Friday Digest: December 17, 2021

Betsy Johnson announced her resignation from the Oregon Senate, effective December 15, in order to focus on her campaign for governor. Johnson was elected as a Democrat to represent Senate District 16, including parts Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington and Multnomah Counties, through the end of 2022. Johnson is running as an independent candidate for governor, which will allow her to skip the May primary and go straight to the November election, provided she collects enough signatures. Johnson explained her resignation by describing her gubernatorial campaign as a full-time job, just like serving her constituents in Senate District 16. It’s worth noting, however, that most members of Oregon’s legislature work a job beyond their elected position: Oregon’s state senators are paid $32,839 annually. Johnson inherited significant wealth and runs an aviation company with her spouse.

In order to fill Johnson’s seat, Democrats in Senate District 16 will nominate between three and five candidates. County commissioners from the counties included in the district will then choose a replacement from that list of nominees. Melissa Busch, a Democratic candidate who announced she would run for the senate seat in District 16 earlier this fall, plans to seek appointment to complete Johnson’s term.

You might expect negotiations between the Portland Public Schools’ board and the Portland Association of Teachers, the union representing Portland teachers, to be a local matter, but several candidates have weighed in during the last week. The union’s requests are focused around schedule changes, in order to provide teachers with both more time to prepare as well as provide relief during the current staffing crisis. PAT representatives have reiterated numerous times that they need a dramatic change to stem the loss of teachers, as well as provide better support for students. Negotiations continue this week. In the meanwhile,

  • Jessica Gomez, a Republican candidate for governor, wrote an opinion piece for the Portland Business Journal, saying “Helping children achieve success will not be accomplished by throwing in the towel, reducing in classroom learning, and lowering expectations.”
  • Tobias Read, a Democratic candidate for governor and currently Oregon’s state treasurer, wrote an opinion piece for the Way, saying “As a parent of two kids in public schools, it’s clear to me that our kids need in-class instruction now more than ever—to make up for lost learning over the last two years; to preserve their mental health through social interaction; and, to allow working parents to continue to work.” Read also advocated for asking retired teachers to return to schools to alleviate the staffing crisis.
  • Nicholas Kristof, a Democratic candidate for governor, responded to Willamette Week’s request for comment, saying “I understand the stresses faced by teachers and school staff, to whom we owe so much, and there’s a genuine risk of more of them leaving the profession…But I am deeply concerned that less classroom time would hurt the most vulnerable students and their families.”

Given that none of these candidates come from a background in education, however, following the union’s lead is likely the best option for keeping teachers teaching and students learning.

Multnomah County released a report reviewing 2020 deaths of people experiencing homelessness this week, co-published by Street Roots. The full article from Street Roots is an important read. In short, however, the majority of the 126 deaths examined were preventable. Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County Health Officer, noted that an undercount is possible. The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center also recently reported data from an online survey showing that 70% of Oregon residents who responded “believe it is very important or urgent for leaders in their community to make doing something about homelessness (or houselessness) their number one priority.”

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at

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