planpdx.org: Interview with Elaine Cogan
Date of Interview: December 18, 2002
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Ernie Bonner's home in Portland, Oregon
EC = Elaine Cogan
EB = Ernie Bonner
EC: I just brought you a several page newsletter about the Portland Development Commission in 1973. That was when I was chair of the Development Commission, and I succeeded an interim chair who held the office for less than a year -- but basically, Ira Keller had been chair for seventeen years or so, from when PDC was first organized. And that's a long story in itself. But he resigned, and I was a member and then I became the chair. And soon after I took office, we received a national award for two little parks. And you can still see them south of the Auditorium, in downtown Portland. I had the privilege of going to the White House to get this award. And the picture in the newsletter shows me with Pat Nixon. The interesting thing is this was her last public appearance before Watergate.
We were just a few, just a handful of invited guests from all over the country. There were just less than a hundred of us in the White House, and for them, that is nothing as far as being able to entertain people. Before the award ceremony in the East Room, I had a chance to mosey around, and I asked one of the reporters, who turned out to be Helen Thomas, and I presume everybody knows who Helen Thomas is -- the dean of the Washington Press Corps.
Anyhow, she was hanging out there with other reporters. I recognized her right away and asked her, "Can't you cover more important things than these awards ceremonies?" She answered, "Oh, we are." And then she said, "Let me tell you, there's big things coming." I'll never forget that, because of course, she was referring to Watergate, and within ten days the dam burst.
The other interesting about this particular date, April 12, 1973, is that it appears on the Watergate tapes. I had asked one of the guards if the President was in the White House and he pointed to the Oval Office and said, "Yes, he's in there." It turns out that President Nixon was very busy that day -- and that conversation is on the tapes. Anyway, that is just an anecdote, but it's kind of fun.
EB: Yeah, great. Okay, let's then go back to the beginning a little bit here and give the person who's listening to this a little context for you as well. Maybe you can try and give us some of your history? You know, where you were born and how you grew up, where you went to school, things like that.
EC: All right. That is something I don't know if anyone would be interested in, but I was born in Brooklyn, New York. And apparently I still, after many, many years, have a little bit of an accent. I came to Portland with my mother and father and my sister several years after World War II. My father wanted to get as far away from Brooklyn, New York as he could. And it was almost like he put a dart on a map and said, "There's Portland. That's a long ways away." So we came out here. And there were just the four of us, without any friends or relatives. I was in high school and we lived way out in the country in the Gresham high school district. And you can imagine the culture shock that little E-laine, that is the way they pronounced it in Brooklyn, experienced at Gresham High School. That was my sophomore year, and they did not understand me and I did not understand them. For example, for biology, we had to go out in the fields to identify 20 wildflowers, and I had never even seen one!
The next year we moved into the city and I finished high school at Lincoln. I met my husband and partner in our consulting business, when we were both juniors in high school. Arnold was at Grant and I was at Lincoln. We met when we were juniors in high school and we were married when we were juniors in college. I stayed in Portland, I have loved Portland very much. After high school, I went to Portland State. At the time, it was just a temporary school for returning veterans, Vanport College. It was just a two-year school and expected to disappear in a few years. We had some heavy competition from the thousands of alums from Oregon and Oregon State, who wanted Vanport to close, but there was a group of us who vowed not to let that happen. I was one of two students on a steering committee of citizens and faculty. We must have made thirty to fifty speeches all over the city, and lots of lobbying and pleadings to the legislature, about Portland needing a four-year college. Richard Neuberger, who was in the legislature and later became a U.S. Senator, was our champion, and we finally won. So I've always been rabble-rousing, Ernie. [EB laughs]
But it wasn't in time for me to benefit, so I have my degree from Oregon State. I went there mainly because I was in love with an engineering student named Arnold Cogan, and that's where he was going.
We finished there, came back home and the rest is history. We have three grown children and six adorable, intelligent grandchildren, one of whom -- Kate, our eleven-year-old granddaughter, already has said she's going to be president. We'll put that down, because she probably will.
EB: Power to her!
EC: In those days, most mothers didn't work outside the home, but I was always doing something. I had a weekly column on public affairs for the Oregon Journal editorial page that I kept up for 15 years, and I also was active in Model Cities through my work in the Portland League of Women Voters. Model Cities was the centerpiece of President Lyndon Johnson's great society program, and it began the citizen participation and involvement in Portland we are still proud of to this day.
EB: Maximum feasible participation.
EC: And in Portland it worked. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well in most of the country. Where were you at that time? You were in?
EC: Cleveland. I don't know if it worked in Cleveland. But in Portland, we have lots to be proud of. I was in at the very beginning when the city made our application to HUD for the initial grant. To be eligible, one of the things we had to prove was that we had over fifty-percent minority, and you know, in parentheses, it meant Black people living in whatever area we carved out for Model Cities money. And poor. Black or poor.
Well the problem with Portland is that, then and now, we don't have that concentration. So we gerrymandered a district, and went across what is now I-84 -- into inner southeast and Buckman -- in order to get our quota of poor people. So it was a long, skinny district. But even with that, the first time we sent in our application for Model Cities money we were denied because, really, the city wasn't poor enough, and needy enough, compared to other areas of the country.
But Terry Shrunk was the mayor of Portland at that time. He was also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I think Terry gets a bad rap for a lot of things, and I would like to disabuse people of that. I mean, basically he was a very decent man and a good mayor. And he came to our rescue. He went to HUD and to President Johnson, and said, "Look, I'm the president of the U.S. Council of Mayors. You can't deny us this application. It would be a personal insult to me."
EB: Oh, he was the president at that time?
EC: He was the president. And that's why we got our Model Cities money, because Mayor Schrunk made such a fuss about it. And he was right. It would have been politically embarrassing not to be on the list.
EB: Just a side note, there was some competition between the southeast and northeast, in terms of being the chosen area.
EC: Right. And that's why we took them both. Besides, we needed the demographic diversity. There were the Buckman people and the Albina people, and they didn't always get along.
EB: And so the City set up a locally-financed effort in the Southeast, called Southeast Uplift.
EC: Oh, Southeast Uplift was never... well, that's way later. Way meaning five or ten years. What we did in Model Cities, and really, when I think about it, I wonder how we pulled it off... it was citizen driven from the very beginning. And I mean, the kind of thing that we boast about in Portland now. But then it was rather unusual. We had our federal money, and we had some city staff. But basically it was a skeleton crew and the citizens ran things for over a year. We started out with Reverend Paul Shultze (pronounced as if it ends in y) as our executive director, and I don't know if you've heard about him. He was one of the do-good ministers of the sixties. Bleeding heart, liberal, etcetera. Everyone loved him. But he was a terrible administrator. And unfortunately, he almost ran the program into the ground, because he didn't know what he was doing and he wasn't smart enough to hire anybody who did. Luckily, he ran away with his secretary, which really upset everybody, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us at Model Cities. First of all, he was holier-than-thou, so for him to do that was... ooohh! But, it was great, because he was gone and then we were able to get some staff who really knew how to run the program. We had some great help from Portland State. The urban studies folk were just getting their department started, and we were just the case study they needed. In order to serve everyone equally, we divided the Model Cities area. Oh, how much of this do you want to know?
EB: As much as you know.
EC: We divided into eight areas with a school as a focal point for each one. Buckman was one, Boise another, and so on. Frankly, I can't believe we were so smart, because everyone had an allegiance to a school in their neighborhood. And we had an election in the schools for representatives to the Model Cities Board. I was in charge of that and I had the League of Women Voters monitoring it, to make sure it was honest. We had election boards, we had people nominated and campaigning. The whole thing was absolutely grassroots. It was just a wonderful sight to see people lined up at their schools to vote on "election" day, just like we used to do before the mail ballot.
EB: This was in the late sixties?
EC: Late sixties right, right, '68, '69. Mainly, our funds came through the Portland Development Commission as the agent for the city. And so we had staff from them, pro bono help from Portland State, and so on.
That's where Ira Keller, who was chair of PDC at the time, got to know me, as I had been appointed to the Model Cities board as a city-wide representative by Mayor Schrunk. And Ira also got to know what we were doing. It was a new experience for him to get to know some do-gooders and poor people, especially Black poor people. He was very paternal about Portland. His favorite saying -- he came from Illinois, Chicago, made his money there and then came here when he was in his fifties. And he was fond of saying that he adopted Portland and the inference was, aren't we so fortunate?
Well sometimes we didn't feel that fortunate. I mean he could be tyrannical and imperial and everything like that; but however, we got money out of him, so that was good. Anyway, all our Model Cities work was around these eight areas, and for example, Unthank Park is a result of the Model Cities program. I know now there have been gang-related problems there, and it's not as nice as it was, but the neighborhood got their park.
Our biggest coup -- and we had some failures and I'm glad to share those -- but our biggest coup was acquiring the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College. And that was one of those things that only citizens can pull off when everything is just right. Cascade College was a small, church related, college in north Portland. They had a million dollar loan from HUD for student housing, and then they went bankrupt, they went out of business. They left two buildings on a scrubby campus that HUD was going to foreclose on. And, luckily, it was just in an area where the public was hungry for a community college. So Cascade defaulted on the loan and HUD was left holding the bag. We -- Model Cities -- wanted very much to have a community college campus there. Portland Community College, under Elmo DiBernardis at the time, wanted to also, but they didn't have any money. The bureaucrats were at an impasse. So, we citizens engineered the deal, whereby HUD basically forgave the loan of Cascade College, gave Portland Community College the buildings without charge, and started the campus. I don't know if you've been there lately, it is a wonderful place.
EC: But we started that. And we did it because we were naive enough to think that we could make a difference. We could do anything. We absolutely could do anything! But we had our failures, too, and Model Cities has to take some blame for this. I'm talking about the razing, utterly to the ground, of a good solid neighborhood for Emmanuel Hospital's expansion. It was a nice neighborhood that was just wiped out. Some blight, but generally okay.
Emmanuel Hospital frankly sold us a bill of goods. They came to us and they came to PDC, and they said they needed to expand. If they didn't get that land close by -- and they were there of course already, with one building -- then they would move. It was a threat. The neighborhood was in conflict. They wanted the hospital to stay; they wanted the jobs. Emmanuel promised us there would be a laundry there that would employ a lot of people and would take in laundry from all the hospitals in the city. Red Cross was going to build a building there. There was going to be a retirement home. Anyway, they had a big plan. PDC, under the guise of urban renewal, tore down everything, and nothing was ever built there for years and years. It was ugly. But finally Emmanuel has built its campus, but the neighborhood is gone.
EB: It still has a lot of vacant land.
EC: And yes, they still have a lot of vacant land. I heard someone make a reference to that just the other day. I think the people at Emmanuel Hospital were not lying, I think they meant it. We all bought into it, and so everybody's to blame.
EB: Just like OHSU isn't lying either. But their expectations are grand.
EC: Well, I think in that case, OHSU is stretching the truth. I have opinions about that, which we probably don't need to get into now. I think it's different. OHSU is much more sophisticated than the folks at Emmanuel, who were not. They thought they really needed all that land and that they were going to make a contribution to the community. So, it didn't happen. But there was housing rehabilitation block by block in other parts of the area that did happen. And so many good things, that personally it was one of the peak experiences of my life. I learned a lot. I made a lot of friends. I also was attacked. I'd never had this feeling before, of being the only white face in a Black meeting, and then, not being liked because of my face from people who don't know me. And so I, as I say, I learned a lot.
We also brought Charles Jordan to Portland and hired him to be our executive director. And Charles, every time I see him he says to me, "Elaine, now you hired me. You brought me here."
EB: [laughing] It's your fault!
EC: Yeah. He was the city manager of Palm Springs, and came here when we were finally on our feet and were looking for an executive director who could run Model Cities. And here he is, all nine-feet tall of him you know. I was on the hiring committee. There were times when it was really scary. There was a group of thugs -- I don't think you can call them anything more than that -- they were Black Panther types, and they would disrupt our meetings. There was one time they overturned the chairs and shut off the lights, and I mean, it was frightening. You know, all was not smooth. But, what we did as a group, and the relationships that I hold still today, was really one of my better, or at least more significant experiences.
EB: Charles still talks to me about being run out of that meeting.
EC: Oh, does he really? Yes, when we were interviewing him, a gang of thugs banged on the outside door of the building yelling that we were holding an "illegal" meeting. The police came by and talked them into going away, but there were other disruptive times.
The leader's name was R.L. Anderson. He's in Seattle now, and someone said he's found God and he's a minister. Well, he was always an orator, so he might as well do it for that!
They were a small group, and it was not fun. But we held steadfast until basically the money ran out, and of course PDC took over some programs.
And then we had the transition between Terry Shrunk and Neil Goldschmidt's regime. That was in '72, probably, because it was just before Neil took office. Ira knew he was not going to get along with Neil. That was very obvious. So he resigned. But before he did, he made sure Mayor Schrunk appointed me to PDC, and then I got to be anointed in effect, chair.
This was in '72 or '73. I am really bad at dates. I was appointed in to the Commission in '72, but Ira quit soon after. Then there was an interim chairman before me, and I don't remember his name because he wasn't there very long. And he was a fine caretaker until he took a job as dean of education at Florida State University. And then I became chair after that, so there is a little gap between Ira and me.
On the wall of the board room of Portland Development Commission are these photos of this whole group of guys, all the chairs. And there is Elaine right in the middle. The only woman, and my picture is... we call it my Madame Butterfly period, because... anyway it looks like that; you're looking at it right now.
EB: Let me invite you to speculate a little bit, okay? About this whole idea of participation by the community. It seems to me that you could say that our whole idea of neighborhood participation had its roots in the Model City experience. I don't know whether anybody really had any sense in the sixties about what could be possible. But they were then given an opportunity to stretch their wings a little bit and try some things out, and that contributed greatly to the success that they had in the seventies.
EC: Oh, I think you're absolutely right. We paved the way. And the difference between Model Cities and what's happened since is money. We had money. We really did. We probably had too much money. But we did not squander it, or, to my knowledge there was no graft or any scandals as there were in other cities. We also played the bureaucratic cards well. If PDC or the city wouldn't give us what we wanted we could go the Feds, and we did, as in the case of the Cascade Campus. Being in that pipeline probably gave us a false sense of security, but it sure made you feel more powerful.
We weren't shy about demanding things from the city, but it was always peaceful. Police protection, I remember, was a big issue, as it is now. But we were always a multi-racial group; we were careful always to send several of us when we had to meet with the mayor or others in power, and I am sure that reinforced our clout. Now I agree with you, we showed people what to do and certainly Southeast Uplift came as a result of our efforts. Well, first they had to have the southeast neighborhoods, as Southeast Uplift is a conglomeration of neighborhoods. And it's probably very good that we were able to reach out into Buckman and Southeast Portland. We did that only as a marriage of convenience. But, sure, I mean if it had stayed only Northeast, or Portland north, it would never have been as successful.
We had the white/Black combination there, and yes, I would say that's exactly -- we also were able to tweak PDC a lot. See, because PDC wanted that money, and they weren't going to get the money from the Feds unless we approved, or initiated, or had something to say about the program.
PDC started out just as a development agency and this was all very new to them. But we insisted that community development was more than tearing down buildings and putting up prettier ones. We had, I think it was eight Model Cities components, health and social services, education, and all that, and PDC and everybody else at the city looked at us and said, "Why are you throwing that in? Why can't we just build something?"
EB: Right. That's very uncomfortable for them.
EC: Yes, and they weren't the agency for it. But there was no one else, there was lots of money, and they were smart enough to go along with us. We had a lot of partnerships, with other nonprofits, government agencies, private developers, and the like, and a lot of successes that way. And I think we did pave the way.
EB: Okay so now it's the early seventies and you're kind of transitioning over into the PDC now. In the meantime what are you doing? I mean PDC wasn't your job.
EC: Well, no [laughs]. In the meantime, I'm still, well I'm home. My children are growing up. It's 1970, I think. I had started writing a column for the Oregon Journal, and I knew Don Sterling, the editor. I knew him well. Well I was always doing freelance articles. In fact, as I was crossing the Burnside Bridge today to get here, I thought of an article I wrote about Michael Stoops. Now Michael, I don't know if you remember Michael Stoops; he was discredited later on, he was running this shelter on Burnside -- Baloney Joe's -- and anyway I did a full length article for the Sunday supplement about him. So I was basically, between the League of Women Voters, which took a lot of my time, and then my writing; but I did my writing at home. So I had this idea for a column. We read both papers and the Oregon Journal was really the feisty paper in town.
And you could read things in the Journal you never saw in the Oregonian and the Journal was usually right. So I went to Don Sterling and I said, "Don, you know I've been reading your paper very, very carefully, and what you don't have is a column on what's happening. Not a gossip column, but basically something behind the news." And I had written about three sample columns.
And I really thought Don would say... I remember it was a beautiful spring day, and I thought he'd say, "Well, that's nice, Elaine." Pat, pat, pat, but you know, "Don't call me, I'll call you." Well, instead, in twenty minutes he said, "That's a great idea. Why don't you do it?"
And you know, gulp! Then he said "But we can't pay you very well." I said, "Well, what can you pay?" He said, "We'll pay you what we pay our syndicated columnists." Art Buchwald and William Sapire and so on. I said, "Okay, that's good." Until he told me it was five dollars a column! Because these guys are syndicated, right. And here Elaine is getting five dollars a column for twenty hours work. I mean it took a lot of time. But I was smart enough to say yes, because I really wanted to do it. So I wrote a column for the editorial page of the Journal, for about ten years.
Until the papers merged. And as they were merging -- in fact we were in Ashland -- Bob Landauer called me from the Oregonian and said, "I want to tell you before it hits the papers, that we're merging." I said, "Well I suspected that." And he says, "I want to invite you to join the Oregonian family." Well that was such a difference. The Journal would never use those terms. Family, come on guy! I agreed, and he raised my pay and I wrote the column for the Oregonian. I did it for seventeen years entirely, so it was probably seven for the Oregonian. And it was really good for me. First of all, it took a lot of work. But I was my own boss. My bent was "to get behind the news" what do you need to know? But it's not Jonathon Nicholas and it's not Margie Boule, it's not Steve Dean. I mean, really it was serious journalism. And it was, Ernie, I mean it was grrrrrrreat, because once you have that journalist's hat on you can be as nosy as you want. And so I not only had stuff for the column, but I also got a lot of stuff that I knew and didn't print, and a lot of contacts.
Alright. So do you remember when we were threatened by the People's Army, the march on Southwest Broadway and everything else?
EB: ...in the Park Blocks.
EC: Right. That was an encampment of Portland State students. Well I was in the middle of all that, in a very interesting way. The League was the only organization that everybody trusted. We were trusted by the city and the governor (McCall). Arnold -- my husband -- was working for the governor at that time, so I had the entree to him. But we also knew the establishment well and made friends with the rowdies, the anti-war people. And so at the League we put together several TV programs on the major channels, interviews in which I, and somebody else, interviewed these people, trying to get the public to understand just what was behind the protest. Well the American Legion wouldn't be on the same platform as the People's Army Jamboree, which was too darn bad. Anyway, I spoke to Bob Hazen, the President of Benjamin Franklin Savings and Loan at the time and pleaded with him personally to join us and express their side, but he refused to have anything to do with them. So I interviewed the People's Army people, and you know, I came away feeling that, they're really sweet people. They were anti-war, sure, and sweet maybe is not the word; but they really felt that they had to do something to protest this terrible war. They chose Portland because the American Legion had chosen Portland for its national convention. So anyway, I got in the middle of that. And we took lessons in what do you do when you're arrested, you know, kind of hug a policeman thing. And as you probably know, only a few windows downtown were broken and the American Legion marched peacefully while most of the protesters cooled themselves off out of town at McIver Park. So I was just on the periphery, or maybe a little more in the center, of a lot of exciting things that were happening in Portland. But it was through League of Women Voters or Model Cities that I had my entree.
And 1975 my husband, Arnold and I said to each other, if we're so smart why don't we be consultants? Which shows you how smart we really are. Because that was a recession, you know. We opened our business in April and the country went downhill from there. But we started our consulting business and we've had it ever since, and so now, I went from kind of being free and easy, to being a partner and an owner and a manager, and a full-time worker.
EB: Well, you're practically a one-person publishing house now. [EC laughs] You're all over the place...
EC: Well, I've written two books. The joy of my life is still writing. And oh, during that time too, I was the editor of the Portland Jewish Review, which is a monthly paper, and they were, oh I mean it was in such bad straits; journalistically it was terrible. It was really just like a gossip sheet. So somebody asked me if I would take it over and just get it on its feet. And there were very few times when I'd say no, so I said, "Sure." So for two years I was the editor of the Jewish Review until we got that on its feet, and now I think it's a good solid newspaper. But that was while we started out our consulting practice. I had never been a consultant before, and I didn't really know what that meant. So I thought I had time for other things, which soon became a mistake.
But I have written two books. And the first one is You Can Talk to Almost Anyone about Almost Anything, and that was one of the collaborative experiences of my life with Ben Padrow. It's too bad you can't have Ben on tape. I can't say how many times people mention him to me. Ben and I had an interesting relationship because we were very different people. Well first of all he was a day person, I was a night person. So he used to say we were a twenty-four hour team. But he was the premier speech coach in the state. In fact, he coached Bob Packwood for that seminal debate, between Packwood and Wayne Morse. And Packwood came out as the young challenger (the City Club broadcast it all over the state) and Wayne Morse was the aging warrior. And I loved Ben. I mean as a colleague and a friend, but I never forgave him for that. Ben was also chair of the Democratic Party of Multnomah County at one time. I said, "What did you do this for?"
And his answer was, well, "Morse deserved it. He had lost touch, and Packwood was a very good debater, and I just made him better."
EB: Morse probably didn't take a young Packwood too seriously either.
EC: Well, no he didn't. The same thing that happened with Bob Duncan and Frank Ivancie. Also with Bob Duncan, and Ron Wyden, I was on Ron Wyden's initial steering committee, in which there were about six of us. Roger Auerbach who at that time was a union leader and then went on to state things, and a few others. And that was it. Why did we believe in Ron? My own friends would stop me in the street, "What are you doing this for?"
Well, Bob Duncan's the same way as Wayne Morse. He sat in Washington D.C., put his feet on his desk, smoked his cigars and said, "Who's this upstart? I'm not going to give him the time of day. I'm not going to debate him. I'm not going to come back home." We couldn't raise any money. Roger got some union money. We met every week almost with tears in our eyes, while Ron was canvassing the whole city, the whole district. His wife was working, luckily she had a good, well-paying job. And he won the primary. And the nice thing about Ron is that he doesn't forget. He's still very nice and he calls me every once in a while and we chat. But it was one of those classic campaigns. Bob Duncan didn't have to lose. But he did. Same thing with Wayne Morse. But I've always tried really not to be a partisan activist. I mean I vote certain ways, I think certain ways, but I'm more interested in the process, in making things happen, helping things be fair and clean. Oh, I also had a radio program at that time, during all this. Sounds like I'm 125 years old. [EB laughs]
EB: You did this all at once.
EC: I did it all at one time. I had a radio program for seven years on KGW when KGW was the premier radio station in the city. It was a radio talk show, and it was on every Sunday morning, that's the only thing I hated about it. I had a really good audience, and basically I chose one subject every week, one. And one or two guests, and we spoke about that and had calls that just never stopped. I mean I had the governor on, I had just anybody. And I would tell them they could come in their bathrobe because it was radio. [EB laughs]
And that's another way that I was able to get into things. It was all very serendipitous really, you know one thing was doing another that was doing another. So now I've written a second book and that was because a publisher called me from San Francisco and said, "We've heard about you." I do a lot now in public meetings and in bringing people together on difficult issues, and they knew about this. And they said, "You know there isn't a book like this. Would you like to write a book on how to hold effective public meetings?"
And I said, "Well, I haven't thought about it, but it sounds good. Sure, I'd love to." That was the conversation. And then he says, "Well, we'll send a ghost writer up to Portland to tape record you." I said, "Nothing doing." I said, "One thing you don't know is I write." And he says, "Well alright, write a few chapters and we'll see." So I wrote the whole book. And that's been fun. It's in its second edition now, and I really need to update it again. But people think I now know how to do it because I've written a book, which is always kind of funny.
And I need to write another book, but I haven't had time. I did have the idea of another book, on the difference between... well, let's put it this way, I do a lot of workshops and seminars in communication. And there is a difference between men and women. Now I don't think that's any surprise, but there are people who are denying it to this day.
And I had, well, two things: I did a workshop in San Francisco a few years ago, and it was on communications, and there were men and women in the audience, probably about fifty or seventy-five; and somehow within that conversation I said, "Well you know, there are differences between men and women communicating." And there were several women, they started -- this was San Francisco -- they booed me, they said that I was outrageous, I was a traitor to my sex, etcetera, etcetera. Which is absurd. I mean they stood up and said it. It was not very nice.
And other people said, "No, she's right." Well anyway I had this idea about women communicating, and somebody introduced me to a book agent in Chicago when I was there, who has been successful. So I told her this idea, and I had an outline and so-on, and she's the same way. She gave me a lecture, that how could I, in this day and age, say there was a difference between men and women. You know, that would never sell, and besides that I was really off track. So, it just sits there. I still think there's a book in that. Of course, then people come up with, "Men are from Mars and women from Venus." Of course I never had such a snappy title. But anyway, so there's still something out there.
EB: Let's go back and talk about your appointment to PDC in '72. And, why don't you pick up a little bit there about what happened while you were on the Commission.
EC: Well, first of all it was a matter of style. Ira Keller had been their first chair and probably the chair forever; at least, everyone thought he was going to be. His style of managing meetings was basically to have what they called a pre-meeting.
And at the pre-meeting they resolved all the differences and the staff told them what was going on. Then they, (and they were always men) then the five men marched into the room and had a pro-forma meeting, "All in favor, Aye," and that was the end of it.
I didn't like it when I was a member of the Commission, but then when I became chair, I not only didn't like it, I wasn't going to have it. So I said, "Well we'll have a pre-meeting, but that's just for information only. And I don't mind if we have a real discussion at the formal meeting. And if we have a vote and someone wants to vote no, that's okay." The commissioners were, they were okay with it, but the staff was practically hysterical. I didn't realize, I was younger, I was probably a little naive, I didn't realize what turmoil I had created. But they just didn't like it. To think they'd have to air things out in public and all of that. After a while I think they understood my reasons and they realized that some healthy discussion could lead to good public policy. That was my old Model Cities training. But I didn't mean to cause as much turmoil as I did.
The other part of it, and I know you were part of the Neil Goldschmidt administration, so I don't know how much of this you know, or you probably know it, but I'll look at it from my side. Neil was out to get us. He did not like the idea of a quote "quasi-independent commission," and he was going to disband us. Now, he couldn't do that. I mean there's no strong mayor system in the city of Portland, I'm not telling you anything you don't know. So he did it in another way, by calling for the resignations, as he took office, of all the people on all the boards and commissions in the city. Mildred Schwab, who later came on the city council, was chair of the Planning Commission, and she resigned. One by one, you know, the dominoes fell. Fast.
Anyway, there were several people on my commission, who resigned: Ned Look and Art Ridell, for example, but I didn't. And I didn't for a very good reason. I campaigned for Neil, I mean I was a supporter, and I supported probably most of everything he was for. I didn't resign on principle, because I had the city attorney look it up. We serve for fixed terms. I think it was three years, not four. And there's no provision for removal. None. Zero. And so we don't serve at the pleasure of the mayor, whoever the mayor is. So little Elaine said no thanks. And Ned and Art were wringing their hands, "Why are you doing this?"
And I said, "It's principle, it's not personal." Then, I got a call from the mayor's office. I won't tell you who I talked to, who talked to me and called me to the mayor's office. Said you know, "Neil is just furious at you. Why won't you resign?" And he adds, "If you resign we'll probably reappoint you." I said, "It's the principle, and I'm not going to do this." So it was several years when your mayor wouldn't talk to me. He was mad. Fred Rosenbaum at the time was chair of the Housing Authority. He called me, and he said, "What are we going to do, Elaine? Why don't you resign?"
I said, "I'm not going to, Fred. You can do what you want." And so on the basis of that Fred didn't either. So I don't know if there was any reprisal, but they had a lot of anger. Now I don't know what you heard, but that's the story from my end.
EB: This happened at the beginning of 1973. I actually didn't get her until the Fall of that year. So I didn't hear anything. In fact, I knew nothing about Portland at that time. But you can sense from the newspaper articles about it at the time that there was a lot of antagonism and bad feelings about it.
EC: There was an Oregonian editorial that supported me. And people would stop me and say, "Good for you!" What I tried to explain to the Goldschmidt people, and they wouldn't understand it, is that this is not good government. It's not good government here. I mean, if we served at your pleasure, fine. But we don't.
EC: And then, in order to blunt PDC's power, he organized the Office of Planning and Development, with Gary Stout. Now you must have seen the fruits of that.
EB: I thought that was an awful system under Gary Stout. When Mike Lindberg replaced Gary, the Office worked much better. But I think Neil's main purpose in all of that was to try to get some control over the Development Commission. And particularly to get John Kenward and Ira Keller off to the side. He eventually came to use the Commission more than anybody else.
EC: That was the irony of it, that was exactly why Keller resigned. And the other part of it is that Neil's people came to me and said, "Well, we've got to get rid of John, and you have to do it."
EB: John Kenward?
EC: John Kenward, PDC's executive director who was there from the beginning -- now that was brutal. And his dealing with Lloyd Keefe before you became planning director, was brutal. I mean there's some ugly things that happened, in the beginning of that administration. And that people still don't forget or forgive. I don't think it had to be that way.
EB: Well, I don't know if I'd call it brutal, but maybe it could have been handled differently. Others have weighed in on this issue, on other tapes. And I have more on that on my own tape, for later publication. I would just say, in Neil's defense, that the Mayor did not fire Lloyd Keefe, he only demoted him from the position of Planning Director. Eventually it fell to me to fire Lloyd Keefe, and I did so. But only when the budget got extremely tight, and after what I felt was a sincere attempt to try to get him to be useful to the Bureau of Planning.
EC: So there were some things that were not fun. I was only on the Commission for my term. Obviously I was not reappointed. But that's fine, because I think what I did to the Commission, and I feel very comfortable with it, is to humanize it. First of all, this whole idea of opening the meetings.
EB: That was important...
EC: It was very important. And then, to get us over on the east side. And to start doing things on the east side of, rather than just the downtown development. And to just bring in new people. Anyway, I feel very good about those three years. They had their fiftieth anniversary or something and I did a tape for them. But they were, I mean they had things they asked me about, so, I could relate to that. So I don't remember a lot of the details, but I think, I feel that it was a different organization when I left...
And then opening up the staff. We had offices all over the city at that time. We had one in Northeast, I don't know, wherever they were. And I visited them. Oh! They'd never seen someone from downtown before. Well that's just my style.
EB: But you know that's the only way you really change an organization; something that you follow through on, you're personal about it. Pronouncements don't work...
EC: No. Ever. And I've seen too many times that you do that. Now I've, since then had, I don't know how many consulting opportunities through PDC, and it's funny to see them wax and wane. [laughs] But I keep telling them, "It's okay." Well, at the heart of the Goldschmidt kind of slashing and burning, we had a staff meeting and I remember telling them all, "You'll be alright. We are going to persevere here." There was so much nervousness and anxiety.
EB: So, do you remember any of the other issues or programs then? This is 1973, '74 probably.
EC: Boy, I'd have to look and see, as I say, housing was a big one, and I just remember the kinds of projects we did. But, well I always felt good about PDC. I came in after the whole business of tearing down South Auditorium and everything. Oh I know, I'll tell you another story, how we got Ira's fountain. I don't know if you know that story.
Now again, I got in the end of this, but I know the story. So, PDC hired Larry Halprin, who was an internationally known designer, to design the fountain. Well he is flamboyant plus. He comes in with his fur coat and you shoulder purse, and you know, whatever. And sweeps into a room. And he came with his first design, which was oh, like a Roman fountain. You know, with the gargoyles and the nymphs and everything. And we looked at it, but we didn't know how to respond to it. Ira Keller hated it. And of course when he hated it, he hated it. So he took Halprin, he says, "Let me tell you what Oregon is all about." So he took him on a trip to the Columbia Gorge, and showed him the waterfalls. "Now," he says, "I'm not a fountain designer, but that's what we're looking for." And, of course, Halprin did not design it. His assistant, whose name is, I can't remember...
EB: Sonja Drinkovich...
EC: Right, who he kept in the back room.
[End of Tape 1, Side]
Anyway, he came back with this glorious design, which, and on the opening day Halprin ran into the fountain, fully clothed, of course. But that's how we got that fountain, which I think is just a wonderful story.
Another one, I was in on the, and you probably were too, on the waterfront planning, the Tom McCall Park. And you know the genesis of that, basically we had the six or eight lane freeway. My husband Arnold was the one who was deputized by the governor, to go to city hall and tell them, "We're closing the freeway and we're building a park." That was not easy for him. But I was in on it at the Portland Development stage when we were designing the park.
EB: Not easy for the governor or not easy for...
EC: Oh it was easy for the governor to tell Arnold, "You go down to that Portland, tell those guys." [laughs] But he's probably the ideal person to do it because he has that personality, but anyway he's got lots of stories to tell about that.
But I was in on the design of it from the Portland Development Commission side, and we had this big committee, and I don't remember the names of the landscape architects. Their first plan, again I don't know if you remember this, was so involved. I mean they had a quiet area and they had a happy area, and they had a very busy area, and they had a soccer area, and a children's area and a quiet area and whatever. I'm sitting there and I'm a novice, I don't pretend to be a landscape architect, but it was so awful, because it just was going to chew up this whole wonderful space. And I think I asked some kind of question like, well, "Can we maybe do something so that people can make the park their own?" or something like that. Well, I was practically thrown out of the room, it was such a naive idea. But what saved Waterfront Park is we didn't have any money, and we never got any money. So all we could do was to put grass on it. And to me, that saved the park. That's why I'm not at all in favor of all the plans they're coming up with now. Because over the years, any time you go there, you see people using it the way they want to use it. And you see someone playing volleyball in the corner, another one pushing a stroller, a few people playing Frisbee, and if they have a concert everyone sits down on the grass and they put a stage up. And I think that's what's the glory of it, really. So I get a little nervous now about plans and plans and plans, and I hope they just don't have any money. [both laugh]
EB: But, now I would, I think that's right about the money. It was part of the policy about that design ... We need to design it to make money, or not to spend money. So I think that was a solid policy at the time when we had the usual money problems with building and maintaining park space. It turned out to have other benefits, like you say.
EC: And then Bill Naito got his Japanese corner there, which, I think that's okay. It's far enough away from the activity area; it's a very sensitive, beautiful, contemplative place with the stones. But I really don't think we should do more than that. I mean, the people have proven that it's useful for whatever you want to do.
EB: Besides, it'll be there for a thousand years. I mean, let somebody a hundred years from now think about it.
EC: Let them play around. So I hope we still don't have any money for that.
EB: When they were turning in Harbor Drive to get the space for Waterfront Park, that would have been '69, '70 '71...
EC: Yes, right. I didn't have anything to do with that. That was the late sixties...
EB: You weren't on the Commission yet...
EC: But I knew, because as I say, Arnold was so much involved in that. And it was, that was the fiat of Glenn Jackson, who was the state highway czar, and the governor, Governor McCall. They didn't care about the city, that's why they sent Arnold to deliver the message. It was a state highway and we're going to close it. And then there was all this bargaining because the only people who really objected were the truckers, because they said, "We can't get to North Portland."
And that's how I-405 came about. That was a way of saying, "Okay, we'll give you another route."
They said, "Okay." Then, so that's what happened there.
It was fortuitous. And Glenn Jackson, you know I've thought about it on and off, Glenn Jackson, Ira Keller, I mean Glenn on the state level and Ira Keller on the city level, they were both small men, small in stature, diminutive. But they wielded this tremendous power, without portfolio if you will, and certainly without office. And, in a benevolent dictatorship mode.
EB: Yeah. Well, there's a wonderful cartoon, I believe out of the Journal, maybe the Oregonian, probably the Journal. It shows Ira and Glenn Jackson walking along the esplanade... And Ira's saying, "Well I don't know what they could mean -- no citizen participation. I mean, there was you, there was Frank, and there was, let's see, who was that other guy?"
EC: [laughs] Right, of course. Yeah, Ira never understood that, but he was smart enough not to stand in the way. Glenn never understood it and he lasted longer. But at the state level you could probably do that, I would think.
EB: Yeah, Glenn was in the operation mode for the boss, governor.
So he basically was, you know, the old man wants it I'm gonna give it to him.
EC: And then of course he had his loyalties which were interesting, you know he had an apartment in Portland because he was PP&L CEO, but he really lived in Medford, in Jackson County. So he had these dual loyalties, and that was always interesting to see how he sorted that out.
EC: Well you know about Mill Ends Park, if you're going to do anything about the highway on the waterfront you need to talk about that. It's a wonderful story. And it was a columnist for the Journal, and what was his name? Dick Fagan. Anyway, he wrote a column -- he was a predecessor to Nicholas. Anyway, it was a decent column, and his office, he was on the corner of the Journal building on the waterfront. I've been in that office, in that building for the Journal, and he always looked down on Front Avenue, and everything whizzing by. And Irish.
So every year on St. Patrick's Day, he would go down and plant a shamrock or something green. There was a little bit of dirt on the end of this traffic island. The name of his column was Mill Ends, Mill Ends by Dick Fagan. Mill Ends meaning you know, potpourri of odds and ends. And somehow he hatched this idea that we need a little beauty in the midst of all this ugliness, and he got the Park Bureau, and he got the Department of Transportation, because they had to actually dig up the concrete to create this. And it was a park for his leprechauns, that's why it's so small. And every year on St. Patrick's Day the leprechauns would visit the park, and it was Dick Fagan's, basically Mill Ends Park. It was dedicated, it's a bona fide park of the city of Portland. And they plant flowers and everything. Anyway, I think it's just a wonderful story. But that's how we got it.
EB: Did Fagan see leprechauns coming out of here, or did he have reports of it?
EC: The way he wrote it, of course they were there. I mean he would talk about their conversations, and he would put out food for them on the night before St. Patrick's Day. And of course it was gone the next day. And so he'd have this St. Patrick's Day celebration every year, and then, he finally said "Let's have a park there."
And it was just one of those things that caught on. And the bureaucracy of the Park Bureau was able to do it, you know it took a few years, a few years of lobbying. But he would just go on and on and describe what was happening in that little bit of dirt, and don't you think we should do more than just have this little bit of dirt at the end of a traffic island. So now we have Mill Ends Park--a bona fide park.
And he was a delightful man. The nice part about him and the way he wrote is, he knew his limitations. He didn't have the ego that some of the columnists have. So, whatever he'd write, there was a twinkle, you could see he was writing with a twinkle in his eye. And that was very nice. He died too young of something or other, but anyway, that's Mill Ends Park.
EB: A lot of us are going to remember him.
EC: Yes. Because of that, right!
EB: Unfortunately, we're not sure our children are going to remember him, so.
EC: Well you see that's the point, that's with everything. Are they going to, and I'm glad, you know, for years it was "the fountain," now it's "Ira's fountain." Who's Ira?
EB: Right. Okay, here's one for you. It's communication over the years...
EB: Over time...
EC: Over time.
EB: How are people going to know about all this?
EC: Well, you know I, I wonder about that myself. More and more and, as we grow older, I do, more and more people are younger than I am. I'm not used to that. I used to be either the youngest or certainly there were other people my age. And I don't know, because I do still, I have a very active consulting practice, work with a lot of younger people, and I find myself, say in a workshop or when I'm talking about communications or, whatever I'm talking about, I make references to things that are perfectly normal for you and me, and people, the kids, these are thirty-forty-somethings, have blank stares. They're nice, but they don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about.
EC: I don't know. And they don't read, we know they don't read as...
EB: They don't read, right.
EC: Right. So, I just don't know. There's a young man in our office. Now he reads the newspaper, but for, I mean how old is he now, about thirty-six, thirty-eight. But for years, I mean well, he grew up not reading the newspaper. He only reads the newspaper now because he works for us and we know that there are things in there and he knows that he better know about. So now he probably skims the paper. I don't know, I mean I worry, I've done TV commentary and it's briefer and briefer. It's sound bites...
EC: I don't know if you know that, well I predicted Ron Wyden's senatorial victory, on TV six years ago. Was it six years ago? Whenever it was. Well, you might want to put that on tape because, I think that's an interesting story about perception. I may be a political commentator, but I'm not an analyst, I mean in other words I don't do polls, I don't track things over time. I just try to figure out what's happening. KGW asked me if I would cover the election with them, and I've done quite a bit since then, but that was when Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith were going head to head, and when Packwood was deposed and all that. And that was the first all-state mail election that we had. Again, I came into it with fresh eyes. How do you figure out how it's going with an all-mail election? Now I have this young man who doesn't read newspapers but is very good at statistics. So he and I figured it out. I told him, "Matt, you have to give me a matrix, simple, that I can refer to immediately, because I'm going to be on the air -- of what-ifs. Every county." Well not every county, but the most populous counties in the state. I needed to know ,what if Wyden's ahead, or what if Smith's ahead, and what that means.
And he did that. We went by the registered voters and people who had voted in the last election. Anyway, so I had that matrix in front of me, and basically I was looking for trends. And by a quarter-to-nine I knew that Ron Wyden was going to win. And through the headphones, I called my news editor and I said, "You know, Larry, I know who the winner is."
And he said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "I know who the winner is."
He said, "Well you can't know." He says, "We've been watching the other stations and all the prognosticators. They're saying it's close, they won't know until morning."
I said, "Well, I do."
He says, "Are you sure?"
I said, "Yes, I am, because the trends are not going to change." So he was very nervous, but this guy took, he did take a risk.
He says, "Will you wait till nine o'clock?"
I said, "Sure, I'll wait till nine o'clock." And you know, later I looked at it and I said, "You know I didn't mean to be a smart alec, I really didn't. I was absolutely sure of what I was doing." And Matt's numbers were showing me basically that Ron Wyden was winning in all three of the Metropolitan counties, and in Lane County. Smith could take anything else, it didn't make any difference. I hate to tell the folks in Deschutes County that their vote doesn't count, but basically...
So at nine o'clock, I go on the air, and I knew what I was doing, but not realizing that it was so special. says, "Do you have a prediction?"
And I said, "Yes, Ron Wyden has won the election." Well what happened then I had no clue of course, because I'm in this sound proof studio. At Wyden headquarters people go hysterical. The other stations are trying to play catch-up, and they refuse to budge. They will not predict. They say, "We need more..." And I was right. So, it was a big lesson for all of us.
Oh, the other part of it is, my dear husband is sitting home watching me on TV, and Arnold is very good at math. He should have been math major. And he's sitting there saying, "My wife is arithmetic-deprived. What is she doing? She's embarrassing us. We'll probably get run out of town tomorrow." This is basically what he's thinking. "What are you doing?" Well, I was right because I looked at things in a different way. Because I was the only one, and I'm not boasting about this as much as a story, that you have to always be open to new paradigms... And when you have a mail vote, once the trends start, they don't stop, because you're not waiting for particular precincts, or anything. And then the Oregonian called me the next day and said, "How'd you do it?" and would you write us an article. So then I had to put it down and then figure out just what we were doing. But that's, I think, a good lesson for life. You've gotta always be open to new ways of looking at things. And then get your ego out of it, I mean sure you enjoy it if you win. But that isn't the point. The point is there are better ways. So, the communication is, first of all we, older generation, which sticks in my throat to say it, have to be open to their ideas too. See, it can't be, "Hey guys, you don't read, you don't do this. So therefore, can we trust our lives to you?" Well, maybe they do have some better ideas, I don't know.
EB: I think the trick is getting them to think that there might be some context or insights that they might get from seeing what happened before. Not what we older folks think, but what happened before, I mean how did things get there? And so in my opinion, that's the basic reason for this project.
Can we create an archive of information about the past, and then to go on further and do things, like you were talking about, like we were talking about just now, to communicate this information across the ages. I think we're going to have to put it in terms that are understandable by people today. I think you could easily start from somewhere in Portland, Mills End Park, start right there, and you start telling a story about Mills End Park. And say, well this guy was sitting right over here where you can't see a building now, but there used to be a big building there, and a newspaper office and blah-blah-blah. And this building was built by blah-blah-blah, as part of this new park plan developed back in 1975. Anyway, you can start somewhere where people can stand and see what's there and imagine what used to be there. Pioneer Square. Lots of places you can see, you could start it at the Fountain...
Then, find a way to help them relate. This is here because of what? If you could jump in from that one thing, understand where that came from, to jump to another place where something has not happened yet. Let's say, "Now this is for you to do."
EC: I think it is by anecdotes. We have, as I said we have wonderful grandchildren. Our nine year old granddaughter is doing a park plan, if you can believe, in her class. They are learning about the city, and they had the parameters, they throw in the math, because they knew how big a swing is and how big a swimming pool is. And they have a graph paper and they can't exceed that. So, they have so much land and they have to put this park in it. And then she's writing a paper, this is nine years old, on something that happened -- and she read about the bottle bill somewhere, and her mother, our daughter said, "Well you gotta talk to your grandpa, because he knows everything about the bottle bill." So, two weeks ago she's sitting in our study with her grandpa, and she's interviewing him about the bottle bill. And Arnold has all of those stories. And she's sitting there taking notes. Now, to me, now there's the next generation...
That's what we need to encourage them to do, and it is by anecdote, it is by stories. Let's not get hysterical about the fact they don't know all the facts the way we know them. And that's okay.
[End of Interview]