We spoke too soon: Cornett will get "clean money"
Photo courtesy BikePortland.org.
We blogged with some relief the other day when we noticed that none of the candidates running against incumbent Dan "Legend" Saltzman for Portland city commission appeared capable of qualifying for "clean money" -- taxpayer financing of their pending campaigns. How wrong we were. As it turns out, unbeknownst to us, challenger Jesse Cornett was indeed gathering the necessary signatures and $5 seed contributions and has filed them with the city. He's way over the number needed, and so the chances are excellent that he'll get a bunch of dough from the city -- $145,000 -- to run in the May primary.
As we noted last week, even with money, he's a huge underdog in the race against Saltzman. Most likely he'll use this race to try to build name recognition, and then really go for it the next time there's a vacancy on the council. That worked for Amanda Fritz, who started out running against Saltzman on the taxpayers' dime four years ago, and perhaps it will work for Cornett. Of course, there are a few other folks out there who have already completed the first leg of that two-part turkey trot -- Streetcar Smith, Jim Middaugh, and Charles Lewis, for example -- and so unlike Fritz, Cornett would likely have some opponents with serious name recognition the next time there's a vacancy. (Maybe Mr. Warmth will find love and run off somewhere, like Opie did.)
But anyway, let's talk about now. We'd never cast a vote for Saltzman. And so somebody else is going to get our vote. Is Cornett the one? We're not at all sure. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Blue Oregon type -- Kari Chisholm's doing his campaign work, Cornett was a founder of the Bus Project (it seems they had about 682 founders), his face shows up on Bike Portland from time to time, and we're sure he was madly in love with Measures 66 and 67. Certainly he won't be breaking Portland's "progressive" paradigm in any serious way -- as a Dave Lister would. Cornett's last paying gig appears to have been working as a lobbyist for Portland State University, and for all appearances he's never been anywhere close to running a real business. That's a strike against him, in our book.
There are three major issues that we look forward to hearing him address:
1. What will he do about the city's growing debt load, and its proclivity for borrowing and spending on wasteful real estate development projects ("urban renewal" and otherwise) at the expense of basic services? Given that his old employer, PSU, has now blatantly morphed into the latest pork pot for greedy developers, we'd be surprised if Cornett were to stand up to that set, any more than Saltzman ever does.
2. What will he do about the city's ever-growing payroll costs, including employee benefits, which are gradually swallowing up the entire municipal budget? Will he lay people off? Will he be tough in union "negotiations"? (From what we've seen, in these proceedings, management wisely wears knee pads.)
3. What will he do about the city's out-of-control police bureau? What reforms will he insist on to improve police accountability and training?
If Cornett has some decent answers to these questions, he may get our vote. But the whole Blue Oregon-Bus kid-bicycle vibe doesn't bode well in any of these areas. In any event, love him or hate him, he'll almost certainly have lots of money to feed people like Chisholm, and so he's now officially someone to watch.
Also on Friday, hopeful Jason Renaud turned in more than the 1,000 signatures (and evidence of the accompanying $5 contributions) that would qualify him for his own $145,000 play fund to run against "Legend." Since he cut it closer to the minimum than Cornett did, his qualification is not as assured, but if he makes it, he'll be an interesting candidate. More about him later.