Despite alllllllll the drinks I had the night before and the late bedtime, I was up bright and early to go to Spring Thing, which is a conference put on by Portland Forward. I had the most hilarious time trying to navigate my life while hung over and trying to get to St. Johns. Despite checking the Car2Go zone on the internet before I went, I somehow screwed up and failed to know that the zone doesn’t go out to St. Johns. So I had to turn around, drive about 2 miles back into the zone, and then catch a Lyft to arrive 15 minutes late. It was at Wayfinding Academy, which seems like a really cool place for young folks in their 20s to figure out a path forward when traditional paths might not be working for them. The attendance at the event was small enough to feel sort of intimate. I’d guess maybe 75 people in attendance, many who came and went.
Luckily, I got there in time to see Senator Jeff Merkley speak. He did a great job. Portlanders love Jeff Merkley. One of my gripes with Portland political activists is that they usually don’t understand national politics and have very simplistic ideas about why progress isn’t achieved more quickly. They don’t understand that only about 25% of the country is liberal. The rest are moderate or conservative. And unfortunately, many politicians pander to the outrage and ignorance that a lot of Portlanders have. But Sen. Merkley is somehow able to explain concepts like voter suppression and the makeup of Congress and Republican-led obstruction in ways that don’t negatively affect his progressive creds. Portlanders like him, they trust him, and they believe him. I often roll my eyes at this popular white-guy phenomenon, but I was pleased to hear him talk about some of the real issues that keep our country from moving forward with progressive policies.
Jillian Schoene is the Executive Director of Emerge Oregon, which trains women to run for office and otherwise be in decision-making, policy-setting political roles. Sometimes you don’t realize how hopeless and powerless you feel until someone hits you with so much hope that you feel that feeling of relief and power that you didn’t know you needed. Jillian went over all of the wins that women had in 2018, nationally, in other states, and here in Oregon. I really needed that. In the face of an outright assault currently happening on women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, Muslims, disabled folks, indigenous people, and really literally millions of people who depend on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP for healthcare—it is so important to note that we are still pushing forward and there is still hope.
I was fangirling so hard over Elisabeth Swarttouw, the campaign manager for newly elected Oregon Senator Shemia Fagan. She’s a 20-something, confident, powerful young woman and hearing her talk about how she got Shemia to hire her and how they worked to win a tough campaign was so inspiring. Plus, she walked in with a beige trench coat, cute boots, and 60s hair, and it was a lot to love. She seems like someone whose name will be important to remember.
There were a variety of other speakers, and we also had the opportunity to break into smaller groups to discuss the topic of changing the City government’s structure from a weak mayor/assigned bureaus/at-large elections type of system, to a strong mayor/commissioners who set policy/manager who manages bureaus/commissioners elected by district type of thing. It was a very engaging topic and great to talk with a variety of people with important points of view on the pros and cons of both systems, barriers to getting voters to buy into a new system, and best ways to message in these regards.
We also got Por Que No for lunch, 10/10 would attend again!