February 23, 2016 – “Let’s Tell the Oregonian to Stop Choosing Our Mayoral Candidates For Us!”

Paul Cienfuegos’ February 23, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News

(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)

Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon, today knows that our city is in crisis in numerous ways. Renters are being tossed out of their homes in large numbers, using a perfectly legal but highly unethical method known as a no-cause eviction, simply so that landlords can make a few upgrades to their homes or apartments and then jack up the monthly rent as much as 60% per month, in order to then turn around and rent to the flood of people pouring in from much more expensive cities who are used to paying much higher rents than what Portlanders can afford. I personally know many long time residents who will likely have to leave Portland in the near future because they’ve been priced out of their homes. People of color have been the hardest hit, so America’s whitest major city is about to become even whiter.

Many locally-owned businesses are also being thrown out of their buildings all over the city, so that the owners of those buildings can bulldoze them and build four-story monstrosities in their place – again all totally legal but highly unethical.

Our local police continues to be out of control – either unable or unwilling to accept the reforms that citizens are demanding so that people of color, especially, no longer need to fear that they will be the victims of police violence.

I could carry on and on with this list. Our beloved Portland is in trouble, and those who live here know this to be true. We are at a moment in our city’s history where it really matters a lot who our elected officials are going to be in the next few years. Are we going to continue with business as usual, where the 1% has enormous power over our local government? Or are We the People of Portland going to pay much closer attention to the candidates for Mayor and City Council in order to ensure that we get the best local leaders we possibly can.

A battle is now brewing between a growing number of Portland voters and our corporate daily newspaper, the Oregonian, which causes me great concern. And in my opinion, if the voters don’t win this round of the battle, our city could sink into even further crisis. I’m talking about the Oregonian’s plan to host a major public debate next Monday February 29 for the upcoming election for mayor. Twelve candidates have filed to run. More than half of them have the potential to become an outstanding mayor, in my opinion. And yet, the Oregonian has invited only two of the twelve candidates to their mayoral debate next Monday – Ted Wheeler and Jules Bailey.

Anyone who cares about democracy, and the right of the people to participate in free and fair elections, with no manipulation by corporate interests, should be very concerned at this point, as the Oregonian’s management has already decided that Portland voters should have just two corporation-approved candidates to choose from, not twelve. In their public statement from February 9, the Oregonian wrote, “We could have invited all of those who’d filed for office to this month’s debate, but this would have involved a significant tradeoff. The audience might come away knowing more about a handful of candidates with little chance to win and limited ability to serve effectively. In exchange, though, they’d know less than they would otherwise about Wheeler and Bailey.” And the Oregonian’s Editorial and Commentary Editor Erik Lukens stated, “In our opinion, the qualification [and] relevant experience gap between these two and the rest of the field is wide enough to justify inviting only them.”

As you can imagine, there has been tremendous push-back from voters, yet the Oregonian has stated repeatedly that they will not be opening the debate to anyone else – not even to the only female candidate, Sarah Iannarone, who certainly has the competency and background to run a serious campaign.

An increasing number of outraged voters believe that the Oregonian newspaper has a duty and a responsibility to serve The People of Portland. And a small group of these voters has organized an Action Alert demanding that the Oregonian open its debate to all registered candidates, or expect to have their event cancelled nonviolently through mass civil disobedience. If you want to learn more about the efforts of this ad-hoc group’s campaign, check out their facebook page, titled “Tell the Oregonian: Stop choosing our mayoral candidates for us!”

The Portland Mercury is already covering this story on its website, and I expect as voter anger continues to build between today and next Monday’s so-called “debate”, there will be a lot more media coverage, which will generate an even larger number of angry voters. Again, if you want to know more about this unfolding story, you can go to facebook, and type in the following words: “Tell the Oregonian: Stop choosing our mayoral candidates for us!”

I think it’s critical at this moment of growing economic and ecological crises in our country, that the citizenry stand up tall, draw a line in the sand, and insist that our elections are ours! That no corporation, including the giant media corporation that owns our daily newspaper, has the right to interfere in how we choose our elected officials. Bernie Sanders has already proven that the American electorate is tired of business as usual in this country and that the public is ready and able to mobilize itself to take back our country from large corporations and the 1%. Is it conceivable that voters here in Portland will also rise up in the next six days to remind the Oregonian’s management that they have a duty to fulfill here in Portland? And that anything less than a full about-face from the Oregonian will result in the cancellation of this phony corporate-sponsored debate through nonviolent direct action by Portland’s voters? It’s going to be an exciting week.

You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.

You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can sign up for my ‘Community Rights Updates’ at PaulCienfuegos.com. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for.

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