Member Spotlight

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
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.

Member Spotlight: Marcia Schneider

Marcia Schneider, Vice Chair 1 for Multnomah County Democrats and all-around active Democrat

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

Currently, I am a Precinct Committee Person, Vice Chair 1 for Multnomah County Democrats,  and a member of the State Central Committee Budget Committee. Recently, I was District Leader for HD 48/51, and campaign committee volunteer organizing voter registration and election volunteers for fall 2020.  I was also a  Platform and Resolution Committee member for the Multnomah County and State Committee and a member of the Oregon State Fair committee.

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

I’d long been active with the Democratic Party in Los Angeles when we moved to Oregon in 2013. Even while we were still living at a hotel, before we could move into our house, I attended the Summer Picnic in Gresham, met a lot of great people and signed up.

I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, active in anti war, civil rights and women’s rights as a young person. Always a voter, I’d returned to activism again in 2007 as it was clear voting was not enough to make change.

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

Decisions made at local city, school board, and county levels affect us personally. Are we educating and nurturing all our children to provide real opportunity? Are all our residents safe to live and work here? Can we pilot ideas that other cities and states can take up — for preschool? for climate? Special interests and monied interests will always invest in these races to advance their agendas, it’s up to us to advance the people’s interests.

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

The Governor’s race will be critical; It’s going to be a big task to pull our state together after the isolation and stress of the pandemic and the wide gulf between voters in our state.

Climate is hitting Oregon hard with drought and fires, we urgently need job creating solutions that can bring more of the state together to build resilience.

Our long and present history of systemic racism is still creating substantial harm.

One of my biggest hopes is that the City of Portland can restructure our government to serve us much better — with voting representation, constituent services and advocacy for every part of the city and professional, dedicated leaders for city departments.

What is making you hopeful right now?

Every day that I talk with a new volunteer, Neighborhood Leader or PCP and hear their commitment to democracy and making our lives better – how can I not feel renewed enthusiasm for the work?!

Lew Frederick

Member Spotlight: Senator Lew Frederick

Why did you become involved in the Democratic Party of Multnomah County?
It was a place where I could try to make things better for all the people.

Why do you think it’s important for Democrats to become involved at the local level?
Because that’s where they live. The affinity for community is important in terms of persuading others to support Democratic principles.

What are some of the priorities for our state and for Multnomah County this year?
Police accountability, housing, health care, education, environment, economic security.

What is making you hopeful right now?
The recognition by more and more people that they cannot let someone else make decisions for them — that they have to be involved.

 

Member Spotlight: Rep. Khanh Pham

Khanh Pham has served as a volunteer with the party and was elected in 2020 to represent House District 46 in SE Portland.

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

My first real involvement in the actual Democratic Party of Multnomah County was when I ran for office, and I think that’s often a feature of Democratic Party — that normal people who hadn’t always seen themselves in elected office can win the support of the party. I ran for office as a Democrat because I believed that democracy is strongest when communities, not corporate lobbyists, shape the legislation that impacts our daily lives and the future of our children. I believe that our state government should reflect the diversity of the communities it serves, and I believe that Oregon can lead the nation in showing how the necessary transition to a renewable economy can be good for people, the economy, and the environment.

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

They say that democracy is a garden that must be tended to; when it is well kept, it is beautiful, thriving, blooming with color. But when you let the weeds and hate grow beneath the surface, it suffocates everything. None of this caretaking happens without ordinary people putting in the work, and leading decision-makers to understand what is being felt day to day.
It is my belief that those who are most impacted by policy decisions made by their government should have a say in what happens to them. The consequences of our elections and policies will affect peoples’ lives for decades to come. Our elected leaders’ decisions to tackle the climate crisis, wealth inequality, to protect human health and extend equitable opportunity to all, those choices will reverberate throughout their lives.

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

Environmental & Climate Justice: Throughout session I have been in coalition championing a trio of bills called Oregon Clean Energy opportunities are winding its way through the legislature, bills that fight for environmental justice by introducing advocacy for energy affordability for climate-impacted communities, home hardening and resilience funding, and standards for 100% clean energy to make sure Oregon is on the right track for its climate goals.

Affordable Housing: The influx of federal American Rescue Plan dollars has given our legislature a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make proactive investments that would create and maintain our affordable housing stock. With this funding, we can acquire land, fund the development of affordable housing that meets the needs of communities across Oregon, remove barriers to homeownership opportunities, and address existing racial and economic barriers to housing stability.

East Portland priorities: My top priority is responding to the urgency of Portland pedestrians dying on unsafe corridors like 82nd ave, and asking ODOT and PBOT to come together to fund and solve these preventable deaths. Additionally, the ongoing rise in anti-Asian American discrimination and violence needs to be more forcefully combatted, and I am working with my caucus to address hate crimes response.

What is making you hopeful right now?

In spite of everything, I get tremendous hope and inspiration from getting to do this work and being in community with so many changemakers. Some of the many things giving me hope right now include:
-Watching HB 2745 Energy Affordability bill pass the Senate this week with bipartisan support
-Cultivating relationships with coalitions like the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, who are bringing people from around the state, who don’t normally have their voices heard, and making sure they’re helping to shape energy polciy.
-Watching my daughter learn to ride a bicycle! It scares me because we don’t have sidewalks for her to practice in but thrills me to watch her grow in her sense of autonomy and agency.

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

An old political adage, sometimes credited to FDR and revived in a 2009 speech by President Obama, tells of a meeting between activists and FDR where, after listening to their plea, the president turns and says, “ I agree with you. I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it. As a community organizer, I believe it’s important to listen, to be in partnership with electeds (when possible), but always keep the community and narrative pressure on lawmakers, even those who support your cause. There is key difference between supporting something and prioritizing something, and don’t assume that putting public pressure on lawmakers is uncomfortable for them. In fact, it may be just the thing they’re looking for to get momentum going.

Member Spotlight: Cayle Chiang Tern

Cayle became interested in serving as a PCP in 2020 but got lost in the process. He now champions stronger engagement in the political process in his communities.

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

The API, more specifically, the Southeast Asian Community needs to be more involved in the political process. I will champion civic engagement in my communities and make sure that we stay involved.

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

Democrats need to be involved at the local level because we are more than a political party. As a democrat, I believe in people driven policies and it is important that we influence our institutions at every level because there is inequities and injustices at every level.

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

My priorities are Worker Rights, Education Reform and Public Education Investments, Access to Health Care because these are the foundations of success in America.

What is making you hopeful right now?

I am hopeful because I see more willingness and support within our communities.

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

We need the Democrat Party to invest and help the API communities increase activism and develop leaders

Member Spotlight: Britton Taylor

Britton a PCP from HD45 and I’m also a proud member of the Comms Team.

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

The 2016 election activated me politically in a way I could have never imagined. I felt helpless and defeated and decided that getting more involved could help to counterbalance some of these feelings. For the first time in my life I found myself organizing phone banks with co-workers for races in Texas and North Carolina. Joining the MultDems felt like a great next step to continue to stay involved.

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

I believe it’s important for Dems to become involved at the local level because it’s a way for us to stay truly engaged with our communities and to be a part of building neighborhoods that are diverse, equitable, safe and prosperous. Local politics affect our everyday lives. It’s the easiest way to enact change, and it’s the best way to influence change at the state and national levels.

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

We have a lot of work to do when it comes to public safety, especially for people of color. I worked with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to launch RETHINK PORTLAND (rethinkportland.com), which is a hub for Portlanders to get engaged and involved in the city’s effort to rethink community safety. I’ve also been working with Darren Golden on police accountability, and there are some important measures currently working their way up through the legislature. I think the pandemic has also rightfully focused a lot of attention on inequities and issues with education here in Portland, so the school board elections feel particularly important this year.

What is making you hopeful right now?

The work that SOLVE is doing with Detrash Portland is very inspiring to me. They cleaned up over 22,000 pounds of trash in one day last week all over Oregon. I love it when volunteers come together to improve their community.

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

We need to more diversity in our ranks. Young people, Black people, LGBTQ+, Latinx, AAPI–we’re all better when everyone has a voice and a seat at the table.

Member Spotlight: Sara Wolk

Sara Wolk is a PCP an SCC Delegate, and the Executive Director of the Equal Vote Coalition.

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

I have never been a particularly partisan person, but since I was a teenager I’ve done a ton of activism around environmentalism, sustainability, natural building, and sustainable agriculture. I love direct action, but the fact is that there are major barriers in politics keeping us from being effective in that work, keeping us divided, and keeping power consolidated in the hands of far too few. That’s why I get involved with voting reform. I showed up to my first MultCo Dems meeting to present on STAR Voting, and I left inspired that this was a space where I could make a difference.

I remember walking in the door around 1/2 way though an impassioned speech from former Vice Chair Rachelle Dixon which ran the gamut from food justice, unprocessed rape kits, racial justice and much more. It was personal, it was fiery, and it was powerful. It was on the heels over the controversy surrounding bakeries refusing to make wedding cakes for LGBTQ couples, and she closed her speech with the line “It’s not about the cake!”

Right there I said to myself, “These are the kinds of activists I want to work with!”

Rachelle, Rosa, Ami, and a number of others who spoke that night made a point of introducing themselves after my presentation, invited me to some upcoming events and told me about becoming a PCP. As a newcomer to local politics getting to work with veteran political activists like them was not an opportunity to pass up and I’m proud to be a part of this team.

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

Democracy is about empowering the people and democratic process begins at the bottom. Our power comes from our grassroots and our community. Strong local roots are everything. We can’t wait for others to do this for us. The time is now and you are the person you’ve been waiting for.

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

Voting Reform is the keystone issue of our times. Oregon is at the epicenter of a national movement for STAR Voting, for fair, equal, representative elections. We’ve been waiting a long time for this issue to get it’s time in the limelight and we need to step up and make it happen. HB 3250, STAR Voting for Oregon is a huge deal! http://starvoting.us

What is making you hopeful right now?

The activists and volunteers I work with every day give me hope like nothing else. In a world where positive change can seen impossible and apathy is the default, having the chance to work with people who not only make a difference every day, but know how to empower others and work as a team, that’s just rad.

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

For those of you who have been involved for a while: Politics is challenging. We go deep, we make it personal, and we pour our lives and our hearts into the work we do. People clash, people get triggered, we get invested and we get defensive. We don’t always see eye to eye. I think it’s important to keep our focus on what we can do in each moment and not get overwhelmed by the weight of the world or disagreements over things that are out of our control. After all, we’re all here showing up because we care. It’s triggering. It’s messy and there’s a lot to learn. Sometimes we need to cut each other some slack. For newcomers looking to be effective as fast as possible: Meetings are where we connect and plan, and running for positions is critical, but the real gems are the committees, the action items, and the actual canvassing. That’s where you make an impact. Everything else is just setting up to be able to conquer the action items.

Member Spotlight: AMI FOX

Ami Fox is a PCP,  SCC Delegate, an Election Integrity Delegate for the DPO, and has served as MultDems Comms Chair.

 

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

I read in the newspaper about what happened to Carolanne Fry (the chair of the county party called the police on her for trying to speak) and that was when I realized that I needed to be involved and engaged at the county level.

 

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

So many policies affect your life that come from city and state. When I moved here there was no rent control, no cause evictions were common. A friend of mine had her rent doubled in one month (essentially a no cause eviction), no recourse, perfectly legal. Through engagement, (Chloe Eudaly), Portland Tenants United, Portland Metro People’s coalition (the people) we changed all of that.

 

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

WE need to increase revenue. With that increase we need to fund our schools, foster care, affordable housing, create green jobs, have a public bank, universal broadband. No more death by austerity mindset.

 

What is making you hopeful right now?

Joe Biden is exceeding expectations.

 

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

Chose something that you care about and dig deep and network with all of the organizations that are invested in your issue. Understand the power structure that is between you and the change you are advocating for so that you can mount an appropriate offense. Utilize the youth movement, grassroots youth lead movements are just the creativity we need to move things (think about K-Pop and Tick Tok selling out the tickets for the Trump rally so that there were a sea of empty seats, or the Game Stop share buying that just brought 2 billionaire hedge funds to bankruptcy). That is the kind of out of the box thinking we need to do. At the same time we must adopt a 50 state strategy with no election going unchallenged. Rural America is hungry and angry, and they have only had one voice courting them. If you don’t have messaging and outreach, no one will join your cause no matter how worthy.

Greetings from the Chair

Julio Castilleja was elected Chair of the Democratic Party of Multnomah County at the Reorganization meeting on January 23rd. You may have read his “Why I Am a Democrat” feature in the Digest and blog last fall. Here is his greeting to all Democrats in Multnomah County: 

Political parties are formed on paper, and only come to life by the will of their members. It is our work that gives breath and strength to this body that we call the Democratic Party of Multnomah County. We must continue to build a party that truly reflects the communities that we serve. As your chair, it will be my duty to serve the interests of our members, to help lay out new paths for civic engagement and grassroots democracy to thrive in Multnomah County. I am excited to work with you to develop new systems to engage our community and our elected officials. To prepare the ground for the next generation of democrats. Most importantly, to create an atmosphere where people feel welcomed, wanted, and needed.

This issue of the Digest offers lots of news you can use. Most important: join us at the Central Committee virtual meeting on Thursday, February 11th. Members must RSVP for this Zoom meeting by completing the form at this link.

— Julio Castilleja
Chair, The Democratic Party of Multnomah County.
Please contact me at: