I recently received an email from the group Progressive Portland asking me to “commit to vote against any councilor who does not support” their favored school bond.

The tone (as I have found regularly from this group) was shrill. It is more than their tone that concerns me, however. As with other issues on which they have taken a stand, they paint in black and white, us vs. them. There is an arrogant presumption that they have a monopoly on the truth, a denial that these are three well-intentioned councilors (Jill Duson, Nicholas Mavodones and Belinda Ray) trying to find the best solution for our city.

Perhaps, substantively, they are right. Perhaps not. What concerns me is their process and means. Despite an ongoing narrative to the contrary, our city’s policy deliberations are quite transparent and accessible to the public. I once heard a city official say: “We do hear you, and we do listen. Sometimes your argument just doesn’t carry the day.” Not a politic thing to say, but it is the truth.

Progressive Portland’s framing of facts I have found murky (is it really accurate to call the organic pesticide advisory group “industry dominated”?), and their tactics, as in this instance, are often that of a bully, not a group interested in democratic process.

When a “progressive” group’s methods anger and lose a liberal like myself, it is time to rethink the approach. We need to embody the democracy to which we aspire – not borrow tactical tools from the governor for what is presumed to be a more noble end.

Sean Kerwin


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