07 Dec

Imagining Donald Trump’s message to Oregon: It would be huge

(It’s more than five months until the Oregon presidential primary, so we don’t know whether we’ll actually ever see Donald Trump campaigning here. Fortunately, it’s not hard to imagine what his speech would be like.)

Oregon loves me. I remember watching on television as thousands and thousands of people celebrated in Portland when they heard I might appear here. Nobody can actually find the film, but I know I saw it. Maybe all the TV stations erased it.

The Northwest has always been hurt because I wasn’t running things. 54-40-or-Fight? I could have gotten you 64-50. I’m the greatest negotiator ever. If I’d been there at the beginning, Oregon would now extend up to the Arctic Ocean, where there would be a Trump Ski and Whaling Resort.

And it would be the classiest ski and whaling resort in the world, because it would be Trump.

Plus we’d have a fantastic championship-level golf course right next to it.
It would be huge.

I would fix the Columbia River, which I would make run faster and produce more energy. Competing with the world now, we have to stop giving that river a free ride. You think the Chinese would just let that river roll on? I can do anything better than the Chinese can. I beat them all the time, and I’m ready to beat them river by river.

And when the Columbia runs faster, I’ll make the salmon stronger so they can get back up the river. The problem is not just that the people running the river now are stupid, it’s that the salmon are stupid. I’ll fix that. I went to the University of Pennsylvania, and I’m smarter than any salmon.
I’m also smarter than sturgeon and – I’ve got to tell the truth about this, Oregon, although I know the media will beat me up for it – smarter than any beaver.

I build better dams every day at Trump Tower, which is the best address in the world.

But really, beavers are great people, terrific people. We’re very close.

You want someone who knows trees? I know trees. I’ve dealt with thousands of trees, and they’ve never given me any trouble. I’m way smarter than they are. You want more trees, I can get you more trees.
In fact, I can get you a great deal on trees. None of those clowns in Washington now can do that.
And they claim they have a forest policy. What do we pay taxes for?

And I pay a lot of taxes, because I’m really rich.

You’ve got problems with Californians coming up to the Northwest? Not with me as president. I’ll build you a wall with California, and make California pay for it. I’ll even round up all the Californians that arrived recently, and send them back. We’ll do it gently and kindly; maybe we’ll just lure them back south with fish tacos, and then keep them from coming back by patrolling the border with rabid wolves.

You can’t fool around with people from California. Many people from California are fat, disgusting and not up to my standards in looks, and some of them are even Muslim. I’m not going to fool around with that. I didn’t get to be as incredible as I am by fooling around.

I love Oregon, and obviously Oregon loves me. I could charge big money for coming to campaign here, or anyplace else.

That’s how I would make America great again, by making it more like me. Back when America was great, it was just like me.

So you can see I could do amazing things for Oregon. Bigfoot won’t come out and talk to anybody? He’ll talk to me. More than anybody who has ever run for president, I know Bigfoot. I was on a talk show with Bigfoot – the network begged me to come on – and he’s a good guy, although not as smart or good-looking as I am. Between you and me, even my feet are bigger, although the media won’t tell you that.

I would give the Northwest what it’s never had, a winning Bigfoot policy. We’ve got a Bigfoot policy put together by losers, a Bigfoot policy run by people with small feet and smaller IQs.

I could bring Bigfoot out by offering him a free week at a Trump hotel. Nobody would refuse that, because Trump hotels are the greatest places in the world.

I can figure out things like that, because I’m really smart.

Also really, really rich.

Did I mention that?

NOTE: This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 12/6/15.

07 Dec

Despite the rules, a strong vision can make a strong mayor

The city charter says Portland doesn’t have a strong mayor.

And yet, within memory, Portland has had strong mayors.

Vera Katz, Bud Clark and Neil Goldschmidt managed to make the city government work. The key part was not what they found in City Hall, but what they brought there: a strong vision, and the ability to make other people see it – both people around the city, and the two other members of the City Council needed to make it happen.

The vision that the next mayor needs to bring is a city government that works for everybody in Portland – all our increasingly diverse population, and the Portlanders east of 82nd Avenue, who can feel like City Hall thinks they live east of the Mississippi River. That means focusing on the safety of all our streets; housing that Portlanders who aren’t high-tech figures can afford; and a belief that the Portland police treat all the city’s citizens the same.

With a strong agenda, and careful bureau assignments, Goldschmidt, Clark and Katz built lasting Council alliances, instead of looking to find a different Council majority on every issue. Whatever Portland’s organizational chart says, a mayor with a clear vision – and two other votes on the City Council — can be a strong mayor.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 12/5/15.

05 Dec

In Beaverton, Muslims look a lot like Americans

BEAVERTON – At Friday services out at Bilal mosque last week, the imam was talking about a small town in Iowa. It’s off in the state’s northeast corner, on the Turkey River, and with 1,200 people, it might barely be noticed in the Iowa caucuses.

It’s Elkader, Iowa – named in 1846 after an Algerian warrior who fought the French invaders, named by two Christian town founders who thought there was something American about resisting European colonization.

Because the sermon wasn’t really about Iowa, but about connections

“Inshallah, we will one day take the youth of this community to Elkader, Iowa,” Imam Toure told the Friday worshippers. “If he was able to inspire people, we who are here now should be able to do the same.”

Or, as mosque president Shariar Ahmed explained afterward, “In this country, if you don’t put down roots, roots come up at you.” It’s why, he says, he always objects when one of his fellow immigrants reports going home for a visit.

To Ahmed, this is home.

In the wake of the killings in Paris, a few things have come up at the members of Bilal mosque; an insult on MAX, harassment of a hijab-wearing woman on the street. It hasn’t been anything like the days after 9/11 when, Toure recalls, his Northeast Portland mosque received 25 death threats.
But the Paris attacks mean something particular to Toure; he received his master’s degree in comparative religion at the Sorbonne.

“It’s not enough to say this is not Islam,” says Toure. “We have to understand the feelings of the non-Muslims. Go out and meet your neighbors.”

There’s a lot of meeting to be done. The leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president talks about keeping files on all Muslims in America, and whether he’d think about closing down mosques. Monday on TV, he mused about Islam that “There’s something nasty coming out of there.”

Aspects of Bilal can look very familiar. Outside the mosque Friday, there was a bake sale to support the religious school. Inside the all-male services, there were some robes and long South Asian shirts, but a lot more blue jeans, along with sweatshirts for the Oregon Ducks, Portland Fire & Rescue and a Little League All-Star team, and some hospital scrubs. Many members work for Intel, including mosque president Ahmed, who explains, “The only qualification I have is I am shameless in asking for money.”

That need can be clear. The mosque has just completed an expansion, and there are plans on the wall for the next one. For Friday prayers, the room is jammed, and men move over to create more space on the rug. The crowd is diverse, with lots of South Asian and Middle Eastern faces, but including every identity visible in a Portland mall.

“Most of us are immigrants,” says Toure. “We made tremendous efforts to come to this country, and tremendous efforts to stay in this country.”

Toure, who counts himself a seventh-generation imam, is from Senegal, where he got an undergraduate degree in American civilization. After Paris, he studied psychology at Georgetown, and came out to Oregon to do field practice at Waverly Children’s Home. After that, he worked for 14 years as a social worker for the state Department of Human Services, and now works for the children’s support group Court Appointed Special Advocates in Washington County.

Now, he says, “I am a die-hard Oregonian,” liking the Northwest pace and atmosphere more comfortable than his East Coast experience in Washington, D.C. “For me, it was a very personal journey.”
There are other aspects of life here he admires. “Ninety-nine percent of Muslims in America,” he says, “have more freedom to practice their religion than in their home countries.”

Probably, that will still be the case even after this presidential campaign.

There is a communications gap here, and it can widen after every atrocity half a world away, or these days after every presidential debate. Bilal sees its own need to reach across it; it has Webinars – perhaps fittingly with its high-tech membership – and reaches out to local high schools like Westview and Jesuit.

“The measure of who you are is what you do with what you have,” Toure told his audience, adding later, “The message has to be clear and unequivocal.”

There are some Muslims, throughout the world, doing terrible things, and that’s a problem for the world, and especially other Muslims.

And there are Muslims who, in identity and values, are as American as Iowa.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 12/2/15.