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Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet
One of the many reasons I love Portland so much is the accessibility of our City government. Over the past decade or so, with very few exceptions, I have been able to meet with City Commissioners to discuss issues of public policy. And when I talk about accessibility, I am talking about me as an interested citizen, not me as a representative of an influential organization. Whether or not I was able to sway anyone with my arguments, I always felt heard, and that is what matters the most, at least from my perspective.
I say this because I watched the evolution of the Portland Development Commission’s (PDC) Economic Development Strategy over the past few months. I have read the drafts, attended presentations to a range of business groups, from the Economic Development Cabinet, the Small Business Advisory Council to Greenlight Greater Portland. I have both seen and heard how the voices of small business and the open source tech community changed the strategy for the better. You can read more about the small business and tech community’s participation in the process here, and here. You can also read what Rick Turoczy had to say on Silicon Florist here and here.
Here is what the mayor had to say about the importance of this plan:
This strategy, if approved by Council, will be the city’s first adopted economic development strategy in 15 years, and will serve as the blueprint to guide the city and region out of the most significant economic decline in over sixty years. The plan strategically focuses on maximizing the competitive environment for businesses, spurring innovation and enhancing the vitality of our small business community.
It is now our turn to publicly support both Mayor Adams’ and PDC’s efforts by showing our support for the final plan. On Wednesday, July 8th, I invite you to join me at 3:15 in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall (1221 SW 4th ave, Portland, OR 97204) to demonstrate our support for the plan.
I know this may be pushing some of you out of your comfort zone. It is important enough to me and Portland’s small business community that I will do what I can to support those who want to show their support. I will be waiting outside the 4th street entrance to City Hall starting at 2:45 on Wednesday. Anyone is welcome to meet me there and we can walk in as a group at about 3:05.
Not able to make the meeting, but still want to show your support for the strategy? You can submit written testimony by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the Council Clerk and will distribute your testimony to all of City Council and make it part of the official record.
I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.
Back in early February, Mayor Adams held his first Economic Recovery Cabinet meeting. The invitation list was large and included representatives from academia, chambers of commerce, large employers, developers and builders, organized labor, economists, government and nonprofits, attorneys, representatives from some key sectors, including: finance and banking, creative, manufacturing, entertainment and tourism and high tech, as well as utilities and trade associations.
At that meeting, the Portland Development Commission rolled out their “50% Draft of The City of Portland’s Economic Development Strategy 2/4/09,” where you will find this on page 15:
Small businesses create jobs and are the backbone of Portland’s economy. Over 90 percent of Portland’s businesses have fewer than 100 employees, and nearly three-quarters of net new jobs in Portland are created by small business. Support for small businesses in Portland is paramount to maintaining Portland’s competitiveness and attracting talent.
Of the 83 people invited to join the Economic Recovery Cabinet, five were explicitly representing small businesses. If you include the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations, the number goes up to six. This despite the fact that small businesses represent 90% of businesses in Portland and we create 3/4 of net new jobs. Does anyone else see a disconnect here?
The next meeting of the Economic Recovery Cabinet is March 18th. I would like to bring with me comments and suggestions from other local business owners. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Individually we are easy to bypass, but together we can truly advocate for Portland’s small businesses.
Not sure what you are supposed to comment on? Here is a short list of some of the information and resources currently available for Portland businesses and residents.
What else should be on that list?
Below is a copy of an email I sent to Sam Adams this afternoon:
I am the go-to person on local politics for Portland’s open source tech community. I have lost track of how many times I have been asked today my thoughts on your current situation. Given all of the pressure that is being placed on you to resign, I want to offer my counter-argument that I have shared with everyone who has asked for my opinion.
It is clear that you expressed poor judgment in lying about about your relationship with Beau. And any time there is a sexual relationship between a mentor and a mentee, it raises appropriate concerns about the possible abuse of power. However, what happened between you and Beau was between two consenting adults it is really none of my business.
Instead, I hold the media responsible for creating unecessary sensationalism over an act of poor judgment. I normally appreciate Nigel Jaquiss’ in-depth reporting and without question, he demonstrated his skills as a reporter when he was the member of the press who asked the best questions about FPD&R reform. That being said, I think both he and Willamette Week made the decision to sensationalize a relatively minor issue during a time of unprecendented change, both good (Obama’s inaguration) and bad (the ecoomy). Nigel failed to make a case for his story to be broken with such great urgency. You have already been elected and sworn in and the only reason I can see for not waiting until after the inaguration is to maximize sensationalism. That doesn’t even take into consideration the question of the numerous instances of unfounded speculation in his article.
The Oregonian further sensationalized the situation by placing your admission as the very first headline above the fold on inauguration day. I can see no justification for placing the admission of a lie that was not made under oath above the news of an absolutely historic moment in our country’s racially checkered history. That is nothing but irresponsible journalism.
I suspected, and you have since confirmed, that your rationale for your deceit being concern that as an openly gay man, being honest about your relationship with Beau would bring an innapropriate amount of focus to your sexual orientation. I am saddened to have seen your concern come to pass. When listening to OPB yesterday afternoon, the story made several references to how little attention was given during the mayoral race to the fact that you are an out gay man and how proud we were that it was a non-issue to the voters. If that is the case, why did it need to be raised in this context at all? Frankly, your sexual orientation and the attention paid to it during your mayoral campaign is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. I am confident that there would have been no mention of how the people in question were straight if the situation had involved a man and a woman.
Furthermore, the question being raised is not whether you expressed poor judgment and exacerbated the situation by lying about it. The question is whether or not you should remain mayor of Portland. In this particular situation we have a clear answer. You have been in City Hall as Vera’s Chief of Staff, as a City Commissioner, and were elected as mayor by an majority of voters, securing your electionin the May primary. My response to cries of “how do we know we can trust him?” is simply that we know because of your long record of public service. Regardless of whether or not people agree with the political decisions you have made over the course of your career, the voters have repeatedly made it clear that your decisions are based on what is best for Portland.
Case in point is the work you and your staff have put into finding ways to help Portland through the current economic downturn. You didn’t wait for the massive bank failures, the ongoing layoffs or the wringing of hands. You presented a draft proposal of 10 things that the City government could do to buoy small businesses in Portland in April, 2008, even before you were elected mayor. As a member of the SBAC, I have been witness to your ongoing and evolving efforts in this area, and that is what leads me to my final point.
We, as a city, cannot afford the time, effort and energy a new mayoral campaign would require. I suspect much of the work you have put in towards economic recovery will be put aside because of its association with you, and City Council will end up reinventing the wheel. We are in a time of crisis and we need to keep our focus if we are going to survive as the vibrant city that we know and love. Given the choice between forgiving you for two acts of poor judgment for which you have repeatedly publicly apologized versus creating a major disruption in City goverment in the midst of yet another challenging budget process during an unprecedented economic crisis, the answer is a no brainer.
That is why I am asking you not to step down from your position as mayor.