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Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group:

Making Lives Better for Indigenous People in Multnomah County and Beyond

by Elisha Big Back (Northern Cheyenne) and Ruth Jensen (Tlingit)

The purpose of the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group is to advance Indigenous priorities and connect with Indigenous cultures. The Group takes collective action monthly to advocate for Indigenous issues. All Democrats and non-affiliated voters are welcome to participate in these ways:

  • Joining an Indigenous-led effort with diverse advocates and allies
  • Activating Democratic networks to advance the causes of tribal sovereignty
  • Advocating for all citizens of tribal nations, both those citizens who reside in Multnomah County and beyond
  • Raising awareness of the sovereignty all tribal nations within the United States: unrecognized, dozens of state-recognized, and the 574 that are federally-recognized

Since its inception in July 2020, this Study Group met monthly for over a year. For more than half of 2021, the monthly meetings featured local Indigenous leaders who shared their perspectives on policy and actions to be taken to advance these policies.

Elisha Big Back (Northern Cheyenne) chairs the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group for MultDems’ Platform, Resolutions, and Legislation Committee.  She serves as the Foster Care Services Manager at the Native American Youth and Family Center, and she owns and operates Sisters Fry Bread, LLC. Her political experience ranges from helping Representative Tawna Sanchez get elected to campaigning for William Miller. She advocates on several coalitions such as Foster Homes of Healing. She has participated in lobby days at the Capitol and believes that all roads lead to policy change. With her wide and powerful network, she is bringing in new Indigenous leaders to participate in the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group.

In 2019, MultDems adopted the Tribal Sovereignty article of the 2020 Platform which led to the inaugural meeting of the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group on July 21 2020. On November 13, 2021, MultDems adopted the 2022 Platform with updated planks and action items for the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group.

All Democrats and non-affiliated voters are invited to join this Group: Indigenous people along with their allies and advocates. Please join the effort for advancing these planks and actions to uphold tribal sovereignty and make lives better for Indigenous people in Multnomah County and beyond. For more information, email .

What’s what in our government… Let’s get smarter about the Oregon legislature and its short sessions

by Dannelle D. Stevens, Election Integrity Study Group

Given the old idea that Oregon is a small state and does not need a full-time legislature, our state legislature does not meet full time. This worked when Oregon was simply a farming and logging state. Oregon is very different now. Yet, over two years, the state legislature meets for one long session of 160 days (second Monday in January through the end of June) on odd-numbered years, and one short session of 35 days (February 1 to March 7) on even-numbered years. Then the cycle begins again.

How do our representatives prepare for these sessions? Is what happens in the short session different from what happens in the longer one? In 2022, the Oregon House (40 members) and Senate (20 members) will have a short session of five weeks. Given its limited duration, traditionally this shorter session was meant for doing “cleanup” type bills or bills that address technical issues. However, this is not always the case and many legislators work on larger policy issues. The decisions about what will be the legislative priorities are being made NOW before Thanksgiving.

Really, folks!

Our Democratic representatives are requested by the party leader (Tina Kotek, House; Peter Courtney, Senate) to identify only TWO bills each to be considered during this short session.

Check out, where you will see the invitation to become engaged during November 15-18: “Opportunity to be engaged with committees and hearings.” If you have an issue you think is important, you had better sound off now because each rep must give their ideas for the two bills in November. That will be the work that the legislature will consider.

When the legislature is in session for these short periods, their work is intense. Things get left by the wayside in the rush to get legislation done in this short window. Look at the campaign finance initiative passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 2020 (72% in favor). The legislature was charged with creating the policies to enact this vote. No, they did not do this. Now, another effort by the voters must be launched. More voter energy is wasted on something we already told the legislature to do. Was it because there was not time? Just ask your representative.

There are some problematic assumptions about these short sessions. It is critical that we rethink the assumption that it is best for Oregon to have a part-time legislature. Oregon will now have six representatives in the U.S. Congress because of the population increases in the state. An increase in population size means an increase in needs. Government services need to be evaluated to support this increasing population from the DMV to the unemployment office to wildfire prevention. A part-time legislature has less time to attend to the state’s needs and less time to hear from the constituents.These legislators have to prioritize their actions. The voters lose.

We need a full-time legislature. What do you think?

Followup on redistricting from my August “What’s What” article. The realigned district maps are being challenged by the Republicans, but most observers believe the district lines will be sustained by the courts. A clear update (with maps) can be found at this link:

Dannelle D. Stevens is Precinct Committee Person (PCP) and Neighborhood Leader in District 41 (Inner SE Portland). Her interest in civic awareness started as a high school social studies teacher and led her to being a (now retired) teacher educator from Portland State University.

Photo credit: Wikipedia/public domain


by Gary Lietke, District Leader for HD 44

It’s time to talk frankly within our committed Precinct Committee Persons (PCPs), so we can respond adequately to the dire political climate we face. It’s time to scale our programs and our personal participation to the scale of our challenges.

Make no mistake—if we MultDems don’t connect more effectively with our allied collaborative organizations and the full diversity of our registered Dem voters and NAVs, we’re in trouble. 

  • Please pore over the 10-minute November 2021 Community Action & Engagement report on YouTube:
  • It outlines our strategic plan to maximize both our effectiveness and efficiency. Its success is built on four lean teams: Collaborative Orgs, Action, Education, Outreach. Please study those four slides.
  • Next, we’re asking every PCP to submit the CA&E team leader-member recommendations form—multiple times! Staffing up these four teams is our immediate priority, so that they can start planning and doing.

Please nominate yourself. “Many hands make light(er) work” is our power. And fearlessly nominate others you think can help this effort.

The timeline for gearing up is urgent, if we hope to hold the line and advance our values for the 2022 primary and general elections. Merely dropping slate cards is hardly enough. We must do everything we can to facilitate OVERWHELMING DEMAND BY THE PEOPLE for the priorities outlined in the new Multhomah County Democrats Platform.

Climate Action Team Update

by Tracy Farwell and Britton Taylor

The climate crisis is top of mind as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) comes to a close in Glasgow. A coalition of local environmental and climate groups put together their own programming to align with the UN Conference. On November 1st, the COP26 Coalition Portland called for the Oregon Treasury and PERS to divest from fossil fuels (#DivestOregon). On November 3rd, Nick Caleb from Breach Collective, identified Portland’s worst polluters and offered ideas on how to better protect the city’s residents and climate. And on November 9th the Oregon League of Conservation voters hosted a webinar with Dr. John Perona, who discussed his new climate activist’s handbook. You can find the full slate of community events at

As part of the Multdems Platform Convention on November 6th, a group of dedicated and passionate PCPs from the MultDems Climate Action Team assembled for a National Resources Protection breakout session to identify legislative actions for our counterparts in Salem. 

The team swiftly reached consensus on more than 20 LAI’s, ranging from adopting a national clean energy standard to banning new fossil fuel infrastructure to setting aside 50% of Oregon’s federal forests as a strategic carbon reserve to banning non-recyclable plastics in all food take-out and in-store dining. This achievement was even more remarkable given that many of the participants were brand new to the Climate Action Team. It’s a testament to what’s possible when Democrats work together for a cause they all believe in.

If you want to get more involved with the Climate Action Team, which seeks to educate and inform our community about the science behind climate change and how it affects our lives and economy, please contact Tracy Farwell at .

How To Convince Reluctant Friends to Get Vaccinated

a conversation with Rep. Lisa Reynolds (HD 36)

More than 80 percent of adults vaccinated in Oregon so far, and many children are now eligible to get their first doses. However, even some vaccinated parents are worried about getting shots for their kids, for fear of possible side effects. We asked Oregon state Rep. Lisa Reynolds (House District 36), who is also an M.D., about the issues surrounding vaccines and how individual decisions affect everyone in the state.

Dr. Lisa Reynolds giving a COVID vaccine to one of her young patients.


What are health professionals telling parents about why it’s important to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Here’s what I see: There have been 6.5 million cases of pediatric COVID in the US with 25,000 children hospitalized. 600 kids have died from COVID. In Oregon, 600 kids have been hospitalized. There have been 50 severely ill children with the disease. There are cases of long COVID in kids (I have a few patients in this category). And 5 children have died. 

My colleagues who work in the Pediatric ICU tell me: there has not been a single vaccinated kid who needed intensive care services. The COVID cases that were sick enough to need an ICU were among unvaccinated kids and teens. The vaccine is safe and 90.7% effective. Furthermore, kids carry and spread COVID, putting elderly family members at risk. 

In terms of myocarditis (heart inflammation), 1 in 80,000 second doses of the vaccine can lead to a self-limited (full recovery) case of myocarditis, while 1 in 40 kids with COVID have more complicated heart inflammation with a more rocky recovery. These numbers are for the 12-17 years olds. We don’t know the numbers in the younger kids. No cases of heart inflammation were observed in the Pfizer studies. For all of these reasons, I am strongly encouraging all of my patients to get the COVID vaccine. 

Thousands of adults in Oregon still haven’t had their first COVID-19 shot. What do you think can convince people of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines ?

I’m at a bit of a loss on this. I talk to families — teens and parents — who are reticent to get the vaccine, even though they have had their kids fully vaccinated with all of the other vaccines we recommend. I try to listen to what people’s concerns are. I tell them I recommend the vaccine and why. And most of the time they’ve already decided “no”. I have heard that when there is an event that a person wants to attend (like a bar mitzvah or a baby shower) that requires attendees are vaccinated, then the person will get the vaccine.

For the most part, I applaud the proof-of-vaccine requirement for public events. I am not currently eating indoors in restaurants, though I have been enjoying the variety of outdoor options. I will only consider eating indoors if there is a vaccine requirement. I will only go into the homes of people who have been vaccinated. 

Our state (and Multnomah County especially) have suffered economically since March 2020. What do you see are some ways MultDems can lead the way to bring our region and state back to economic and social health?

Patronize local businesses! And keep asking our electeds to do all they can to help those who are struggling. We’ve had unprecedented monies arrive from the federal government. Now we need to put it to work to get people housed, to right inequities, to improve access to behavioral health and addiction services. 

Connect with Rep. Reynolds at:, and follow her on Twitter: @RepLisaReynolds.

Member Spotlight: Laurie Wimmer

The spotlight is on Laurie Wimmer this month. A dedicated progressive activist and one of the key architects of Oregon’s Student Success Act (which will add $1 billion a year in perpetuity to the state’s chronically underfunded public education system) Laurie also ran for state representative from HD 36 in 2019.
Since then, she has remained active in investigating issues surrounding the state’s schools as Government Relations Consultant at the Oregon Education Association. Laurie has been a PCP and member of the Education Caucus, recently coordinating a subcommittee to develop a proposed resolution. She also was a recent presenter at meetings of the Education Study Group. She responded to a few questions about her work and why she is a Multnomah County Democrat.

Why did you become involved in the Democratic Party of Multnomah County?

I am a third-generation Oregon Democrat, child of two union members, and parent to yet another generation of Dems. My core values drive me to the party; my 32 years in Multnomah County make the Multnomah Dems my “home base”.

Why do you think it’s important for Democrats to become involved at the local level?

As our country becomes more divided and toxic, we need folks to help shine the light of our pro-community values. As a proud union advocate and 26-year public schools defender, I also believe that we need more voices in the party lifting up these critical concerns. I will be retiring soon from my position representing the Oregon Education Association and its 41,000 members, but I want to invest the expertise I have gained over more than 30 years in Oregon politics to keep making a positive contribution for the benefit of Oregon and her people. I think I’m not alone in seeking to marry values with activism, and that’s why it’s important for us all to become involved. If more of us invest the time, we can surely prevail against the toxic forces who would steer us toward a troubling future.

What are some of the priorities for our state and for Multnomah County this year?

We must seize this moment to elevate workers’ voices, to make progress once and for all on economic justice. We must protect our core public services, including public education, from fiscal erosion and privatization by corporate entities. We must save the planet from the existential crisis of climate change. And we must expand our efforts to ensure civil rights, justice, and equality for all in substantive, meaningful ways. These imperatives will define the future for our children and theirs.

What is making you hopeful right now?

I have learned, both as an advocate and as a candidate for office, that there are far more good people than selfish or dangerous actors, and that gives me great hope. I also know that we lead the nation in our insistence on racial, reproductive, and climate justice as well as on other critical issues — and by doing so, we set an example of what is possible for a more just world.

What advice can you provide to our Democrats in Multnomah County?

Never give up fighting for the righteous causes in which you believe — and take your stand in meaningful, not just performative, ways. Also, help to elect leaders who will do the same.

photo credit: Dr. Ramin Farahmandpur

Reaching out to NAV Voters

We have 2 current MultDem actions as we gear up for the 2022 Midterms. 

#1. We are laying the groundwork now for a really strong voter turnout for OR Governor, the new 6th Congressional seat, and our local races, and we need an afternoon or two of voter registration starting now thru early Dec.  We have a targeted outreach to progressive-leaning Non-Affiliated Voters to invite them to re-register as Democrats so they can be part of the May Primary.

Sign up now to knock on doors of voters in your neighborhood Oct-Dec.   We will have all the materials and scripts.  It will be Covid safe and targeted to generally receptive voters.  Registering these voters now will really increase our turnout both in May and November. 

#2 You can also call voters. Also Oct-Dec. Sign up now.  We’ll email you the dates of scheduled phonebanks as they are set.

THANK YOU for your time.  Any questions, please call me, Georgann, 503-206-1664.  Sign up through the links above or respond via TC or email and let me know what you can do.  Again, many thanks!  

An active PCP reflects on what redistricting means for his North Portland neighborhood, and what he’s doing now to prepare for the 2022 elections

As a result of the state’s growth in population over the past decade, Oregon recently earned a new Congressional seat. House Speaker Tina Kotek created a special committee to draw congressional district lines, and Governor Brown signed the measure hours after it passed the legislature. The new lines divide Portland into three districts, and the changes will affect several statewide races next year. As Republicans continue to challenge the new lines, we asked activist and HD 44 Precinct Committee Person Tom Karwaki of North Portland to tell us how he expects things to go in the coming weeks and months. He talks about the work he’s doing to insure that Democrats are elected in 2022.

An interview with Tom Karwaki, PCP in HD 44

1. How do you expect the new district lines to affect your House District (both statewide and Congressional)?

The new lines tear out half the heart and the icon of the North Portland Peninsula in HD 44 and joins it to NW Portland where the only significant community of interest is the St Johns bridge itself. However, other than that loss of Cathedral Park and some of St Johns, HD44 is pretty much the same just more compact. State Senator Frederick was opposed to losing Cathedral Park but not moving; it would have meant major shifts elsewhere. The BIGGEST news is that Senator Frederick and Senator Mike Dembrow both live in the new district. Both get to be Senators through 2024! Earl [Blumenauer] is still our favorite Congressional cyclist and transit rider.

2. How can Multnomah County Democrats get involved in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections?

The 2022 Election Season is upon us. Tell your friends to check their voter registration to make sure their party is DEMOCRATIC. Voter registration efforts are beginning this month with PCPs and Neighborhood Leaders. Our big push is to contact Non-Affiliated Voters (NAVs), and let them know how to become Democrats! Faith [Ruffing] is heading up the Platform Convention this fall, and everyone is invited!

3. How are you personally going to stay active in the coming year, as a PCP and Democrat? 

My 2022 resolution is to personally knock on at least 500 doors before the May primary (Speaker Kotek is running for Governor!). To recruit 10 new Neighborhood Leaders to reach 50 doors each and help others reach 50 doors each. The May Primary will be the big event and everyone is welcome to march in the St. Johns Parade on May 7th and help register folks and hand out literature at the St Johns Bazaar.

For information about the new district lines, visit

What’s What in Our Government? Let’s Get Smarter about Portland, Oregon

Contributed by Dannelle D. Stevens, Chair of the Election Integrity Platform Sub-committee

Portland City Hall

Portland used to be called “the city that works”.  Now, it doesn’t seem to work!
What can YOU do about it?  A lot!

First, note that a citizen-oversight group is working on making a difference and has the power to make a big difference!  The Portland Charter Review Commission was created by law and meets every 10 years to assess how our city government is working. Check out the Commission here!. This current citizen-oversight group of 20 mostly young, diverse, and politically active people can recommend to the current council and send to voters their recommendations for changes in our city government STRUCTURE and OPERATIONS!

Second, recognize that this Portland Charter Review Commission needs to hear from all of us.
Submit only your email for updates for Review Commission meetings and activities.

Third, ACT!  Pay attention to the Commission website because they are in “the-seeking-public-comment” mode.   To comment on changing the form of government, you can enter your comment here: PublicComment Form of Government. Submit your comment by 8:00 AM two days before the meeting.To attend the Form of Government meeting via Zoom, go to the EVENTS page on the Review Commission website and click the Zoom link on the day. There are other meetings on the Events page that you might want to attend, as well.

Form of Government Sub-Committee: Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, 6-8 PM and Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, 6-8 PM

Here is a quick summary of the problems and suggestions for improvement in Form of Government.

Fundamental problems with the structure of the city of Portland government

Currently, there are only five Council members.  We have a COMMISSION form of government. All Council members are elected at large, meaning by all the people, not by geographic districts. The Mayor is elected at large and is one of the five members of the City Council.

After Commissioners are elected and as a commission form of government, the Mayor divides up all the city agencies and each Council member manages that agency. They must manage key city agencies like housing, water, police, parks and recreation, development services, social services, etc.

None of these commissioners are elected with the idea that they know anything about managing, for example, the water bureau. None are prepared to manage these large and complex agencies. It takes a long time to learn how to work with the agencies, implement policies, and meet the city’s needs like addressing the homeless crisis.

Many observers have concluded that the commission form of government might work for a city of 10,000, but, not for a big city of more than 800,000.

There are experts who do know and can manage these vital departments in a non-partisan way. These experts would be accountable to the City Council. Many cities around Portland have a city manager-council form of government.

Suggested Ideas for addressing these structural problems.

1. Fundamentally change the form of government from the commission form to a form with a City Manager who is hired and can be fired by the City Council, and a City Council of at least nine members with or without a mayor elected separately.

 2. Fundamentally change job descriptions. City Council members would maintain its legislative role–making policy and allocating money to implement policy.  The City Manager would manage all agencies.

 3. Elect a non-partisan mayor in a city-wide election. Elect non-partisan council members by districts that are drawn by an independent, non-partisan commission. Districts should be equally populated, contiguous and compact, and represent the diversity of the city’s residents. Each district would have the same number of representatives; 1 or more.  4. Create citizen oversight and advisory boards to to inform bureaus and departments–such as policing, land use, homelessness, civil rights, parks and recreation.

This is part of a series of articles about how government works. For more information about the Election Integrity Study Group, visit the Volunteer Opportunities page. To contact Dannelle D. Stevens, email

photo credit: Wikipedia

Member Spotlight: Ruth Jensen (Tlingit)

Ruth Jensen

Ruth Jensen is a member of the Central Committee for the Oregon Democratic Party, and a dedicated MultDems PCP and work group member here in Multnomah County. As part of our Member Spotlight series, we asked Ruth a few questions to learn why she is a Multnomah County Democrat. Lately, she has been deeply involved in drafting the new party platform as Chair of the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group.

What are the different roles you have served in the Democratic Party?

On March 6, 2018, I filed for Precinct Committee Person having only the slightest notion of what that would entail. My only frame of reference was when I was a PCP for the Republican Party during one cycle in the 1970s. In that case, it meant dropping off literature on doorsteps. I’ve long since become a Democrat and worked on presidential campaigns: Kucinich, Obama, Obama, Hillary, and Bernie.

Next, in the spring of 2018, Valdez Bravo (Standing Rock Sioux/Latino) initiated the founding of the Native American Caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon. He networked his way across Indian Country in Oregon to reach all the heavy-hitters. One such heavy-hitter referred Valdez to me, a worker-bee. That August, DPO’s newly minted Caucus hosted its inaugural meeting when I was elected secretary.

Later, in January 2019, on the New Deal Democrats’ slate, I successfully ran for delegate to the State Central Committee. After giving my brief campaign speech before the assembly, Sally Joughin, co-founder of MultDems’ Racial Inclusivity Work Group (RIWG), invited me to consider joining RIWG where I later served a one-year term.

RIWG co-founders are Greg Burrill, Rosa Colquitt, Colleen Davis, GM García, Debbie Gordon, Sally Joughin, and last but not least: Beth Woodward who responded to my questions and coached me through the intricacies of article-development.

With the leadership of GM García and Salomé Chimuku, RIWG created the environment for a Tribal Sovereignty article to be added to MultDems’ Platform. I had the good fortune of working together with RIWG to create and move this article forward. Convention delegates approved this article in November 2019. Starting in July 2020, I chaired the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group of the Platform, Resolutions, and Legislation Committee. Elisha Big Back (Northern Cheyenne) now chairs this Study Group.

Why did you become involved in the Democratic Party of Multnomah County?

I was compelled to get involved by the 2016 election to do my part to make sure: never again! Being invited initially by Valdez and Sally made it easy to get involved. They showed me a place where I could contribute my knowledge, skills, and abilities. This facilitated my settling in. Feeling welcome by Valdez, RIWG, and many others compounded my interest to stay.

Why do you think it’s important for Democrats to become involved at the local level?

Not everyone is inclined to run for office and work in Salem or Washington, D.C. Working at a local level gives volunteers the opportunity to see a bigger picture upfront and personal and to see how to align their community with our Democratic values. Local participation offers a wide variety of opportunities to contribute time and talents corresponding with varying levels of availability. Plus, together we can help build a community of diverse perspectives where they can all be presented and heard.

What are some of the priorities for our state and for Multnomah County this year?

  1. Educate the people of Oregon about tribal sovereignty and tribal nations’ unique, political relationship with the United States government as upheld in treaties, the U.S. Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court cases, federal and state legislation, and executive orders.
  2. Recognize the cultural strengths and intergenerational wisdom of Indigenous people that have allowed survival despite generations of atrocities.
  3. Close all racial disparities such as those related to health, housing, and education.
  4. Honor the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which “establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, wellbeing and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.”

What is making you hopeful right now?

The Democrats I know who are unrelentingly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion inspire me – like the co-founders of RIWG and MultDems as a whole for embracing such a group. I’m hopeful because of everyone who made the Tribal Sovereignty article possible and because of all who have ever attended a meeting of the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group. They all have contributed to the kaleidoscope of efforts moving us toward liberty and justice for all.

What advice can you provide to our Democrats in Multnomah County?

MultDems: Take it upon yourself to go out of your way to welcome newcomers – even in our Zoom environment. Help them to find a place that feels like home.

All other Democrats in Multnomah County: Maybe you’ve never attended a meeting of Multnomah County Democrats. You are welcome here. You don’t have to do anything. It is enough for you to be with us. If you would like to do something, there is something that will make you smile for knowing you are helping to create a community that aligns with our Democratic values.

What are the goals and benefits of joining the Tribal Sovereignty Legislative Action Study Group?

The goals of the Study Group are to advance Indigenous priorities and connect with Indigenous cultures and to take collective action monthly to advocate for Indigenous issues.

  • Joining an Indigenous-led effort with diverse advocates and allies
  • Activating Democratic networks to advance the causes of tribal sovereignty
  • Advocating for all citizens of tribal nations, both those who reside in Multnomah County and beyond
  • Raising awareness of the sovereignty all tribal nations within the United States: unrecognized, dozens of state-recognized, and 574 federally-recognized

This is the value proposition developed by the Study Group’s Leadership Transition Workgroup.
To find out more about the Study Group, email:

Photo credit: Sue Sullivan