Oregon enjoys an international reputation for progressive values which it no longer deserves. Yet that could be radically changing with the surprise emergence of activist and Concordia University professor Nicholas Caleb as a viable candidate for the non-partisan Portland City Commissioner seat #3.
Born nine months after iconic Oregon Governor Tom McCall died, Nick Caleb finds inspiration in the strength and vision of McCall, calling him the "look-you-can-actually-do-stuff-if-you-want-to Shining Beacon". Caleb embraces the Oregon Story of progress without pollution which McCall articulated some forty years ago. Like Tom McCall, native born and raised Nicholas Caleb emerges as a strong figure at a time when Portland's livability is under threat as Forbes has named it the third most polluted city in the nation. Like McCall, he is also a real-world problem solver who thinks globally and acts locally.
When Caleb became concerned about local echoes of the global push for privatization of water, he turned his attention to Portland’s water supply. The Bull Run Watershed, which filters Oregon’s rain through 102 square-miles of protected forests, brings Portland the cleanest water in the world. For its 118-year history, the Bull Run has been managed well; however, Caleb recognized that just three votes on the Portland City Council could overturn this and allow privatization. Collaborating with others, he coauthored the People's Water Trust initiative that ensures management for long-term sustainability through placing the system in a trust for the people, allowing individuals legal recourse other than simply voting for commissioners, and articulating specific rules for recusal to prevent conflict of interest by limiting acceptable political donations to fifty dollars.
As an educated activist, Caleb demonstrates a depth of scholarship of community issues which undergirds his platform of reforms for clean government and clean water. His vision of Portland as a clean, livable and equitable city is summed up in his statement at his press conference announcing his candidacy:"Everyone has a right to the city”.
The right to the city, as a working philosophy, can inform compassionate treatment of issues such as homelessness and gentrification, and is outlined by David Harvey in The New Left Review:
The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights. David Harvey (2008). "The Right to the City". New Left Review 53. pp. 23–40.Caleb strongly supports the 15 NOW PDX movement, following in the wake of Seattle’s lead on the minimum wage increase. Caleb will be speaking at the April 24th 15 Now PDX rally featuring Kshama Sawant, Seattle's Socialist Council member, in Portland at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 6:30.
Although Caleb has not held elected office, he is no novice to politics having worked on the 2010 state Senate campaign of Hillsboro Democrat Chuck Riley. He was the field manager for the Washington County Democrats and is a regular columnist for Blue Oregon, writing there since 2008. He clerked for the Oregon Department of Justice and externed at the Federal District Court of Oregon. After receiving his law degree, he moved to the Netherlands to earn an LL.M. in Law & Technology from Tilburg University, leaving with "the strong belief that living in a society with a strong social safety net is not some abstract idea, but an achievable reality if people desire it enough and are willing to fight for it". As a policy analyst, he spent a summer in New Delhi, India, at Vandana Shiva’s Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. He wrote that his time in India "... forced me to grapple with the destructive effects of globalization on impoverished peoples around the globe, forever changing the direction of my life". At Concordia University, he teaches government, environmental sciences, biology, cultural geography and public speaking.
Nicholas Caleb represents what is best about Portland. He carries a sense of Oregon history which honors the community as well as the individual and promotes good stewardship of the environment as the essential underpinning of a sustainable economy. At thirty years of age, he voices the visions of the generation now coming of age. He also has the education, intelligence and backbone to truly make a difference.
Quality of life is the sum total of the fairness of our tax structure; the caliber of our homes; the cleanliness of our air and water; and the provision of affirmative assistance to those who cannot assist themselves. True quality is absent if we allow social suffering to abide in an otherwise pristine environment.”Here is the link to Nicholas Caleb's campaign website. Here is the ActBlue donation site for his campaign.
~ Tom McCall, Address to the 1973 Legislature
A vision for a clean, livable, and equitable Portland.
Everyone has a Right to the City
• Mandate a living wage of $15 per hour. Worker productivity has steadily increased for the last 40 years while wages have stagnated. It’s completely unfair and it’s bad economics.
• Ensure housing justice. We need rent controls and anti-gentrification policies. We must give communities a great say in what developments they want in their neighborhoods while also working to reform the Portland Development Commission.
• Stop criminalizing homelessness. Fund services for the disabled, veterans, seniors, and families in crisis.
• Support public education. Give teachers autonomy to teach, end corporate “reforms”, and fund after school programs.
• Support local labor struggles, both organized and unorganized.
• Support LGBTQIA struggles.
• Take action on climate change. Portland needs to fulfill its obligations detailed in the Climate Action Plan, and go even further.
• “Sustainable Development”, “density development”, and other green infrastructure efforts must be coupled with anti-gentrification policies or they will unjustly displace lower earning workers.
• Pass laws to prevent the transport and storage of all forms of fossil fuels slated for mass export, starting with coal. Non-binding ordinances are not enough.
• Protect residents from local pollution by penalizing corporate polluters. Portland has high levels of air pollution, high rates of respiratory illness, high rates of cancer from air toxins, and tens of thousands of toxic sites within city limits. Historically, marginalized communities are most effected.
• Place Portland’s water in a Public Trust to protect this vital natural resource for present and future generations.
Fight Police Brutality and Misconduct
• Create an independent civilian review board with the power to investigate, subpoena, and discipline officers – including dismissal for misconduct.
• Prevent stop-and-frisk type policies from being introduced in Portland.
• Limit cash campaign contributions to $50. Money has many negative effects on our political system and creates obvious conflicts of interest. Due to this, I’ve chosen to accept only small donations.
• If elected, I will accept only the average salary of a Portland worker while donating the remainder towards developing social movements.
Two-minute video of campaign platform: