The latest fundraising reports reveal a tale of two cities as the grassroots People First Portland, (PFP), campaign is outspent 30 – 1 by corporate interests, with one single landlord in Portland, contributing more than the PFP raised to campaign for all five of the A-E referanda.
“These fundraising totals really show us where the power lies in Portland and which side our Mayor and city councilors are on. While people get priced out of the city, a few large landlords and big developers are making huge profit off working people’s pain,” said volunteer Jack O’Brien in a press release issued today.
PFP raised $23,955. in total for the campaign period, with an average donation of $70., compared with $622,493. and counting from opposition groups and an average donation to Building a Better Portland coming in over $2,000. That number is likely to rise substantially as the AirBnB campaign’s filings were not made available to the public by the city clerk’s office on two previous attempts. The city clerk’s office which still files reports on paper using handwritten and printed materials that the public can view in a single manila folder informed PFP campaign that AirBnB’s campaign filing was “stuck under a stack of applications.”
THE REAL QUESTION HERE IS: Why our elected officials felt the need to tip the scales for a massively well-funded and coordinated opposition, said O’Brien.
Despite its outsized fundraising disadvantage, the grassroots campaign has tremendous support on the ground and from actual residents. On Monday, the campaign released a 6-minute video, containing the testimony of dozens of Portlanders and produced, edited and scored by volunteers entitled, “Who Does Portland Belong To?”
The donations from a single landlord and developer, the controversial Tom Watson, reveal a deeper plot. Mr. Watson contributed over $50,000. to oppose measures like tenant protections, though his contributions weren’t direct. After some digging, the PFP campaign discovered a web of over a dozen corporations and their partners tied to Mr. Watson that all donated to the Building a Better Portland PAC. The developer has a long history of winning advantageous land deals and getting fast-tracked approvals from the city council and the planning board.
A most recent illustration is the speedy review of his property at 44 Hanover Street property used to be city-owned land that was deemed unsuitable for residential development by the city council in 2018 and was never put out to receive bids on affordable housing. Now the development, two years later is slated to be approved for non-affordable and market-rate housing development.
“Once you start to unravel the web of Tom Watson, you uncover the rot in the whole system. It’s intentionally hard to navigate these processes, between hidden LLCs, completely inaccessible city documents, and a rubber-stamp attitude from both planning board and the city council. It’s no surprise that Mr. Watson’s massive profits, aided and abetted by the Portland taxpayers, thanks to the city council, are one of the largest donation sources against a people-powered campaign. Powerful people like Tom Watson, Jack Soley and Britt Vitalius, all want as little direct democracy as possible. They thrive on secrecy,” said Karen Snyder, a landlord.
“PFP feels optimistic about the future and about the race results. The fact that we’re outspent 30 – 1 and we’re still in the race shows us that our ideas have already won,” said volunteer Jack O’Brien, in the press release received today.
mhn.com comment: Long time city councilor and long time chair of the city’s Anti-Tenant Housing Committee, has said publicly that she and Tom Watson are good friends. It should be noted that during her tenure as Chair of the Committee, she has never once initiated or endorsed legislation for Portland that would ease the plight of renters experiencing gentrification and its consequences. I wonder why!
Years ago, mhn.com approached then Mayor of Portland George Campbell about setting up a landlord/tenant board. His response: “It’s women like you who have nothing who want everything.”
Please visit post herein dated October 21, 2020, “Portland Dems Expand Support on Citizens Initiative on Portland Ballot.”