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What Happened to James Chasse: Cogen, Frederick, and Chasse

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cogen, Frederick, and Chasse

from Jack Bogadanski's Blog

You wouldn't know it from the mainstream media, but there's still a Multnomah County commissioner position up for grabs in the November election, and the runoff is between Jeff Cogen and Lew Frederick.

Back in the spring, when Diane Linn was still nominally in the running to stay on as county chair, this race had a different look from what it has now. Now it's clear that Ted Wheeler is going to be running the county board, and to me Cogen (left) looks just like Wheeler. More representation for the West Hills moneybag crowd. Plus, given how little I think of the performance of Cogen's former boss, Dan Saltzman, as a Portland city commissioner, it would be really hard for me to say I want him representing me on the county board.

Frederick does not come across as a real ball of fire as a candidate, either. He's not a highly skilled politician. But his supporters tell me that's one of the best reasons to vote for him. One writes:

I learn more about Lew's values and goals every time I hear him speak. He brings perspective and depth. He talks about issues like he cares about them, from the perspective of someone who actually knows from life experience rather than having just heard about social problems. Reading about high school dropouts in a report is one thing. Hosting a group for kids in your home every week for five years, one month per student group, is doing something about it. And it was doing the most he could, with the resources available to him. He hasn't been in a position to help run the Children's Fund, for example -- but he would do a great job if he were elected and helped oversee it, because he knows where and how the money can be spent best.

And since I've been volunteering with his campaign, I'm even more impressed. He's definitely not a showman despite his years on TV and as a spokesperson -- there, he was scripted, in real life he's thoughtful and has broad knowledge and experience that's difficult to can into 30-second soundbites. He listens and has conversations, even during the campaign, instead of giving pat responses.

I like what I'm reading here.

One issue that the two candidates ought to be talking about front and center these days is the county's rickety mental health service "system" (if it can be called that). Here in Portland, we just had the police kill an unarmed schizophrenic man, Jim Chasse, who was guilty of "looking strange," and the initial reaction from City Hall has been to deflect criticism of the police with, "We need to start a conversation about mental health."

The ensuing, deafening silence from Wheeler on this subject has been a disappointment, and we don't need the same from the new commissioner. There are still a few weeks before this one is decided. Let's hear what Cogen and Frederick have to say about Chasse and the larger issues raised by his death in Portland's "open air mental health treatment" program.


Jeff Cogan's comment in response
Lew Frederick's comment in response
Ted Wheeler's comment in response (and I think Ted's only comment on this subject.)

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