It’s no secret that the organizers of People for Portland are less than happy with the performance of the region’s leaders.
Since the start of this summer, the political advocacy group has urged weary Portlanders to channel their myriad of frustrations to the inboxes of city and county elected officials. In Facebook posts and TV commercials, they berated Mayor Ted Wheeler for what they call a lukewarm response to clashes between protesters and city council as a whole for an “infuriating” response to the homeless crisis. shelter. The group, which does not have to reveal its donors, has spent more than half a million dollars lobbying city hall to make Portland more liveable. Officials, they say, fail.
For Commissioner Mingus Mapps, the constant flow of content posted by People for Portland borders on free advertising for the campaign.
He appears frequently on the People for Portland Facebook and Twitter pages. The group regularly posts links related to Mapps, either positive articles about him or quotes from him on issues facing the city. Facebook users who visit the People For Portland page frequently see Mapps’ old 2020 Election campaign account as an “associated page.”
People for Portland’s ads also blur the lines between the group’s platform and Mapps’ agenda as city commissioner. A 30 seconds october announcement spends nearly 20 seconds detailing Mapps’ plan to “reform the police and make our streets safer”. A different ad released last month promises viewers that “Commissioner Mapps has a plan” for public safety and calls on his supporters to tell city council to support the “Mapps plan”.
Political consultants Dan Lavey and Kevin Looper announced the founding of People for Portland in August, saying they wanted to pressure city officials to act more urgently on the many issues Portland faces, primarily crime, homelessness and garbage. The group is structured as a 501 (c) (4), and therefore is not required to disclose where its money comes from.
The group has been harassed by criticism and questions about who is pulling the strings and what the campaign is ultimately built towards. Some progressives have presented the group as a thinly veiled “alarmist effort” to drive the homeless population out of the inner city at the behest of “powerful financial interests”. The group described this characterization as “seriously misinformed”.
Within the town hall, a question swirled particularly fiercely: to what extent does a group insist on putting pressure on elected officials in coordination with some of them?
“There is no connection between me and my office and People for Portland. I did not speak to anyone from the organization. I haven’t even seen a People for Portland ad, ”Mapps told OPB this week. “I don’t have a TV.
Former professor of political science, Mapps won his seat in November 2020. In the process, he became the third black elected to the city council. He oversees the city’s utility offices as well as the Office of Emergency Communications, although he often speaks publicly on livability issues that are not directly related to his portfolio, such as crime, gun violence, homelessness and garbage.
He said he suspected People for Portland of being attracted to him because they make the same practical effort.
“They seem to be talking about the issues I’m talking about,” he said. “And frankly, it’s not rocket science. If you go out and talk to any random selection of Portlanders, we’re all concerned about the same four sets of issues.
Looper, a longtime Democratic consultant, said the reason Mapps appears over and over in their ads is simple: Campaign organizers are big fans.
“He has the distinction of being the only person on the city council who has strengthened in the midst of a crisis with a plan on public safety. He did it, ”Looper said. “And for that he deserves credit, and we’re happy to give it to him.”
Mapps’ public safety plan includes adding police officers, adopting body cameras and increasing the footprint of Portland Street Response, a new program that offers a non-police response to certain emergency calls. All three policies are in the process of being implemented within the city, although credit cannot be given solely to Mapps. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been pushing for expansion of Portland Street Response since this spring, the US Department of Justice has long urged the city to use body cameras, and Mayor Wheeler has proposed adding more police officers as part of the framework. of the fall budget process.
Looper dismissed rumors that the powerful advocacy group was preparing to make Mapps the town’s next mayor. The campaign is focused on immediate action, he said, and the next election is far away. (The mayor is running for re-election the same year, Mapps is set to face voters again, 2024.)
He said organizers just want to offer credit where they think it’s due.
“If other people are jealous of Mingus Mapps’ praise, they should step up like he did,” Looper said. “We would be happy to congratulate other people who are doing their jobs efficiently. “
Looper isn’t the only prominent Portlander to be happy with Mapps’ professional performance. Since taking office in January, the commissioner has carved out a place for himself in town hall as a moderate politician quick to condemn acts of destruction of property and in favor of the expansion of the police office. While the approach has discouraged many progressive activists, its stock appears to have increased in the eyes of the city’s business interests and old guard brokers. A recent request to register the OPB at Mapps’ office revealed two very complimentary emails: one from former Democratic state lawmaker Avel Gordly, the first black woman elected to the state Senate from Oregon, and the second from Greg Goodman, one of Portland’s largest landowners.
“I wanted to thank you for your leadership on city council. A lot of people are talking about it, ”Goodman wrote in a September 29 email. “You expose yourself to big problems during tough times, that’s how true leadership is defined. “
Like Goodman, Gordly also thanked Mapps for his “critical leadership role” in a September 9 email and asked him to meet with People for Portland’s Lavey, a longtime Republican political consultant in Oregon.
The meeting never took place. Mapps said he had never been approached by Lavey or Looper, although the group contacted his office to ask him to appear at a town hall they organized in October.
Emails show that Mapps’ chief of staff declined the invitation, saying the commissioner could not “participate in activities which could be interpreted or misinterpreted as political activity”. Wheeler appeared at the same event. (According to the municipal auditor’s office, elected officials are free to attend political events as long as they devote their time to “the city’s interest.”)
Although he will not be attending their events, Mapps said he has no plans to ask People for Portland to stop promoting his words and policies.
” I agree with that. Listen, I’m a public figure. People talk about me all the time, on all kinds of platforms. It comes with work, ”he said. “Its good.”