There they were, members of the Portland Districting Commission, arrayed like eggs in a crate on ZOOM, the citizens selected by our mayor to slice ‘n’ dice the city into four districts that will, somehow, make city government perfect. And so very much more “equitable,” and “diverse”—although by now we know what these anodyne words really mean: some people will get shoved; some will do the shoving.
How do we know?
For openers, because the city of Portland finally coughed up copies of the winning applications to serve on the Districting Commission; documents that (we assume) Mayor Wheeler read and that persuaded him that these people really ought to have the job of deciding, essentially, one of the most basic institutions in a functioning democracy—or what’s left of it in a one-party, machine-run town.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a document-dump without the heavy hand of the censor-bureaucrats…
…which was blacked-out on every application. Some redactions, such as this one from Sharon VanSickle-Robbins, were merely…odd…
But those Magic Words, “equitydiversityinclusion,” made the cut with machinegun frequency in the unredacted fill-in-the-blanks. By my count, “equity” got 29 mentions by the 13 winners; “diversity” came in second at 22. How could it be otherwise in Portland?
Here’s an example penned by DaWayne Judd…
…but for a truly hair-raising piece of agitprop, no one could top this from Neisha Saxena…
…who, you’ll be glad to know, is on the public payroll—paid for with money from all those racists!!!—as the Deputy Director and Civil Rights Administrator for the Multnomah Office of Diversity and Equity. God help those who run afoul of her inquisitions.
Then there are some of the more, shall we say…odd self-promotions that caught the mayor’s eye…
…from Arlene Kimura, who has sat on just about every board, commission, and citizens’ advisory body on the east side. Been to Gateway recently?
We could go on and on…but they’re birds of a feather. Fully vetted, selected, indoctrinated, and ready to roll!
And then they got a hint about what they’re up against. Which, in the end, was mostly themselves.
Their first session was a typical sort of Portland “public” meeting; the commissioners all seated safely in their living rooms, staring balefully into their webcams, far away from public comment or awkward questions.
They were herded by a chirpy “facilitator” who kicked off by demanding each commissioner’s personal pronouns—obediently supplied, although there was no land declaration, an obvious oversight. Each commissioner was given a minute or two to introduce themselves. Ms. Kimura gets our vote for unintentional honesty…
I did this because I believe in the process and because I had all these people call me and say, Please apply. So I said, Okay, fine. I will call.
…although, in a few moments, we’ll encounter a reality-check on all that lobbying—and wouldn’t it be nice if Ms. Kimura shared who called her and why?
Everyone, without the slightest hint of dissent, was all-in on the glowing future promised by the four new districts, such as this from Edie Van Ness (or Rogoway, professionally)…
I'm a third generation Portlander. I applied to be on this commission because of my love for Portland and my long time roots to Portland, and I want to be part of of a new Portland and a better Portland…
They’ll never tell you what “better” actually means or, for that matter, “new.” Or who will benefit. Details-details…
And then the meeting got really interesting. Reality intruded.
For the next mind-numbing 47 minutes, the professional facilitator, Autumn Carter, (from NEX Strategies) held the floor and droned through legal boilerplate…
…we're going to focus on explaining and just onboarding, what is the Independent District Commission, what is it responsible for and at the basic level, how are we going to work now?
At the 18 minute mark, Ms. Carter dropped the first bomblet…
There are guidelines in [the briefing document] to handle communication. For instance, disclosing discussions that you're having with interest groups or parties in your role as Commissioner outside of this committee meeting, how to disclose that…
Huh? Brows furrowed. Commissioner Kari Chisholm, a veteran political consultant who really should know this stuff, asked…
Could you define interest groups for us? It says in the draft bylaws that we should report any verbal or communications and copy folks on the written communications with any interest groups. But what's an interest group? A friend, who is just like yapping at me about the maps, does that count as an interest group?
Memo to Ms. Kimura: get out your logbook.
At the 23-minute mark, Ms. Carter moved into high gear…
We're gonna… we're gonna walk through the values.
And here they are, hot off the ZOOM screen…
No surprises; hey! It’s Portland! Although Ms. Carter was quick to add…
[It’s] impossible to do this work with an equity lens…without explicitly acknowledging the state's history of exclusion.
…rebuilding trust is essential… using reconciliation and restorative justice specifically is important to this work.
Cue Commissioner Saxena…
Yeah, I wanna…add the nuance that we consider things like disability, equity, LGBTQ. Equity with an intersectional lens, so that we continue to lead with race and we talk about racial equity and anti-racism, because we, you know, we know that race underlies all of that. Folks of color have worse experiences and outcomes than the queer white folks.
…and the discussion devolves into which “historically discriminated against” sub-minority or what disabilities or…just anything! can be stuffed into the Values box.
Which, if you stop and think for a mad moment, has nothing whatsoever to do with the main task:
Drawing the damn map.
The clock ticks…and after much hemming-and-hawing over stuffing personal peeves, such as Commissioner Fleischman’s weird preoccupation with…
…accessibility is a kind of a broad, broad concept, both kind of physical, but also transportation, accessibility, communications, accountability, all of those kinds of considerations which I think are really important values and promoting democracy.
…the Commission, after a lengthy introduction from yet another consultant from something called Flow Dynamics, brought on the star of the show: Paul Mitchell, head of yet another consultancy, Redistricting Partners. (We wrote about his bona fides here. A request to the city for particulars of his contract floats in outer space.)
Mr. Mitchell, a grizzled veteran of redistricting episodes far and near—mainly for the benefit of the Democratic party plus LBGetc. groups—was there to “train” the members of the Portland Commission.
Boy, did he ever!
The problem with ZOOM is that the camera, while low-rez, is close to the commissioner’s mugs; as Mitchell talked about the reality of drawing those pesky lines, it was instructive to see the first hints from his students that maybe—just maybe—they are now in some mighty deep weeds, adrift on a far shore on waters teeming with, well…lawyers! Judges! Feds! Voting Rights acts and the “Jingles” stuff!
Mitchell started with the many, varied, highly technical (and, bet on it, expensive) ways to count people (all people, for the benefit of Ms. Saxena) and balancing bodies within legal limits.
Then Mr. Mitchell dropped this small depth charge…
You are not allowed, based on Federal law, to draw districts [based on] race or ethnicity…meaning you can't draw districts and say, Hey, line drawer, draw me a district that has the most Latinos, and that's my only direction.
But waitaminit! That’s the point of the whole exercise! That’s why the 13 are on the Commission!
Whereupon Mr. Mitchell soothes…
…one way to think about it is that the racial composition of a district is something that you should understand and acknowledge, and the courts have understood that looking at the racial composition of a district does not mean that you're…breaking the law by just looking at the racial composition of the district.
And for the next hour and 16 minutes, long past some Commissioners’ bedtimes, Mr. Mitchell, essentially, poured gallons of cold water, known in some circles as “reality,” on the naifs on the Commission.
It would burn out Substack’s bandwidth to follow every twist and turn…but consider just one of the imponderables in forming a legally-unassailable district (and you can bet your bippy there will be litigation galore). It’s a possible escape-hatch for the members’ obvious racial obsessions, known as “communities of interest,” which are in the legal tradition of “I know it when I see it.” Identifying these “communities” is tricky (see remarks from Commissioner Chisholm above)—and wouldn’t it be amusing if the progressives’ favorite word of art winds up biting them in the keester?
With apologies to the folks at Reddit, here’s one version…
…which should be balanced with geographic neighborhoods, which courts don’t like to see bifurcated. Portland’s are not just well-known, but also legally mapped with an entire city bureau to (sorta) service them…
Golly! This stuff is tough!
Mr. Mitchell’s training was clear, crisp, and probably the same slaps upside the head he has administered to many, many bunches of naive folks who think they’re smarter than they really are, who have scads of hidden agendas, and who will have to face the wrath of clients who expect a commissioner to deliver the goods.
And the slicers-n-dicers’ work has yet to really begin.
September 1st is the deadline to get it done. It will take nine votes out of 13 to pass the measure; otherwise, the lame-duck City Council will decide. There were walkouts on the Charter Commission, but they didn’t stop the runaway train. However, if there’s a coalition of four actual clear-thinkers on the Districting panel, then all hell breaks loose.
When your only tool is the ideology of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, then every problem looks like white supremacy.
In August 2020 the movers and shakers at the City Club of Portland released what looks very much like a blueprint for the Portland Charter Committee's reform initiative. In so doing, they made it almost inevitable that charter reform would consider and advance only the interests of the city's favored historically marginalized racial and ethnic identity groups.
The first recommendation in the City Club's study "New Government for Portland. Part II: Rethinking how We Vote" laid the groundwork for the race-obsessed project that is underway today:
"Significant and expansive community out-reach [sic] efforts must be undertaken to ensure that the voices of historically marginalized communities are elevated in the final comprehensive package of reforms. Broad and thorough engagement is needed to understand the changes that would best meet the needs of those historically marginalized or shut out of the political process. We do not and cannot speak for all the communities of interest who would be impacted by reforms. This kind of civic engagement requires focused resources, leadership and commitment. We call on the City of Portland, philanthropic institutions, and supporters of civic engagement to prioritize this work in the coming years, and specifically during the 2021 charter review commission process."
Sometimes studies have no real-world impact. This one, on the other hand, far exceeded its authors' wildest expectations. One can only wonder what the great and the good at the City Club think about their brain child now that it's all grown up.
Not only were "significant and expansive community out-reach [sic] efforts . . . undertaken to ensure that the voices of historically marginalized communities [were] elevated in the final comprehensive package of reforms," those reforms only take into consideration the interests and needs of historically marginalized communities. So successful was the outreach to the downtrodden that all other "communities of interest" were effectively shut out of the process and the subsequent reforms.
Those interested in getting a better idea of how we came to be where we are should read the City Club's "New Government for Portland. Part II: Rethinking how We Vote." https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wgcWnWy58YBq5ojdhUu72nMxvFLxrz-6/view
Among other things, readers will learn that Portland's shadow government does not in fact convene behind closed doors in the Arlington Club, nor does it consist of the top-hat wearing, cigar-smoking capitalist landlords who haunt the dreams of the Twitter rabble. No, it has been operating in the open under the aegis of the City Club of Portland all along! It’s all quite transparent, though only City Club members get to vote on proposals that could well affect all Portlanders down the road:
"The City Club spent four years researching the City of Portland government and published two reports with one clear conclusion. Our current form of government and how we vote are outdated, inequitable, and in need of significant reform. We called for the City to conduct a public process to develop a new form of government. One informed by the collective wisdom, personal experiences, and creativity of a diverse group of Portlanders. Through the 2020-2022 Portland Charter Review process, we have the opportunity to do just that." https://www.pdxcityclub.org/advocacy/city-government-reform/
"City Club has supported two member-led research reports about Portland’s form of government and elections. The first was charged with analyzing what the best form of government would be in terms of representation for the residents of Portland and whether Portland’s current commission form of government equitably represents all residents of the city."
"That report, supported by 92.6% of City Club members, recommended that Portland transition to a modified council/manager form of government, increase the size of the City Council, and switch to district-based elections — preferably with multiple City Council members elected in each district. At the conclusion of that report, that committee called for additional research on district elections and election systems."
Have Candace Avalos, Jo Ann Hardesty and all the other members of marginalized communities who have benefitted and will continue benefit from the City Club’s largesse sent a thank-you letter yet?
Richard, perhaps you should request a meeting with your rep to discuss neighborhood concerns, and see if it gets reported? Also curious to know, can a council member refuse to meet with a constituent or group of constituents?