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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 https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/redistricting.

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: tribalsovereigntystudygroup@gmail.com

Photo credit: Sue Sullivan
 
 
 
 
 
 

Should High School Students Be Tested for Graduation?

The MultDems Education Study Group Examines the Evidence

by Margi Brown and Mary Thamann, Education Study Group co-chairs

Oregon Senate Bill 744 would suspend essential skills testing for high school graduation. Conservatives have criticized the bill as detrimental to educational quality, but the evidence does not bear this out.
The Education Study Group has been working over the last couple of years on two issues related to standardized testing: (1) standardized testing of children in grades K-2 and (2) the essential skills test required for graduation. We have been particularly focused this last year on the amount of testing being done on K-2 students. Oregon requires that incoming kindergarten students take standardized assessments not required by the federal government. Much of the focus of the testing is developmentally inappropriate for this age group.  To administer the test at the very beginning of the student’s experience in the classroom limits the ability of kindergarten teachers to establish the social/emotional climate of the classroom for a productive learning environment.  

Some conservative news reports and editorials criticize Senate Bill 744, which suspends the essential skills test required for high school graduation. These commentators imply that by eliminating the essential skills test, it will somehow diminish educational quality or hurt minority students.

These arguments need a reality check. Under SB 744, students will still need to pass all required classes to graduate. It will not change the proficiency requirements set up for past generations. There is no credible evidence that graduation tests produce any positive outcomes, nor have they been found to have any predictive value of post-high school success. Grade Point Average (GPA) is the best predictor. Countless students have dropped out of high school because they assumed that they could not surmount a testing barrier for graduation. This has applied overwhelmingly to low-income students and students of color, which greatly impacts their future earning ability. 

[Editor’s note: For a review of research on state graduation test requirements and outcomes, visit FairTest.org.]

The developmentally inappropriate kindergarten tests and the unnecessary high school graduation testing requirement are just two examples of excessive, wasteful, and harmful standardized tests that now drive so much of what happens in our schools. We have now lived with this accountability and data driven educational model for more than 20 years. It has not worked. It is well past time for a change.

For more information about volunteering with the MultDems Education Study Group, visit https://multdems.org/volunteer/. The study group meets monthly via Zoom. To join, please email Margi Brown at .

Margi Brown
Margi Brown, Education Study Group Co-Chair

2022 Platform Process

The Platform, Resolution and Legislation Committee (PRLC) has completed its work drafting the 2022 Multnomah County Democrats Platform for the Convention to be held on November 6, 2021.

Here is the 2022  MCD Platform Final Draft of preamble and planks which will be sent to the Convention for approval. The PRLC has also drafted the 2022 Legislative Action Items.  The purpose of the Platform Convention will be to adopt a Multnomah County Democratic Party Platform, which includes both Planks and Legislative Action Items (LAIs). 

2022 Platform Final Draft 102721

2022 Legislative Action Items 102721

Recommendations for changes to the Platform should be sent to along with 5 signatures. You may also send amendments to the convention chair.  All amendments submitted in writing to the Convention Chair and signed by five (5) registered participants will be considered. This may be a paper or electronic document. The Convention Chair will provide an email address for receiving electronic documents.

 

Convention Registration

Participation in the Convention requires that you Register and that you are a Multnomah County Democrat. The Deadline to register online is October 31, 2021. (Advance registration is strongly encouraged, but late registration will be allowed at the Convention itself if approved by 2/3 of Convention participants.)

Here are the Approved Convention Rules 

** Recommended Platform Convention Rules – September 27, 2021

Here is the link for Registration for the Convention. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf0s6ISo2RlSGgR8xR3zCrRXIk98tLXmLwn43SRxmzD13BC_w/viewform?usp=sf_link 

 

General information

The Platform is a compilation of statements of our basic beliefs and principles that guides our positions on legislation at the federal, state and local level.

These statements or Planks are organized around themes or Articles such as Education or Economy. Each Article has a Preamble or summary of the Plank ideas. A Preamble for the whole document describes the relationship of the Articles within the document.

The companion to the Platform is the Legislative Action Items. These are suggestions from the PRLC for specific legislation we think would address the ideas described in the Planks and are used to advise and encourage Legislators on the work we would like to see them undertake.

The PRLC is organized into Study Groups, one for each Article, who follow the legislation pertaining to the Planks in their Article and report to the Central Committee on pertinent legislative activity.

THE ARTICLES BELOW ARE FROM THE 2020 PLATFORM PROCESS AND NOT RELATED TO THIS ROUND OF PLATFORM CHANGES

Member Spotlight: Michael Smith

Mike Smith, our new Rules Chair, is a PCP, DPO Rules Committee Delegate, DPO SCC Delegate, DPO Gun Owners Caucus Chair, current Multnomah Democrats Rules Chair, former Multnomah Democrats Tech Officer (17-19) and Vice-Chair (19-21), member of Multnomah Democrats Criminal Justice Study Group.

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

I had always been peripherally involved with politics – mostly blogging and then volunteering in campaigns here and there – but after Trump happened, I knew I had to get back in. Nothing less than American democracy was at stake. So, I became a PCP again in December 2016. While the immediate danger might be over, American democracy is still in trouble. We need all hands on deck.

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

The most basic and important decisions are made at the local level. Progressive policy decisions in school boards and water districts have real impacts on people’s lives.

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

Our top priority needs to be emerging from the pandemic with resolve to build an equitable, green Oregon. This cannot simply be a matter of State or Federal action. Solutions need to start at the local level. “Think Globally, Act Locally” has never been more important.

What is making you hopeful right now?

Every day, I see the youth engaged in ways that my generation wasn’t. This gives me hope that the country will be in better hands as I get older.

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

Register 15,000 more Democrats! Multnomah voters, especially NAVs, tend to be more progressive. If we want progressives to win more primaries, we want more progressives to become Democrats! And the BEST place to do this is Multnomah County.

What’s What in Our Government: Let’s Get Smarter about … Redistricting

by Dannelle D. Stevens

What is redistricting? Redistricting is the drawing of the boundaries of voting districts. A voting district is a geographical area that the government uses to create groups who vote for a representative in a legislative body like the Oregon State Senate, House, or US House of Representatives.  Only voters within that district can cast ballots for candidates who represent them in that district. KGW has a very short background video on redistricting in Oregon.

“Redistricting is immensely important to collective political power. It impacts who our communities have the power to elect, and thus their ability to shape local, state, and federal policies that affect their lives.  The redistricting process presents a vital opportunity to advocate for voting districts boundaries that are truly representative of our communities” (Summer 2021, NorCalACLU News).

All voting districts must be created in line with constitutional law that districts must be approximately equal in population.  For example, in the Oregon state legislature we have 30 Senators with staggered elections every four years and 60 Representatives elected every two years. Thus, we have 30 Senatorial districts and 60 Representative districts. In the US Congress, we have a House of Representatives with 435 elected representatives from the same number of voting districts. (The two US Senators per state are not included in this because they represent their states, not the population.) It stands to reason that the districts should be equal in size, otherwise there might be one representative for 20,000 people and another for 2,000,000 people in different districts.  That would not be fair for the 2 million, to be sure.   

Another key principle of these voting districts is that within each level the districts should not only be the same size but represent the district constituents (voters). The Ballotpedia link  expands on the idea of additional criteria for determining the voting district lines and describes the additional criteria for redistricting in Oregon. 

Why do we need redistricting? When many new people move into a voting district and make the formerly equal population districts now unequal, “redistricting” is needed.  At the federal and at the state level, redistricting occurs every 10 years and follows the population figures from the US Census. This year the Census Bureau will issue its guidelines for the size of each district for US Congressional representation on August 16. 

Because Oregon has had a substantial increase in population since the last census in 2010, the US Census Bureau has determined that Oregon will get one more representative in the US House of Representatives. We currently have five and will now have six.  The last time this happened was 40 years ago.  In addition, based on the 2020 census, Like Oregon these states also gain seats, +1 seat each: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina: +2, Texas. These states lose seats, -1: California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia.The Cook Political Report has a great webpage of the redistricting process across all the states, here

Who makes decisions on redistricting in a state? Redistricting is done at the state level by an independent commission, the state legislature, or a hybrid of the two. Oregon’s redistricting starts with a committee from the Senate and the House legislature. Based on the Oregon Constitution there is a deadline for completion of the districts after the state receives the census data on August 16.  These deadlines vary from state to state because they are sensitive to whenever the state starts having its primaries and elections. This year in Oregon redistricting is in the hands of the legislature and a balanced committee of Democrats and Republicans. If the committee cannot agree, the responsibility for redistricting for the state legislature is handed over to the Oregon Secretary of State on September 27. There does not seem to be a similar backup plan for the US Congressional maps. District lines are subject to veto by the Governor, however. If you look at the Oregon State Legislature redistricting website you will also see a calendar for hearings in the middle of September about the districts proposed by the legislature. Also, look at Ballotpedia link for the specifics of redistricting in Oregon. It is a very thorough resource.

What are the issues and challenges with redistricting? The biggest problem with redistricting is gerrymandering, the practice of drawing districts to favor one political party or racial group, skews election results, makes races less competitive, hurts communities of color, and thwarts the will of the voters. It leads many Americans to feel their voices don’t matter.

More resources:

Ballotpedia: Encyclopedia of American Politics.  The section entitled “State-based Requirements” partway down addresses, along with population, other metrics to use to decide how to create these districts.  https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting

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.

Congressional district map photo credit: US Dept. of the Interior