11 Years of Activism in Portland

bunsnotguns from little t american bakerI’ve been living in Portland for 11 years now. 11 years of activism. I noticed last night as I was updating this blog (for better SEO and righting some images) that I was putting out a lot more activism over the last couple years than I am now.  Issues like billboards, getting rid of the yellow pages, chearing on the first Obama administration, holding voting parties, idling, population growth and saving the Tillamook State Forest – all were big issues for me in 2009.

These issues all still persist, but I haven’t been focusing on them as much. I’ve started fan pages for a few, and I continue to put a shout out for an issue when I see something about it in the media, but my own activism has definitely shifted some. I’ve also been working hard to develop my business and I hope that eventually that will pay me enough to devote more time to the activist areas that I care about. Actually, one area, Farm My Yard, I have been dedicating a bunch of time to – keeping the website up, updating the FB fan page, and I’m meeting with someone today to discuss building an app for the project. So, I guess I’m not done saving the world.

And, some issues come back around – like my current project regarding the Oregonian’s slide to the Tea Party Right on BlueOregon. They’ve been lying to us more and more about their tea party agenda, and I want to do what I can to call them out on it.

So, I guess I just want to say – don’t worry, I’m still at it. And perhaps I’m partially writing this to myself to remind myself that I’m still busy trying to change the world, I’m just mixing it up more with my effort with people and small businesses to help them with their marketing and getting the word out.

Yesterday, as I was heading to a client meeting I was thinking about being 52 and wondering who I could find to take on the various efforts I’ve started or care about. I was thinking about asking in the dance community to see about training some folks who are 20 or 30 years younger than I am, but noone came immediately to mind. And, I suppose activism is not for the feint at heart. You have to have support in your life – people who really are there to back you – and a process to keep you from falling down when things get hard. I’ve been using Co-counseling for that for many years to good effect, but many people don’t have a process to discharge their fears when they come up against things that are hard – government agencies; industries fighting back; a right-wing media.

All good things for me to think about – succession – who are the next group of activists? Who cares enough about the issues that I do to take them on? And, how do I reignite some of the causes that I cared about and still do but which I have let come off of the table?  Perhaps I’ll do a little spreadsheet and see where things are and put that up for myself and others.  and for now, happy new year 2014 – let’s see what we can accomplish!

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Albert Kaufman

OLCV ED

OLCV LogoToday I applied for the Executive Director position with OLCV.  Here is what I wrote to them:

To the members of the OLCV Search Committee <EDsearchcommittee@olcv.org> :

I am applying for the position of Executive Director for the Oregon
League of Conservation Voters.  I have a long history of environmental
and legislative activism which I think will be a perfect fit with your
organization.

For the past 15 years I have been a tireless activist on numerous
levels – neighborhood, city, state, national, and international –
engaged in a wide range of issues.  These experiences have improved my
capacity to move progressive, environmental agendas and issues
forward.  From shutting down a neighborhood medical waste incinerator
in Seattle to leading lobbying efforts for increasing funding for
international family planning in Washington, DC, I have grown as an
activist and a leader.  I bring strong writing, organizing, media
outreach, volunteer management, membership, fundraising, technical,
and speaking skills to any effort I engage in.  I am well-connected in
Oregon and the Northwest with a monthly e-letter that I send to 2,000
people as well as active Facebook, Twitter, Linked In amongst other
social networking accounts with many connections.  I consider myself
well respected in the environmental and political communities in the
Pacific Northwest.

I bring skills to the table which OLCV does not appear to be
leveraging to the extent I believe possible – yet!  Presently, social
networking is being used increasingly by individuals and organizations
to successfully get their message out, fundraise and organize.  I
believe that OLCV, as the biggest Oregon environmental group, could
exert a significantly larger influence on the State by harnessing
these technologies, and am confident I would be effective and
successful leading the organization in that direction.  I also sense
that OLCV could be grown into a much bigger entity, through
fundraising, as well as capitalizing on the large numbers of talented
people who are available at this time in history to do great work.

Most importantly, I am dedicated to the work that OLCV does.  I
believe that change can come through electing good leaders and working
with them to write and pass progressive legislation.  My hope for the
next ten years is that we will see substantial increases in
environmental legislation in this state as we most certainly face
increasing pressures of population growth, water scarcity, species
loss, pollution, and the results of decisions that were made years ago
– such as the much needed cleaning of our waterways, and removal of
dams on many rivers.  I am committed, and always have been, to healing
this planet, and to me that means working doggedly and consistently in
a positive direction with our friends and future allies – those who
have not yet come to an understanding of our position.  Relationship
building is a key factor in the important work of OLCV, and I would
make that a centerpiece of my leadership.  The work of OLCV is part of
a long effort that will take many many years to achieve, and the best
way to get there will be to build relationships that are strong and
consistent.

I look forward to speaking with you about these ideas and potential
new tools for effective advancement of OLCV’s goals, and expanding the
scope and breadth of OLCV in a personal interview.  I have enclosed my
resume for your consideration and would be glad to provide you with
references and writing samples at your request.  I look forward to
hearing from you and also wish you the best in this process.  There
are likely scores of people who would make a great candidate for this
position, and I hope you pick the best person available, as I believe
OLCV’s work is the most important in Oregon.

Sincerely,

Albert Kaufman

Billboards and Oregon Byways

billboard she is a thingBillboards and Oregon byways
by Max Ashburn
guest opinion
Friday May 15, 2009, 10:04 AM

The Oregonian editorial board appropriately calls attention to a deceptive and weak-kneed bill currently making its way through the Legislature (“A weak makeover of Oregon billboard laws,” May 9). Senate Bill 689 appears on the surface to be pro-beauty, by creating a program in the Department of Transportation that would “encourage voluntary removal of outdoor advertising signs from particularly scenic areas of scenic byways.”

In reality, the bill does little to encourage removal of signs along scenic roads and would in fact increase the total number of billboards in the state, by granting a sign owner two permits for removing a single billboard in one of the so-called “scenic areas” of a scenic byway.

The bill states that the DOT will establish the standards for what constitutes a “scenic area.” One has to wonder whether the makeup of that standards committee will be similar to that of the sign task force behind Senate Bill 689, a task force largely made up of members with interests in the outdoor advertising industry.

For decades Oregon was renowned for having some of the toughest billboard laws in the country, laws that helped preserve relatively unobstructed views of the state’s breathtaking natural beauty from its roadways. All that changed in 2006 when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the state’s statute that placed restrictions on billboards in commercial or industrial areas violated free-speech protections. The statute, originally enacted to comply with the Highway Beautification Act, effectively capped the number of billboards in the state at just under 2,000.

After 35 years without a single new billboard, the state has seen over 200 new signs go up since the 2006 ruling. Senate Bill 689 also fails to address, perhaps intentionally (given the makeup of the sign task force), the emerging trend of billboard companies toward erecting digital or LED signs. These new signs are essentially televisions-on-a-stick, and are a growing safety concern along the nation’s roadways.

The Federal Highway Administration is currently conducting a massive study on the safety of these new signs, and the results are due late next year. The citizens of Oregon are deserving of strong legislation that protects their treasured landscapes and the safety of the motoring public. Senate Bill 689 accomplishes just the opposite.

Max Ashburn is online communication manager for Scenic America in Washington, D.C.

———

My LTE: To the Editor:

Thanks to Max Ashburn for his article about the threat to our landscape via more billboards in “Billboards and Oregon byways”.  I too have noticed the sprouting of more view-blocking billboards along Oregon highways and it saddens me.  Oregon is so beautiful – I often imagine I’m passing through the Irish countryside.  But instead of recognizing our treasure and doing everything we can to protect it we seem to have a habit of despoiling it and blocking the view with billboards.  When I see a billboard it generally makes me less likely to buy a product from whoever is represented there because I become angry that a company would spend money to advertise in such a manner.  Billboards are advertising where the viewer has no choice in the matter.  In a TV ad a person can change the channel or turn off their TV.  With a billboard, the viewer is forced to view the ad which I think is an infringement on my rights.

One of the largest cities in the world, Sao Paolo, Brasil, has taken the step to outlaw all billboards in that city of 17 million people.  I can imagine that it has improved morale and certainly made architectural beauty more visible along with other social benefits.  Would that we had the foresight and political willpower to outlaw billboards in Oregon.  Something is wrong when corporations like Clear Channel have more of a right to pollute the viewpoints than people have to stop them from doing so.

I agree with Mr. Ashburn that Senate Bill 689 should be reworked to strengthen our protections against billboards and encourage my fellow citizens to contact their State Senators immediately on this issue.

Sincerely, Albert Kaufman