Walk on the wild side
Last night was "Candidates Gone Wild" night here in Portland, and I was pleased to play a small role in this unique event. Five candidates for the City Council and two for Multnomah County chair subjected themselves to quizzing, grilling, and a review of some of their nonpolitical talents before a packed house of backers and observers at the Roseland Theater.
There were many fine moments in the two-hour program. The highlight of the evening for me was a series of videos on six of the seven candidates, produced by an outfit called Public Media Works. Each featured both a "Cribs"-style tour of the candidate's house, vehicle, or pup tent; and an interview. The interviews were conducted by a very youthful fellow by the name of Adrian Chen, billed as a former Willamette Week intern. Chen has quite a future on the comedic screen if that's what he wants to pursue. The videos, and he in particular, were hysterical.
I was on a panel of three skeptics for a live segment called "Guantanamo Grill," where we each got to lob a verbal grenade at each of the seven participants. A few of the zingers that I had written got the crowd going, but the audience saved its biggest huzzah for a bitchslapping handed to yours truly by Commissioner Erik Sten. The Big Idea Guy criticized me for sitting around complaining on a blog instead of getting out there and working to make the system better. Or something like that; I'm sure there's a tape. The audience, which was full of Stennies, ate it up. Given the bushel baskets of cr*p that I dump on their hero on a regular basis on this site, it's not as though I didn't see it coming. Heck, I deserved it.
"Candidates Gone Wild" is impressive on a couple of different levels. It's a humanizing, energizing event that I can't imagine being staged in too many other cities. Even politicians on whom I've pasted some fairly nasty labels were polite and cordial, and I tried to be the same.
Observant audience members could pick up information about some of the candidates that no amount of reading and websurfing could provide. I won't get into the details, but my opinions of several of the candidates moved upward or downward, at least somewhat, based on what I saw.
The show is organized and run almost entirely by young people -- the Oregon Bus Project, in particular, which explains the fascination with Sten. Willamette Week and the City Club also play big roles, but most of the key shots are called by the hard-working volunteers. There's a lot of pizza, which Hot Lips throws in.
More than anything, I was impressed by the power of incumbency. You think Sten, Diane Linn, and Dan Saltzman are in trouble? Perhaps, but you sure couldn't tell from the small armies they had in the stands tonight. If you want them out, you'd better tell your friends, and quick.