Five vie for City Council

While announcing his candidacy for a seat on the Portland City Council, John Branam said he hopes to see Portland State have a more integral role in deciding Portland’s public education agenda, from kindergarten through college.

While announcing his candidacy for a seat on the Portland City Council, John Branam said he hopes to see Portland State have a more integral role in deciding Portland’s public education agenda, from kindergarten through college.

Branam, a University of Oregon law school graduate whose background is in education, said he wants to see Portland become a city that is known for its vibrant neighborhoods, its innovation and as a city that provides a quality 21st century education. He said he would like to see the Portland State University president work with city officials to determine how to develop higher education in Portland.

“I want us to be as well known globally for education as we are for transportation,” Branam said about Portland in an interview last Friday. “I guess for me, I see education as the foundation for health democracy, and as the great equalizer for all kids.”

Branam, 33, announced his candidacy on campus Monday, at a press conference sponsored by PSU’s leftist monthly publication, The Rearguard. Branam is the newest and the youngest candidate running for Sam Adams’ open city commissioner seat in the May 2008 primary election.

Branam will face Amanda Fritz, Chris Smith, Jeff Bissonnette and Charles Lewis. Most of the candidates have spent years on various committees and boards in Portland.

Branam is currently the development director of Portland Public Schools. Before graduating from UO in 2001, he worked as the program director for the Higher Achievement Program in Washington D.C., which aims to raise test scores and help middle school children in the D.C. area get into high school through after-school and summer programs.

Along with being the youngest candidate, Branam said that also being the only racial minority gives him a better perspective than the other candidates. Branam, who is bi-racial, worked in the Peace Corps for two-and-a-half years after college graduation. He has less experience serving on Portland committees than Fritz or Smith, but said that his background in service and variety of experiences would be a perfect fit for the City Council seat.

“If all we want is another insider, than this race will be over pretty quickly, because we’ve got a lot of insiders,” Branam said. However, he said, the current city council is experienced, and he believes it is the “perfect time to select someone from a more nontraditional background.”

Beyond continuing to develop education, Branam wants to create safer roads for bicyclists by working with the state of Oregon to administer specific requirements on driving tests about driving with bicyclists on the road. He also wants to continue developing public transportation in Portland, and said he would like to hear the arguments for and against providing students with free public transportation.

Branam received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and has served as the president of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association. Branam is the only candidate who has, as of press time, completed the necessary paperwork to file for candidacy.

Other candidates:

Candidate: Chris Smith

Education: Master’s degree in business administration, Boston University; bachelor’s degree in computer & systems engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Current job: Xerox Corporation, Internet technologist, Xerox Internet Marketing.

Political experience: City Club of Portland (member of Board of Governors); Portland Streetcar board of directors; Portland Office of Transportation budget advisory committee; Co-Chair (with former Mayor Bud Clark) of the Citizens for Accountable City Government.

Candidate: Amanda Fritz

Education: Nursing school in Pittsburg, Pa.; bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University.

Current job: OHSU Chair of the unit-based nursing-practice committee.

Political experience: Board member of the Coalition for a Livable Future; initiated and chaired the City Wide Parks Team Forum; 16-year PTA member; Commissioner, Portland Planning Commission from 1996 to 2003.

Candidate: Charles Lewis

Education: Master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University; bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Portland.

Current job: Founder of Ethos Music Center and Portland Duck Tours.

Political experience: Served two-and-a-half years in Peace Corps as a water and sanitation technician in the Congo; founded non-profit youth-music program, Ethos Music Center and eco-friendly Portland Duck Tours; volunteer for Habitat for Humanity; worked as an Ombudsman Associate for Mayor Vera Katz.

Candidate: Jeff Bissonnette

Education: Bachelor’s degree in planning, public policy and management from University of Oregon.

Current job: Organizing director at the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon.

Political experience: Created the Energy Trust of Oregon, a group focused on renewable energy investments; created and oversees mandatory renewable energy options for Portland General Electric and Pacific Power; helped establish a renewable energy standard for Oregon; served on the board of Portland Community Media.

Editor’s note: Over the next few months, The Vanguard will continue to inform you with the most up-to-date election information before the May 2008 primary elections. Look for more interviews with, and information about, candidates for local, state and federal offices as they continue to reveal their platforms and file for candidacy.