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DID SISTERS OF THE ROAD GIVE A DE FACTO ELECTION ENDORSEMENT TO NICK FISH IN WWEEK?

In a recent issue of Willamette Week, sit-lie organizer for Sisters of the Road, Brandon Phillips, is asked about Nick Fish as Portland's Housing Commissioner. Brandon is quoted (with ellipses, however) as saying that "Fish is amazing." No mention in the article is made of transit activist Jason Barbour, who is one of Fish's alternate opponents.
In a long, featured interview promoting Sisters of the Road, new sit-lie organizer Brandon Phillips is asked many questions by Mark Zusman and Hank Stern (this follows a similar Q&A in WWeek of TriMet's departing Gen. Mgr. Fred Hansen -- WWeek failed to print the response to that interview, from Transit Riders Union, at all).

However, the conclusion of the Brandon Phillips/Sisters of the Road (promotional?) article, is a question about Nick Fish as housing commissioner on Portland city council. Fish is running for reelection (the Oregonian recently endorsed both incumbents on city council, Fish and Saltzman), and transit activist Jason Barbour is one of three alternate candidates running against Fish (without Nick's war chest or any donations from Bob Pamplin, Portland polluter and Portland Tribune publisher).

In response to WWeek's question about Fish, Brandon is quoted as saying that "Fish is amazing ... [this ellipse is in the article] but that Fish sometimes puts getting elected ahead of other things." This sounds a bit like a non-endorsement endorsement? Did the ellipsed/edited section, for example, have Brandon Phillips stating that 'on the other hand, transit activist Jason Barbour, is 20x more amazing than Fish, and we should replace incumbents on what is a dysfunctional Portland city council.' That would have altered the quote, and we have met with Hank Stern enough (three times in 2009) that we trust the thrust of Brandon's comments were accurately portrayed.

Yet, Fish has refused to meet (6x and counting) over two years, with organizers from Tenant Rights Project, on an anti-slumlord campaign in downtown Portland against the so-called 'non' profit, $33,000,000 per year landlord, Central City Concern. Sisters of the Road is also a CCC tenant, on the first floor of the Butte Building. CCC has 24 buildings so far (counting the newly reopened Rose Quarter building aka Madrona) and CCC is now remodeling the old Rajneesh Hotel (Marha Washington Bldg.) towards PSU by Safeway on SW 11th.

Fish and CCC CEO Ed Blackburn, in the fall of 2009, issued a long non-denial denial (10 pages), allegedly responding to several appearances before Portland City Council by Tenant Rights Project organizers. The long packet essentially alleges that tenants who are organizing the tenant rights campaign are simply imagining the pest control, crime, safety and lack of transparency problems, and, in any case, that such issues were 'addressed' long before Tenant Rights Project first requested meeting with the CCC board of directors.

The CCC board meetings are closed to tenants, therefore tenants aren't allowed to speak at board meetings, and the CCC board minutes are secret. The 10 page Fish-Blackburn PR packet states that CCC is "a private corporation" and therefore has the right to have secret meetings -- but this doesn't address CCC being largely funded through government monies (that would be, taxpayer) -- from the city, from HUD and HAP, et al. The 10 page packet also omits any reference as to why the CCC board minutes are secret -- something both Street Roots and Community Alliance of Tenants allege is illegal, in Oregon.

At a housing forum in Ashland, Oregon, in January, 2010, Sisters of the Road organizer Brandon Phillips was critical of Nick Fish on some issues of concern to Sisters (and we understand Sisters has come out against the mayor's newest sit-lie proposal), but that as a nonprofit, Sisters doesn't endorse, or not endorse, electoral candidates, ipso facto -- no matter how "amazing" Nick Fish now is, in Portland, in April, 2010, per Brandon's (admittedly, edited) comment in WWeek.

As an aside, Tenant Rights Project organizers (including activist candidate against Fish, Jason Barbour) met with Street Roots president Israel Beyer recently, to see about getting "equal space" for a three page article on Jason Barbour, after Street Roots printed a three page with photo (starting above the fold, on the front page) story profiling/annointing Fish. Israel did note that if Street Roots had printed that glowing three page story any later, it might have been considered a pro-campaign piece for the May, 2010 election for city council. As it was, when Dennis, Jason, me and Guy met with Israel, we eventually did get an op-ed printed in Street Roots, five months after the original Fish piece was printed on the front page.

The Fish story headline was "Nick Fish, man of the hour" and the proposed headline for our op-ed (on p. 12, not the front page), was "Transit activist Jason Barbour, man of the people" and while Street Roots absolutely did print the op-ed (we appreciate that, the third of three op-eds we've sent in, in the past six months), the headline was changed to "SR Fish story is 'hagiography'" which, of course, deleted Jason's name from the headline, while putting (advertising?) Fish's name, once again.

Still, when we sent a similar article/op-ed to Bob Pamplin's Tribune, on the Jason Barbour v. Nick Fish city council race, Fish donor Pamplin never printed that article at all -- with our without our proposed headline!

Most of the city council media focus for the May election has been on the Saltzman race and police accountability -- as it should be. However, three of us organizers (Jason, Guy and I) from Transit Riders Union met last fall with Jim Middaugh, Erik Sten's former chief of staff who got voter-owned elections money ($150,000) and ran against Fish for city council last time, garnering only 22% of the vote. Middaugh was very specific in urging those of us supporting Jason Barbour against Nick Fish to "be serious" in developing strategy, etc., in attempting to overcome Fish's huge name recognition advantage (Fish ran for city council three times before finally getting elected). Middaugh now works as Communications Mgr. for Metro.

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