planpdx.org: Interview with Mitzi Scott
[Mitzi and Bill Scott came to Portland (Bill on a return to his home) in the Sixties. They quickly entered into the civic and political life of Portland. Mitzi raised some good kids and a lot of money for political candidates. She now splits her time every year between Paris and Portland--which sounds to me like the good life in some great cities.]
Date of Interview: January 24, 2001
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Portland, Oregon
MS = Mitzi Scott
EB = Ernie Bonner
EB: This is an interview with Mitzi Scott, in Portland, in her home, and it's the 24th, I believe, of January in the year 2001. Have I got all that right?
MS: Yeah, that's all true. It's all true.
EB: So why don't you begin by just telling us a little bit about how you got to Portland?
MS: All right. I came to Portland in 1968. I had been married for two years to Bill Scott at the time, and he was practicing law, had just graduated from law school back east at Cornell, and decided we were going to come here, and he was going to join a law firm, and this is where we were going to live. Part of the reason we came here - he had two offers. He had an offer from a great big, very prestigious law firm in San Francisco - Pillsbury, Madison & Sutrow, huge at the time, you know - it's probably 800 lawyers now, but then it was like 200 - right in San Francisco, and they really wanted him. And you know, the offer in San Francisco was terrific.
And then he had an offer from this little law firm here, which at the time was, I think, Rives & Schwab. It was George Rives and Herb Schwab, and about three others, but they had all the PacifiCorp because George Rives was PacifiCorp's - Pacific Power & Light is what it was called then - he had all their law.
So we decided we'd come here, and part of that appeal was - well, if you live in San Francisco, and you want to raise a family, you either have to live in the city or the suburbs, and I grew up in Connecticut, and my dad commuted into - you know, suburban, about an hour from New York City, so I had grown up in the suburbs all my life, and frankly, suburbia just didn't do it for me. It's the worst - it's neither the country, which is very pleasant, nor the city, which is very pleasant. It's just this - you know, suburbs doesn't appeal to me very much.
Portland, on the other hand, offered then, as it still offers, in my view, this wonderful blend of city and country and suburbs, in a way. You can - it's a residential city. You can live very close to downtown, have a wonderful neighborhood, greenery and a pleasant place to be, and still be very close to the city.
So anyway, we came to Portland in '68. I had my first child that fall, Annie, and we lived up in Portland Heights in a little tiny house, and it was great. It was great.
EB: When was this?
MS: In 1968. We moved here in the summer of '68, bought this little house for, I think, $23,000 - I shudder to think what's it worth now - on Upper Drive Place. And Annie came along in November, and we had, I think, one of the worst snows ever in the history of Portland that winter. I remember 18 inches of snow; no mail, no diaper service, nothing for a week. Bill had to crawl on his hands and knees - and I had been hearing all these years about what mild winters they had.
Anyway, about a year later, sometime in 1969 - well, two things. First of all, about politics and how the city was run at the time. I remember, and I can't remember how, getting a notice in the mail, a neighbor telling me that someone was trying to build a big housing project, a big apartment project, on Marquam Hill. Now, that would be the ravine sort of between OHSU and Broadway Drive.
And of course everybody was really up in arms about it, and we had to go to a hearing. God, I'm not even sure if I - it might have been that fall or whatever, but I remember getting on a bus and going downtown or whatever, and I had no clue - I think I met an elderly woman, in her seventies or something, on the bus, and she was going, too, and Ernie, I didn't even know where City Hall was. And she didn't, either. So we got our-selves downtown, and we had - I'll never forget, we had to ask where City Hall was. But we got ourselves there, and there was a hearing, and I can't remember the chain of events, but there's no apartment house on Marquam Hill.
So that was an interesting learning experience, coming from back east, where in Portland, citizens could turn out, be received, you know, welcomed at City Hall, and people would listen.
EB: Where did you come from back east?
MS: Connecticut. I grew up in Connecticut and had lived there all my life, went to school back there. I met Bill when he was at Princeton, and then we got married in '66. He still had two years to go at Cornell Law School, so he was at Cornell Law School, and then we came out here in '68.
EB: Okay. So you weren't involved in any of the '68 campaigns?
MS: No, I was having a baby. But I do remember, Anne had not arrived, it was sometime like in August or September, and there was a huge rally for Eugene McCarthy, and I remember going to - Bobby Kennedy had been here; okay, that was the primary in May, but we hadn't been here then because Bill graduated in June, and we came out here that June. But Bobby Kennedy had made a big impression on Oregon. And I forget - I think McCarthy; I'm not sure, I'd have to look back at this - I'm not sure who actually won the Oregon primary; I'm not sure if it was Kennedy or McCarthy or whoever it was.
In any case, I remember going - we supported McCarthy, and I remember in our little red VW bug we had a McCarthy flower - do you remember these? It was like a daisy, white petals and a blue center, and it said Gene McCarthy, or maybe just McCarthy - going to a big rally at the Civic Auditorium, which I think was fairly newly opened at that time, and listening to him talk about the campaign and the war and so on, and pledging $50. Now, at that time $50 was a huge amount of money that we didn't have. It was the most - I mean, it was just incomprehensible. Bill sort of did that. And we were glad to do that, but God, it just seemed like the hugest amount of money ever.
I think McCarthy maybe won the Oregon primary at that time, but of course he went on to lose. And that was the year of - God, who would that have been in '68? Was that...
EB: Who got the nomination?
MS: Yeah, who - well, who won? Was that Nixon? Yes.
EB: Nixon won, yeah.
MS: Yeah, Nixon won. So maybe it was Humphrey that actually won the nomination.
EB: At the convention. Bobby Kennedy got shot and...
MS: Bobby Kennedy got shot. Oh, God, it was awful. He got shot when we were driving across the country to come out here that summer, as a matter of fact. We got the news in Rapid City, South Dakota. It was grim. I mean, it was really grim.
Anyway, I was totally apolitical. So we came out, Annie was born in November, and Bill went to work for his law firm. And about a year later, our friends Bob and Sally Landauer had a coffee: come meet this guy who's running for City Council. Well, I knew where City Hall was, but, you know, that was all. 1968 was the first time I got to vote, too, because you had to be 21 then, and because of birthdays and being born in November of '44, I missed it. So '68 was the first time I got to vote.
Anyway, so we went to this coffee at Bob and Sally Landauer's, and here was this fast-talking, jabber, jabber, jabber, jabber guy named Neil Goldschmidt, talking about how we really needed to make a change in the city. I wasn't aware of the changes that needed to be made because I wasn't really aware of how the city worked at all at that point. But we listened to him, and as we all know in retrospect, he had a way of getting people excited and interested and pulling them in and so forth, so before I knew it, with my little one-year-old daughter, I was volunteering I think like a morning a week in some really dreadful one-story office up on North something that someone had donated to Neil. It was a legal office up on North Gatenbein or something, and I would go in and place colored dots on three-by-five file cards to sort names by - oh, unbelievable.
But the reason Neil was - I mean, the outlook at that time was that City Hall was stagnant. It wasn't that it was corrupt, and it wasn't that it was evil or whatever, but we had the Meier & Frank parking lot that we were talking about, and a lot of people, both individuals, people, as well as downtown businesses and so forth, were abandoning downtown and abandoning the city and flocking to the suburbs. I mean, it's a story that was told a million times across this country. And Neil just thought this was a travesty.
So what could be done? Well, the powers that be at City Hall, it was basically status quo, everything seems to be okay, and the downtown powers that be want a parking lot, so we'll build them a parking lot, and that will keep them downtown. Nobody had the long-term vision. Nobody could see beyond the next five years or sort of the immediate demand or whatever, and that's what Neil began talking about: We're in this for the long term. What do we need to do to build the city, to strengthen the city as a city, to make the downtown lively and vital and attract both businesses and people? What do we need to do to strengthen the city for residential, for schools, for whatever?
So it was fascinating. Nobody else was talking about this. I mean, nobody else. And the City Council - you know, it was Mayor Schrunk, it was Terry Schrunk and Buck Grayson, and I guess Ivancie was there at the time, you know. So they weren't evil, and they weren't corrupt, but boy, it was sort of a small group of people that made decisions, and something of the benevolent dictator, I guess, but mostly because nobody really was trying to rock the boat, nobody was really trying to change the status quo and the way business had been done for so many years. So along comes Neil.
Well, anyway, you know, he ran for City Council, and I believe that at the time he ran there were 14 people. I think Buck Grayson decided he wasn't going to run, so there was an open seat, and when Neil actually ran for City Council, it was an open seat, and there were 14 - count 'em, 14 candidates. But of course being Neil, he decided, "Oh, I'm going to wrap this up in the primary." Do you remember that?
EB: I know that he did - no, he didn't, actually. I don't remember that, come to think of it. He wrapped up the Mayor's office in the primary.
MS: Maybe that was it. But there were - oh, I don't know. I'd have to go back and look. Isn't that awful? You think you'll never forget these things.
MS: But anyway, he certainly, as we all know, was in the top two and went on to win.
EB: Who were some of the people involved in that campaign; do you remember?
MS: Oh, God. Well, you know, the people I remember were - oh, Lord. Of course Ron Buel, and I think Dave Kottkamp, and Dave was at that time married to ...
MS: No, that's wife number two. Oh, I can see her face, and she was the daughter of the big Tri-Met guy...
EB: Roberts, Bill Roberts.
MS: Yes, Bill Roberts, I'm pretty sure.
EB: Oh, really? That's right.
MS: Now, I could be wrong about that, but I can't remember. Anyway - and I remember, you know, Molly Weinstein, and I remember Ron and Patty Anderson - God knows where they are. Oh, my lord, that's so long ago.
EB: It is, isn't it?
MS: It is really a long time ago.
But anyway, Neil had his army, and God knows what the budget was, probably under $100,000, and raised money and won; if he didn't win it in the primary, he sure won it in the general. And as we all know, within a very short time decided that he just couldn't - things weren't moving fast enough at City Hall, so he would have to become mayor, that was the only way. He had to run the show.
So you know, a year later we were back on the streets, and at that time I had little kids, ringing doorbells. I know I've walked precincts in every single corner of this city. I know them all.
Anyway, but what Neil ran on was we need to take charge, we need to change the face of this city. We need to establish working neighborhoods. I can't remember at the time exactly what the timing was of the Meier & Frank parking lot and the Mt. Hood freeway.
EB: The parking garage, actually, was first proposed in '68, but it really wasn't until I think 1970 or something that it was really turned down.
MS: Right. But anyway, a couple of stories from '72. Of course, it was different then, and - I can't even remember, who was he running against? Was he running against Ivancie then for Mayor?
EB: When he ran for Mayor?
MS: In '72?
EB: No, I think he ran against Bill DeWeese. Do I remember that right?
MS: Bill DeWeese, and it was his daughter that was married to Dave Kottkamp.
EB: I see. I see.
MS: So it wasn't Roberts; it was DeWeese.
EB: Right. Now, he did win that in the primary.
MS: He did win that in the primary. Okay. Well, I will tell a story I remember about that, okay?
This is in '72, and McGovern's on the ticket. Lots and lots of anti-war stuff. And of course McGovern did win here. But the big race that everybody was looking at was Goldschmidt. Here was this guy talking about really at that time sort of - not revolutionary, but certainly new energy that not a lot - although many urban areas around the country were suffering from the same problems, nobody was talking about, you know, rocking the boat and changing the course.
And I remember Pam Dunham telling a really funny story about - not Johnny Apple [?], another very well-known - I can see his face, again; can't remember his name. I don't remember names anymore, you know. Tom Wicker. Tom Wicker, that's who it was. Tom Wicker from the New York Times called up and wanted to interview Neil, and so Pam Dunham was scheduling at that time in Neil's office, and so Wicker's secretary - they set the time and so forth, and then Wicker's secretary allowed as how this was going to be around lunch, Mr. Wicker would like some lunch, and in fact, this is what he'd like for lunch. You know, she had heard about the Will-a-met River, and surely, you know, we could get some fish or something - weren't there shrimp in the Will-a-met River? And Pam said, well, no, there weren't shrimp in the Will-a-met River, but that they could probably get some. Well, he would like a shrimp salad, and I think - don't know, never knew this for sure - but Pam said something like, "Oh, and would he like that with or without his pheasant tongues under glass?" or you know, some wonderfully snide comment.
But Wicker wrote - and if you haven't found it or don't have it already, he wrote a big column at the time about Neil in the New York Times, like the day after the election or something. So that would be kind of fun.
EB: That would be good to get. That was in the New York Times in '72?
MS: Yeah. Right after the election, I think, in '72, or right around the election. So it would have been in May, I reckon.
Anyway, another story I can tell about that is I remember going to Neil's election night party, celebration, which was on the sixth floor of one of these bombed-out warehouses downtown, like at...
EB: It's right catty-corner from where PGE is now.
EB: PGE Tower.
MS: Yes, okay. It was down there somewhere. It was like on the sixth floor, and you took these huge freight elevators and so on. It was a big party. And because it was the only party in town, it attracted also all the people who had been involved in the McGovern campaign and, you know, sort of every other cam-pain. The word got out, big party, top of the warehouse, live music - God knows what else, all right?
Bill and I arrived at roughly the same time as George and Clare Rives. Now, George Rives was his boss, and George Rives, of course, is the big deal corporate lawyer for Pacific Power, and an extremely nice man. A very quiet, very reserved - and Clare, his wife, also - she's a little more outgoing. Lovely, lovely people, but quite reserved.
So we rode up in this giant freight elevator with them, okay? Clangs and bangs. And we get to the top, and the doors open on this sea of humanity, jumping and, you know, writhing and carrying on.
EB: A houseful of hippies.
MS: A houseful of hippies. Loud music, you know, and so on. And George Rives says - I'll never forget it - he says, "Oh, my God," he says, "If my friends from the Arlington Club could see this, their worst fears would be con-firmed."
Now, he meant it in a funny way, okay? He laughed. We all laughed. It was hilarious. But you know, Ernie, at the time I mean, I think that's how a lot of downtown business people - and maybe others, as well - viewed Neil. Oh, my God, you know, ACLU, former Legal Aid attorney, this fast-talking guy is going to be our Mayor, and what is going to happen to this city?
Now, as we all know, Neil changed the face of the city in the most marvelous way, that virtually everybody supports. It's a model for the country now, in terms of what has happened here. I think the only people that would disagree with that are those people who still hold a grudge that the Mt. Hood freeway wasn't built.
But aside from that - as I look at this list of things that occurred, of the Meier & Frank parking lot and the Mt. Hood freeway, and all these kinds of things that happened, it's impossible to talk about them without talking about Neil Gold-schmidt and his role in spearheading those efforts. I mean, I don't want to make this, you know, an hour-long conversation about Neil, but I think that's really true.
And I think - I've thought about this in the past, actually - I think one of Neil's great gifts and great talents, of which really he had many, his long-term vision, but also his ability to understand how to get from here to there, how to articulate the vision, his understanding of all the pieces that had to come together to do it, But one of his great gifts and talents to me was that he understood he could not do it alone. He understood that he had to have the help, the brainpower, the heavy lifting, the ideas, and just the manual labor, so to speak, of putting all the components together.
So he had to have the participation and support of the business community, but he also had to have the support of the neighborhoods. I mean, they didn't even exist at that time. And if you're going to build a strong, healthy city for the long term, and all that entails of safe streets and good schools and small businesses and all that, it had to come from the people.
So what he was able to do was, I think, understand that it was really the people that were going to do it, it was really the citizens who lived here who were going to do it. He just had to sort of lead - which I don't mean to make that sound like a small thing because it wasn't, of course, but he had to articulate the vision, and sort of make the list of things to do, and then go out and corner people and say, "Okay, guys, now you've got to get in here and build this neighborhood association," or "put this planning together," or "articulate the code," or - you know, whatever it was.
EB: Right. I think a lot of the things on his list to do came from those neighborhood coffees.
MS: Mm-hmm, right.
EB: You know, from talking to people in the neighborhoods.
MS: Right. Exactly. And he understood that if you were going to - if the people were going to do it, you've got to go out and talk to the people. There was no question. And can you imagine Buck Grayson or Terry Schrunk or whatever going out and talking to people? So it was definitely a two-way street, a two-way conversation of hearing what people had to say, and then I remember Neil just saying, "Okay, if that's what you want, roll up your sleeves. I'm not going to do this alone. You've got to come help me."
EB: He seemed to also have fairly early on developed some strong support in the business community.
EB: Ron Buell tells a story about him - it was a year after they had been elected, and Ron Buell had worked for three years straight to get him elected.
MS: Right. Of course.
EB: And going home one day from the City Hall, Neil says, "You know something? I think I've got this figured out. I'm going to run for Mayor." And so Ron says for a week he was so mad, he just couldn't stand it, because he thought he was going to have a break for a while.
MS: At least a couple years, huh?
EB: And Neil had just thought up something new to do. But I think what he had found out by that time is that his vision, like for instance for the downtown, was persuasive to them.
EB: And so I think he was beginning to already accumulate support from the business community.
MS: Right. But nobody - I mean, it wasn't really rocket science. It was just that nobody else in the city was thinking along those lines. Nobody had the vision. Nobody said, "Hey, we can do this," and so on. And I think Neil was - you know, to give Portland some credit, I'm not sure it would have worked in any city, but I think Portland, going back to our little bit earlier conversation about Tom McCall and so forth, Portland has a long history of involving its citizens.
EB: Very long.
MS: What's the Skidmore Fountain say about, you know, "The riches of a city ..."
EB: Good citizens are the riches of our city.
MS: Yeah, exactly. It has a long tradition of respecting and involving its citizens. And so it was ripe, I guess. Maybe one of the great good fortunes for Neil Goldschmidt was the timing. I don't know; I mean, I wasn't here before that.
EB: What did you get involved in after that election? Were you involved in anything else in the ...
MS: Oh, yeah, '72 and '76. Oh, yeah, I mean lawn signs and ...
EB: This would be in '76?
MS: Oh, God, what did I do now? Well, I remember in '76, I'm pretty sure - I mean, our house was like the Westside canvassing headquarters. Oh, yeah. People would come and, you know, we'd send them out all day, and as an incentive to make sure they finished and turned in all their materials, we'd offer dinner. Well, we didn't have any money, so we'd cook up these giant sort of vats of bulgur and garbanzo beans or something, and people could come back. It was in May, of course. You know, this is when he won the first time. It was in May, and the weather was nice, and so we'd sit outside and have our garbanzo beans. Oh, God, unbelievable.
EB: I was here in '76, and there was a very strong canvassing...
MS: Oh, huge.
EB: Got to hit all the motivated voters, you've got to meet them at the door...
EB: And with Ron Buell, of course, leading the charge on that.
MS: God, with whips.
EB: With whips, right.
MS: Yes, and threats. Well, it worked, you know, and I'm not sure it would now. I mean, I'll tell you, I don't think I'm walking any more precincts. I don't know if we could get other people to do...
EB: Yeah, where would you get the energy...
MS: Where would you get people? I mean, sadly - again, I think the timing was so right. You know, at the end of the '60s, when you think about it, it was a time when - remember Demo Forum? Demo Forum existed, too.
First of all - I mean, I certainly consider myself a child of the '60s, and I marched against the war. I mean, I just thought it was wrong. And it was a time when, at least my generation, my age group believed that we could make some change. I mean, we marched against the war, and we knew we'd made a difference there. Demo Forum was founded, and we had some successes there. Remember all the people we sent to the legislature?
EB: Gretchen, and Steve Kafoury and Earl and Vera and Rick Gustafson and - God knows, lots of people. And it was a time when politics was the place to make change, and it was possible to do, and then you didn't have to have the money that has so saturated the process now, okay? So little guys, little unknown men and women, who had no previous incumbency, no previous political experience or whatever, but had been involved in community affairs and so forth, could assemble enough people and go door to door, and because people had not been assaulted over the airwaves and the phones the way they are now, they were receptive to someone saying, "Hey, I'm a volunteer for..." whoever it was. And yeah, we can take charge of our destiny here, our shaping of our city, or the legislature, or whatever it was. And it worked.
Again, you know, timing really did have something to do with it. But that was a place, the political arena - I'm not so sure it is anymore, but that was the place to make change, to really make social change. So I think that's another reason that it attracted a lot of people. You could elect people who would in fact make laws. Think about Senate Bill 100. You think that would pass today?
EB: Not the bottle bill, Senate Bill 100...
MS: No. I'm not even sure the Constitution would pass if they put it on the ballot, I'm very sorry to say.
But anyway, so the political climate was one of "we can do it," I think, almost anything is possible. And I think Oregon - I hope it's still so - has always been a place where people have chosen to live; so many people who live here weren't born here, but they came here, and they live here because they choose to. They either visited the state for some reason, maybe a campaign or a vacation or whatever, and they said, "Wow, this place is great," or a job or something brought them, and they moved here because they wanted to be here, and there was like kind of an unspoken code or ethic of "This is a fabulous place, and we want to keep it that way."
That's why I think why things like - it was just a few years ago that the Metro - Metro, which of course is regarded still as, you know, a good case of cholera or whatever, sadly. I mean, we really do need, you know, region-wide planning on these issues - but anyway, different issue.
Now I've lost my train of thought.
Oh, when they put - it was just a couple of years ago that Metro sponsored the parks - you know, they were going to buy up the parks, and that passed on the first try. That was one of the most encouraging things that's happened in politics for me in years, that people still say, "I really do value this marvelous place, and we need to keep it this way." I worry with the continued influx from other places, and people saying Oregon is a no sales tax haven, and not necessarily supporting the schools and so on, I wonder - I hope we'll be able to maintain that value system. Don't know.
EB: I think also in the '70s Portland was small, still a small town. It's still a small town, really.
MS: Yes. It's smaller than its numbers, whereas Seattle, I think, is bigger than its numbers.
EB: That's part of, I think, the charm of it.
MS: I agree. And still a residential city.
Before I lived here, I lived up in Willamette Heights, just across the Thurman Street Bridge, in a little house that - my street had about eight houses on it and dead-ended up against Forest Park. When I lived there, I was literally seven minutes from walking out my door to being downtown and walking into my office at Fourth and Oak, okay? I mean, I could get through driving, parking, all that kind of stuff. Now, you tell me a city where you can live on a street where, you know, a hundred yards away is a forested park, and you can drive and walk into your office in downtown Portland seven minutes later. I mean, it just doesn't exist.
And fortunately, I think we have reason to believe, you know, people will still be able to do that.
EB: People see the differences. Relative to other cities, it's still much better here.
MS: Right. And I think that's due in large part to things that Neil did and changes that occurred in the '70s, the decisions that were made then about zoning, about light rail, about parking lids, about the design of downtown, about preserving the water-front, all those decisions that were made, and values that were reinforced, that were literally set in concrete, literally and figuratively, and that still last today, in spite of the pressures. But it's a quality of life issue that I think still remains very much in the forefront of values of people that live in Portland and Oregon.
EB: Right. And it's still really a fine place to live.
EB: Although I have to tell you, occasionally I have to go out to Beaverton or - well, usually Beaverton; I really don't head out to Gresham or whatever, and I'm appalled at the traffic, and I am appalled at the strip development after development, and I am also appalled - God, just driving out to St. Vincents, it's like Southern California. These hillsides that used to be hillsides are all now condominiums and whatever, and I'll tell you, I really do notice the traffic. I mean, it used to be the only time there was ever real traffic in Portland was commuter time; you know, it could get a little heavy across the bridges and so forth. But now, I'll tell you, I'd rather drive - but this is a wonderful testament to the '70s and what was done in downtown, because it is so much easier to drive in and around downtown than it is around us - okay? - because of the parking lids, or because of the light rail or the mall, or whatever it is, but you can get around downtown, if you have to get - you try to get around Beaverton or any of these other - it's hopeless. So it works.
EB: It still works pretty well. Well, okay. Now let's go back, though, to - let's see, '76. What are you doing during these years?
MS: Well, I have little kids. Bill was Neil's Chief of Staff from...
EB: So you didn't see him much during the day?
MS: Oh, God, no. I worked on the race in '70, and a lot of the race in '72, Neil's race for Mayor, a lot of stuff. As I say, lawn signs, canvassing, phone banks, and you name it. And of course I've got two little kids at that point. I mean, I've got a one-year-old and a three-year-old.
And then in '74, that's when I went to work - that's when Bob Straub ran against Vic Atiyeh, and that was a little scary, from hardcore Democrats' points of view. So the first paid job I ever had was the Finance Director for Bob Straub's general election campaign.
EB: Who was running the campaign?
MS: Len Bergstein. Now, just as a measure of how things have changed, I didn't go to work 'til - I worked for Betty Roberts in the primary. Betty Roberts, Jim Redden and Bob Straub were running in the primary for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1974. I was working for Betty Roberts, and God, met some wonderful friends during that campaign.
Anyway, so Straub won, and I was crestfallen for some time, but then Joe Smith called and said, "Look, you've got to go work for Bob Straub because, you know, we can't let Vic Atiyeh become Governor, and you can do it." And Bergstein was running the campaign - well, Joe was running the campaign, but that was the year, I think, that Wayne Morse died, so Joe decided - he jumped ship. He was running the campaign originally, but then he jumped ship to run for the Senate, and Len came in and took over the campaign. So I was raising the money. I had never raised money in my life.
The budget for the campaign was - the entire general election campaign was $150,000.
EB: Amazing, isn't it?
MS: When I took the job, there was a $10,000 deficit from the primary, but the general election for statewide gubernatorial campaign, $150,000. Incredible.
We made budget, and God, what an experience that was. Gee whiz. We were housed in the sort of first floor of the Governor Hotel, what was and is now the Governor Hotel, except at that time it had been closed and boarded up for years, and was just this really depressing, dark and dusty space on the corner of Tenth and Alder. God, it was awful. It was a great space for a campaign, though, you know. Big, open.
Anyway, so I did that, and then a lot of people went to work. I worked sort of part time in Salem for Keith Burns, who was Straub's Chief of Staff, commuted like Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to Salem, to do a part-time job. I still had little kids, you know. I didn't want to be away from the kids all that much.
So that was '74, and then '76 I ran Les AuCoin's congressional campaign. He was in the famous Class of '74. So '76 was his first reelection campaign. He was running against Phil Bladine, who was the publisher of the McMinnville News-Register. And that was an interesting thing because, you know, things were happening - I mean, it was a time politically, as well, on the national level - you know, post-Watergate, the class of '74 was going to come in and, you know, sweep away all the bad stuff and change, and here were all, you know, the idealistic, "we're going to make change" kind of folks at the congressional level - some of which are still there. Tom Daschle, I think, was in that class.
[End of Side 1]
MS: And related to AuCoin's election is that, you know, eventually he came to be an incredible financial supporter of the City. Well, of course, Hatfield was there all this time, too, helping. He was probably in appropriations by then, anyway, so block grants - I mean, Neil would go back to Washing-ton to persuade these people that he could, you know, change the world.
EB: Right. And they loved him back there.
MS: They loved him back there, because, yeah, it was exciting stuff. And he also, you know, made good on his word. That's when he convinced people, I'm sure, to take the Mt. Hood freeway money and, you know, built this light rail which is just - I just heard on the radio the other day the Westside light rail just won an award for something or other. It's fabulous. It's so neat to see those trains and people riding them, and it really works. God knows what we'd do if we didn't have it, you know. Like in Seattle - if there was ever a doubt in anybody's mind about whether light rail works or not, just go to Seattle.
MS: Anyway, so block grants were fabulous, and there was federal money available to partner up and do things, and boy, Neil just had lots of ideas and plans. You probably know more about that.
EB: I think actually the secret to Portland was leadership, vision...
MS: Vision, absolutely.
EB: ...money, lots of federal money, luck.
MS: Yeah, some luck. Yes, of course, luck is always a factor. But you know, also that really important ingredient of a willing-ness on the part of people here - because if the citizens, so to speak, hadn't wanted it to happen, the neighborhood organizations never would have formed and built so much strength, and people wouldn't have cared as much about the schools, and small business people and the whole - it wouldn't have happened. You can't make people - no matter how much money or what you build, if it isn't coming from down below, you can't really force it on them from up above.
EB: That's leadership.
MS: Absolutely. Mobilizing and being - I mean, Neil was the catalyst. And then, you know, got some help on City Council. Mildred and Connie and - oh, God, I tell you, those were years! Bill used to come home wringing his hands.
EB: I'll bet.
MS: And now we have Keller Plaza. There was some guy at the Planning Bureau that drove Bill crazy. I can't remember his name, but he just used to...
EB: Lloyd Keefe?
MS: I think that was one of them, Yes.
EB: He was the director.
MS: Who was - when you were there, for a while, somewhere in the - I can see his face, and I can see his wife, whose name I can't remember, but there was a huge big bear of a guy named Gary.
EB: Oh, Gary Stout. He was sort of my boss.
MS: He was your boss? I thought it was the other way around.
EB: And I never accepted it.
MS: Gee, how come I'm not surprised? But he didn't actually stay here very long.
EB: No, he didn't. He was - he couldn't deal with this atm-sphere. He was a control freak, and so - but everybody was kind of doing their thing, you know? Neil, like you say, gives people lots of latitude.
MS: Absolutely. Yeah.
EB: In fact, he usually has three people working on the same thing, and whoever does the best job wins. But at any rate, Gary just couldn't deal with that.
MS: Because he wasn't here for very long, and he always seemed kind of a misfit, but anyway.
Anyway, yeah, stuff was happening at the - now, remember, at this point we've got some people elected down in Salem, and we're getting - I mean, I think AuCoin actually had been down in the legislature and then went on to Congress, and so...
EB: Hardy Myers, Vera Katz.
EB: And all those that you mentioned before.
MS: Exactly. So this whole generation was sort of spreading out.
MS: Oh, God, Senate Bill 100. Senate Bill 100, I mean, you know, Senator Hallock.
EB: Right. So that kind of group was spread out over the state.
MS: Yes, and then we began to have a voice back in Washington, as well. I mean, it really was, like you say, the timing, there was money, luck and leadership, yeah, all of which - I'm trying to think, are any of those available today? I don't know.
Anyway, so then '76, you know, Neil ran for reelection. Do you remember that incredible - I'll never forget it. Downtown looks like a war zone.
EB: Oh, yeah, with the transit mall.
MS: With the transit mall. I mean, downtown is a war zone, and I'll never forget, there was a TV ad of Neil standing sort of on a street corner, there are jackhammers and mud, and you know, it was just a war zone, saying, "If you were Mayor, would you run for reelection with all this going on?"
EB: Stroke of genius, that commercial.
MS: I think that was Jackie Hallock.
EB: It worked.
MS: You know, Hallock did all of Neil's stuff, and did it very well. Yeah, right. Oh, God, funny stuff.
Anyway, but it was - you know, people said, "Yeah. All right, it's painful now, but if that's what it's going to take, we'll do it." So then he got reelected, and...
EB: I remember there being a lot of concern that Ivancie had a lot of good ways to beat Neil. I remember there being a lot of concern. It was nail-biting time for a lot of people. And of course, Neil won big.
MS: I know. Well, you know, get the armies out. I mean, obviously if you haven't, you're going to talk to Bill because he was right there. I mean, because he can tell you, and he'll remember all that. Oh, my God.
EB: Well, I think Bill was actually the guy that was the most responsible of anybody for Portland hiring me.
MS: Yeah, I remember.
EB: He definitely was. And then supported me when I showed up in sandals and a beard.
MS: I remember, the first time I ever remember you, Ernie, is I remember you were out here like to sort of look the place over one weekend - two things I remember, two stories about you. Well, the first thing I remember is we all played baseball, we all played softball. Do you remember that?
EB: I remember that game, yeah.
MS: Do you remember playing softball that weekend or whatever? I remember thinking, "This guy's really good; we've got to get him out here. We need him."
EB: You know what I remember? I still remember to this day hitting a line drive right into Charlotte Beeman's stomach. I asked Charlotte about it one time, because I thought she'd probably hate me for the rest of her life. She says, "No, you didn't; I don't remember that." Interesting.
MS: Oh, I remember you could play ball, and your daughter, too. I thought, "Oh, yeah, we need this guy."
And then there was something else you said or - God, I can't remember now what it was, but I remember the baseball. And you weren't here then officially, I don't think. I mean you might have just arrived...
EB: We were being interviewed.
MS: Yeah, the interview process or whatever. So you had a beard and sandals. Oh, well.
EB: You know, just before coming to that game - of course, I came to that game with Neil.
MS: Oh, yeah?
EB: Because I was the last to be interviewed, and we were running late, and so he says, "Come on in my car, and we'll go to this picnic, and we'll talk in the car." So we did that, and we got home, and walked in the door - and you know, Margie was madder than hell...
MS: Oh, because you were late?
EB: Because we were late, and they were going to be late to the picnic and so on and so forth, and I thought, "Oh, geez, I'm right in the middle of a damn family feud here." Anyway, we got ready, went out and got into the car, and just as soon as we pulled away from the curb, Neil says, "Well, Margie, Ernie and I were in the middle of a conversation. Is it all right if we go ahead and continue it?" And she says, obviously angry, "Sure, why not. Why not just go ahead and have a talk with Ernie? Go right ahead."
And I'm in the back seat, and I was saying, "Oh, God, here I am; this is the worst possible timing."
MS: So you came in '73?
EB: That was '73, yeah. I remember being at your house over on Northwest...
MS: Yeah, Northwest 25th, 25th and Overton. Yeah. We had Chapman School, and the park was right there. Great place to play baseball on Sunday afternoons. Oh, we used to play softball all the time on Sunday afternoon, just sort of pick-up - it was really fun - when the kids were little. Yeah, lovely.
EB: So anyway, I remember you also being - I wouldn't exactly say famous, but you had a good reputation for fund-raising.
MS: This is true. What a horrible thing for me.
EB: Yeah, I guess so. But people always said you were such a great fundraiser for campaigns - a part of a campaign I hardly ever had anything to do with, but...
MS: Right. Most people don't. Most people have more sense. And it's true, I am; I'm a good fundraiser, and it's just the most god-awful way to earn a living. It's really, really, really hard work that nobody else wants to do. But it's basically a manage-met task. I mean, I was good at managing and organizing, and you know, figuring out how to do it, and then just dogging people.
But you know, it's just - a campaign's a business operation. You're really just looking - you have a business plan, you have a budget, you need a little venture capital, but basically you're in the business of getting elected, and that's the way you have to put it. And it's much more true now, today, than it was then. But you know, people just don't like to ask people for money. Well, get over it. I mean, get over it. There's nothing wrong with it. It's a fact of political life. It was then; it is now. But it is hard work, because you just have to have...
In those days, it was so different. You don't have these huge contributions, and you just have to get these little $25 and $50 contributions from everybody.
The State, I think, still allows people, you know, fifty bucks as a tax credit, which is a little bit of incentive - which helps.
EB: Did you continue doing fundraising for campaigns through the '70s?
MS: I did. Ran AuCoin's campaign in '76. God knows what I did in '78 or '80. I think I was - oh, I think I got legitimate work. I got legitimate work, yes. '78, '79, yeah, I was running - this is one of Neil's deals, was a big study - it was called the Metropolitan Coliseum-Stadium Task Force, and you know, the Blazers won the championship in '76, and so all eyes were on the Coliseum; you know, this is too small, and it's too old, and you know, "Gee, maybe we need a King Dome." You know, build it and they will come, kind of mentality?
Well, Neil wasn't really keen on building it. You know, they might not come. So he formed a great task force of business people - I remember Bob Ames and a few others from the City, and then a couple of folks from Clackamas County, and a couple of folks from Washington County, and there was this group of about 20 people. It was a wonderful group. I can't remember now exactly everybody who was on it, but it really was a select group, but select in the sense of business people who were smart. But again, Neil's ability to attract people and get them to, you know, come to meetings and give up their time to study something that was really important to the future of the city.
So anyway, should we build a King Dome? So we hired some consultants and did this, that and the other thing, and basically the task force - I was the staff, so I was responsible to the task force and for the task force, in a sense. And they came up with a plan to add seats to the existing Coliseum for, I don't know, eight million dollars or something, and they could add 8,000 seats, or 4,000 seats, I can't remember, and could do it without borrowing money, wouldn't have to sell any bonds or anything. But the E.R. Commission at that time that ran the Coliseum and the Stadium and so forth basically said, "No, we think it's too risky," so they didn't do it. So they really missed the boat after that. You know, the time frame passed.
The E.R. Commission, Exposition and Recreation Commission, was created by the City Charter at the time the Coliseum was built, in 1960, and the purpose of the E.R. Commission was to run the Coliseum, the original Coliseum. And their directive from the City was, "Look, you go and run this place, and make sure that it makes money because we're not going to give you any subsidy. We are not going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize this building, so you figure it out."
Now, when they did that and said, "We're not going to give you...," they did give them quite a lot of flexibility and freedom, and they were sort of semi-autonomous. It was not like the Port where, you know, you taxed people, but they could keep the revenues, all right? So it was like a little business, all right? And there was a commission and so on, and I mean it was all on the up-and-up; there wasn't any hanky-panky going on or anything like that. But anyway, it became, in fact, quite profitable. Now, it wasn't supposed to be profitable, but it wasn't supposed to lose money. So there was all this extra money, so what are you going to do with it?
So one of Neil's great gifts to the E.R. Commission was sometime in like - oh, God, I don't know, somewhere in the '70s, the Stadium was hemorrhaging. The Stadium was losing money hand over fist, needed millions of dollars in capital improvements and was, you know, collapsing, and should they close it because of earthquake damage - so he decided, "Ah, we'll give it to the E.R. Commission. They've got all that money."
We didn't have enough money for that, but he transferred the Stadium from the City, whatever department, to the E.R. Commission, with a kind of, "Well, we've got budget troubles this year, we can make the budget balance, so we'll just give this to you for a little while, and then we'll take it back." Yeah, that was 20-some years ago. And then of course we picked up much, much later, when Metro came along, you know, we picked up the PCPA and the Civic and other things. But Neil's great gift, I'll never forget the great white elephant - which I actually think is wonderful, and I guess they really are finally fixing it up and committing to keeping it here in the city, which is where I think it belongs.
EB: It's a fine stadium. Exactly.
MS: It's a great place. Triple-A baseball is the best baseball there is these days. It's great stuff.
EB: And who wants all that other stuff?
MS: I know. Do we really want a King Dome out in Clackamas - the ClackaDome or - you know. No, I don't think so.
Anyway, '76. '78, '80, I think I worked - what did I do in '80? Oh, I was working, that's right. I had legitimate work. I was working for architects then. And then in '82 I helped poor Ted Kulongoski, raising money again in his ill-fated campaign ...
EB: For governor.
MS: Yes. How to blow a 14-point lead. He was ahead by 14 in July, and lost in some disaster.
And then, oh, God, '82, '84?
EB: You must have gone back to work for Betty Roberts in there somewhere?
MS: No - well, that's right. No, let's see, '82, '84 - God, you know, I'm trying to remember. Again, I think I was doing legitimate work. Occasionally, you know, I had real work, instead of this seasonal campaign stuff. '86, I went to work for Neil, raising money for Neil for his campaign for Governor. Oh, my God, that was hard. "Well, we're going to raise a million bucks," they said.
EB: A million?
MS: Oh, yeah, Ernie, but by the time they were done it was three million dollars.
EB: So it's 150 grand to three million in 12 years.
MS: Unbelievable. "Got to raise a million bucks."
At first I think, you know, the budget was like - of course, you know, the people who raise the money never have any say in how it's going to be spent, you know? Everybody else says, "Oh, we've got to do this, we've got to do that," you know - and, oh, by the way, Mitzi will go raise the money. Okay. It's like I print it in the basement, right?
So first it was three-quarters of a million. Then it soon became a million, and then - I mean, this thing was just completely - by the time we were done, with all the in-kinds and everything, it was close to - I don't know if it still is a for statewide race; I think it's still a record. I mean, it won't be, obviously, forever, but I'm telling you, I was a dead person at the end of that campaign.
EB: I'll bet.
MS: Fourteen months. I went to work in like September or October of '85, and it was literally 12, 14, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, just flat out. There was no - there was five days, I think, in June, after the primary, where I, you know, collected my mail.
Oh, it was hard. I mean, statewide campaigns - Neil had run very good campaigns, you know. Well, there were serious screw-ups in the primary and so on, but anyway, everything turned out okay. But oh, my God, the money was so hard. Yeah, '86. Oh, Lord.
EB: So did you go on beyond the campaign to work for Neil?
MS: Not for Neil, no. I didn't want to go to Salem. I've been to Salem. Have you been to Salem? Do you want to work in Salem?
EB: I don't suppose I'd mind working there; I just hate going there.
MS: Well, driving. It gets back to my allergy to commuting, having grown up in Connecticut and driving into New York whenever - I mean, we did take the train. I never worked in New York because I left there when I was 21 or whatever, but it's not - when you can be seven minutes, as I was, from your office, why on earth do you want to drive for an hour on a road that has seven - between here and Salem there are about seven curves or bends in the road. Believe me, I know, because I did ultimately work in Salem - let's see, that's right, after '86 I went to work - this was my foray into corporate America - I went to work for U.S. West, when Marcia Condon was here. Terrific, absolutely fabulous business woman, person. She was great. So I worked for U.S. West, and I lobbied, and I lobbied both in Salem and in Washing-ton D.C. Things were really changing then.
So I had to be in Salem during the legislative session. I just did one session. That's all I could do. It was all I could do.
I loved Washington. Different issues. You know, totally different matters before Congress than were before the state legislature, and of course, it was Washington. I love Washington. It's a fabulous city. And much more interesting issues, people to deal with. It was great.
But anyway, I still only lasted there two years. Anyway.
EB: Tiring, isn't it?
MS: Yeah. So things were really changing then, too, especially in telecommunications because, you know, the breakup of AT&T in '84, and then I went to work for them in '86, and the whole telecommunications, the whole - you know, the Internet and everything, it was just changing so fast. It was really hard to keep up. Deregulation. It's really worked in California, hasn't it? Soon we're not going to have any electricity.
[End of Interview]