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Add Lewis, Fish to City Council

The Portland City Council could benefit from a couple of new, independent thinkers, and luckily the city’s voters have the chance in the May 20 primary election to support two people who fit that description. In a crowded field of candidates, Charles Lewis and Nick Fish stand out as the best choices to replace two current commissioners — Sam Adams, who is running for mayor, and Erik Sten, who left his seat midterm. The race for Adams’ seat is the most competitive, with six reasonably well-qualified and mostly well-funded people on the ballot. Sten’s seat drew five candidates, but only two are running serious campaigns. Here are our recommendations: Commissioner No. 1: Charles Lewis Virtually every candidate in these council races has made mention of the need to do something about the 127 miles of unpaved roads in the city. But Lewis actually can offer the ground-level perspective of a person who lives on one of those streets. Lewis created a media stir earlier in the campaign by strapping on a hardhat and filling potholes in front of his Northeast Portland home. He then inquired whether he could use some of the money he received through the so-called voter-owned elections program to pay for street repairs. Lewis, however, is more than the sum of his publicity stunts. He is the founder of Ethos Inc., a nonprofit that brings music to Portland children, and he has dabbled in other entrepreneurial ventures. Lewis showed gumption in this campaign by announcing last summer — before Adams declared for mayor — that he would run for the job whether Adams sought re-election or not. He has billed himself as the candidate who will look out for the little guy, and he offers a back-to-the-basics priority list that includes housing, infrastructure and community involvement. Lewis’ burning sense of mission shows when he criticizes the council’s “pet projects” or when he talks about his frustrations in dealing with the Portland Development Commission. But he also possesses a likable personality, strong business background and excellent education — he holds a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Some of Lewis’ opponents have more volunteer or public-sector experience than he does. Amanda Fritz, in particular, has an extremely long résumé that includes seven years on the Portland Planning Commission. But at a time when all candidates seem to agree that the local economy is the largest emerging issue, Lewis’ business acumen will be invaluable on the council. Voters should elect him to Position 1. Commissioner No. 2: Nick Fish Fish, a civil rights attorney, also would bring private-sector credentials to the council, along with a deep history of community service. This is Fish’s third attempt to win a seat on the council, and this time voters should give him their enthusiastic support. A former Housing Authority of Portland commissioner, Fish has the knowledge, passion and contacts to replace Sten as the council’s most forceful advocate for affordable housing. He also demonstrates an easy grasp of the major issues facing the city — including urban renewal and economic development. Fish’s main opponent, Jim Middaugh, is an experienced City Hall insider, but it is Fish who has the clearest vision for building the local economy and the ability to move his ambitious agenda forward. We believe Fish’s presence on the council has the potential to change the dynamics of city politics for the better. Voters should support him for Position 2.