Ed Garren

City Commissioner #2

(This is part of PPS Equity‘s Election ’08 coverage. Some questions are abbreviated here. Please see the main Election ’08 page for the full questions, the full list of candidates and election information.)

1. When was the last time you visited a public school in Portland? What was the purpose of your visit?

I will tell you upfront that I have not yet visited any of the schools in Portland because I have not had a reason to visit any. BUT, my campaign manager, Jerry Moss is the business agent for the Plumbers & Steamfitters local 290, and he just received “Volunteer of the Year” for Pacific Northwest F.I.R.S.T. the Robotics program in the state. He visits Portland Public Schools often. Also, a campaign volunteer is a retired school teacher and a full time volunteer at Jefferson High School.

2. Do you have any children or other relatives enrolled in Portland Public Schools?

No, I do not have any children, and my relatives live elsewhere. My God Daughter lived with me for 17 months while she was in the first and second grade. That was in Miami, which had a county wide schools system.

3. Did you attend Portland Public Schools?

I attended schools in rural central Florida, which were chronically underfunded, but we had excellent teachers and small classroom sizes, so we all received a better than expected education.

4. …If elected, will you do anything to hold the school district accountable to the Flynn/Blackmer audit?

I grew up in a segregated school system until I was 15, and have very strong opinions about any form of segregation. If the transfer system permits, or encourages the flight of the more affluent students, and does not strengthen the neighborhood schools, then it must be changed. This practice reduces student counts which determine school funding.

There should be some way to discourage transfers, either by a financial de-incentive or a public relations campaign.

See question 9 for a way to hold the district accountable.

5. …If elected, how will you work with the PPS Board of Education to ensure their policies do not work at cross purposes with city policies?

The city “Re-development” policies has unfortunately contributed to some of these problems. The city has followed an “urban renewal” policy that has favored the affluent, throws a few bones at the very poor and ignores virtually everyone else in the middle. These policies have included offering tax credit incentives to encourage re-development, which borrows money against the city’s future revenues in order to encourage this building. Much of the building is speculative, with no buyers in hand or on site.

I will establish a formal and ongoing collaborative relationship between the city, Portland Public Schools, organized labor and the business community for both financial and policy issues.

6. School closures and school facility decisions heavily affect the livability of the city. What is the role of the city council in
influencing these decisions?

As more and more families are being forced out of the city due to high housing costs, the schools suffer because lower student enrollments mean less funding from the state. This forces schools to close and everyone suffers.

If the City of Portland, Portland Public Schools, organized labor and the local business community worked collaboratively on more issues, there would be more efficiency due to the sharing of resources, rather than the duplication of them.

7. If PPS puts forth a facilities bond of around a billion dollars, what will be your position on this election?

I am presuming that this bond would be funded by way of additional property taxes and not directly from the city revenues. I am not running on a “No New Taxes” platform, and it would be ludicrous to do so in this economy. Until we can get federal officials to return extensive revenue sharing to state and local governments, including schools, we will face difficult revenue decisions. Therefore I would support a facilities bond measure because the condition of the schools is deplorable.

I would also aggressively lobby my peers on city council, county and state officials to push all federal representatives to return revenue sharing.

8. What is the specific role of the City Council in helping children in the lower income neighborhoods of Portland?

Currently, the city has little “direct role” in anything relating to the school system. As for helping Children, the city could encourage the creation of affordable after school and child care programs like the Portland Relief Nursery as an example for working parents. This could (and should) be done in all neighborhoods.

In addition, City Council can and should do more to make known and visible the awful conditions that too many children are growing up in.

9. …Would you support permanent city supplementary funding, or some kind of local option tax, to bring Portland school funding back to pre-Measure 5 levels?

I would support some sort of formalized and ongoing assistance to the school system. Because the City Council is obligated to protect the interests of the city, and may not be inclined to simply write a check, I suspect a better “sell” to Council would be a specific partnership again with the City of Portland, Portland Public Schools, organized labor and the business community. In addition, as part of the “urban renewal” possibilities, the city could (and should) work to develop housing opportunities for teachers that is dedicated and facilitates the creation and purchase of affordable housing for teachers.

10. Do you have any other thoughts on the roll of city government in the governance of our public schools?

The city can focus on issues that are not being discussed in the community. At the F.I.R.S.T. banquet on Saturday, the regional director of the program talked about how our national schools are in trouble. Only about 18% of our high school graduates ever complete a university education. The rest are left unprepared and unskilled for good paying jobs, the kind that require a technical education.

We can re-invent our schools by returning to “Distributive Education”, which partners with business and organized labor and prepares students for good paying jobs after graduation. Distributive Education would also foster partnerships in the City with business and industry.

I have spent a significant part of my career working with children, adolescents and young adults. They are our future, and we cannot continue to ignore them and deliver a message that they are not important.

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