Gateway forum introduces candidates seeking Commissioner Adams’ seat

Find out what folks at the packed Gateway Area Business Association learned about these candidates, during their first East Portland outing …

As is their tradition, Gateway Keystone Kop Brad Sanchez gives the Rubber Chicken Award to Nancy Zuffrea of ExecuTech Suites, and crowns her “Queen of the Fun-O-Rama Community Fair” in recognition for her work on the project.

Story by Watford Reed, Photos by D.F. Ashton
Five candidates for the Portland City Council presented two main themes when they spoke to 60 people at the Gateway Area Business Association on February 14: East Portland should have more attention, and so should small business.

The five are seeking the post that Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams currently holds on the Portland City Council.  Adams is running for mayor.

The five candidates at this form were Jeff Bissonnette, John Branham, Amanda Fritz, Charles Lewis, and Christopher Smith. A sixth candidate, Mike Fahey, could not attend.

Jeff Bissonnette
Giving their opening statements, speaking in alphabetical order, Jeff Bissonnette led off. He said, if elected, he will open city offices in the neighborhoods so that people can take care of business with the City of Portland without having to go downtown. Two of those offices will be located east of 82nd Avenue of Roses, and one will be in the St. Johns area, his longtime home. He wants better education for young people beyond high school and better accountability in both schools and government, he said.

John Branham
John Branham, a classroom teacher who leads development for Portland Public Schools, said schools are essential, and business will not succeed in the future without good schools. Further, he said, a variety of leadership styles is what is needed to put good ideas into action.

Amanda Fritz
Amanda Fritz, a psychiatric nurse and mother of three children, called herself a “neighborhood activist” and said she is active in East Portland causes. “I’ve been making a difference in neighborhoods, schools, parks, social justice, and holding development accountable to the Portland way,” she said. “As a nurse I listen to people and help them solve their problems,” she declared.

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis, head of the Ethos Music Center that brings music education to more than 2,200 children in Portland, said the city “is pouring money into downtown,” not East Portland.

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith likewise called himself a “community activist” who has sought to make city government more accessible.  He wants a “sustainable” city – “environmentally, socially, in housing, and its institutions,” he declared. To him, housing is the most important aspect, but commercial and residential aspects are also important too.

Role of city government defined
Moderator David F. Ashton asked each candidate, “What are the primary tasks, or duties, of city government?”

Lewis promised to ask questions with a true interest in the answers, and “not sit in the City Hall and say I know all the answers”.  He called for “open multi-use” of school lands, partly because of pressure on open spaces, and promised to do his best “for the little guy”.

Bissonnette agreed that public safety is foremost and added, “Small businesses are our economic lifeline.”  Portland has a reputation for being bad for small business, he warned.

Fritz said the primary responsibilities of city government include public safety and to keep the city’s infrastructure in good order. She declared that the “primary job” is to “look after the little guy”.  Too much attention is now given to big businesses and developers and “affordable housing is needed”.

Smith listed police, fire protection, water, and sewer is as leading responsibilities, but added that “we need to decide collectively on what we want from our city government.”

Branham likewise said protecting people comes first, but said citizens need to be “drawn together” to create a better city.  “We have the basics in place now, but we need plan looking ahead 30 or 40 years,” he added.

Moderator Ashton ended the discussion by saying that many political leaders in Portland city government “Hope you don’t vote”.  The more outer East Portland citizens who vote, “the more attention is paid to our part of town,” he pointed out. He estimated that if “just over half” of registered voters in the area to cast ballots, they can tip the scales for the new city commissioners and the next mayor to succeed.

“Think about it,” he concluded. “Encourage your friends to vote.”


Jeff Bissonnette:

John Branham: No web site could be located.

Amanda Fritz:

Charles Lewis:

Christopher Smith:

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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