Attend a Teach-In on October 4th or 6th in Portland

Sierra Club and Portland Audubon are hosting teach-ins at their respective headquarters. These are great opportunities to learn more about the Elliott and the threats that it faces – details here.

2. Attend a Rally in Salem on October 11th

Rally with fellow conservation advocates from across the state to demand that the Elliott stays in public ownership and its natural resources are protected. Wear green to show support for protecting this critical wildlife habitat for Marbled Murrelets and Northern Spotted Owls. 

When: October 11th, Rally starts at 9 AM

Where: State Land Board Meeting in Salem – Department of State Lands 775 Summer St. Salem OR 97301

RSVP for the Rally and Carpool Here!

Coast Range Forest Watch is hosting a carpool to the rally from Coos Bay – details here.

3. Write to the State Land Board

Click here to take action today and tell Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that we will not accept the privatization of our public lands.