Executive Director of Portlandia Greens

A clever climb and a tumbling fall

Yggdrasilstump
Yggdrasil’s Stump, remains of the tree of life.

I started a political adventure six years ago that’s gleaned me news coverage and a facebook group dedicated to hating me.

At my height I was executive director of the Portland chapter of the Green Party and organizing a local election debate on behalf of Occupy Portland and minor parties.

At my low I allowed a recruit to sabotage our chapter’s burgeoning relevancy and then slowly let my volunteerism fizzle to a flickering pilot’s light.

It was an awesome experience that my wife never wants me to repeat. She saw me working hard without pay, often for people who didn’t respect the effort.

Now I’m being told:

(He) isn’t invited (to meetings) specifically since we pushed him out years ago for blocking action to revoke approval of some Democrats who ran against Whitten when we reconsidered the multi-endorsement strategy.

I’ve held my breath for a long time, but now I’m blowing the house of cards down.

hungrybirdsCast of characters

Badger,  a Green Party candidate.

Hammer, a passionate Green Party member.

Martyr, a principled person I replaced as executive director.

Mercenary, the one that sold us on trying a canvassing operation not long after I started attending chapter meetings.

Pirate, me as the Oregon Pirate Party founder and long time Green Party member trying to make something functional enough to effect change.

Poet, one of the chapter board members that I recruited from Occupy Portland.

Rocker, the common sense chapter board member that asked me to be the new executive director.

Sabotage, an ambitious and talented canvasser that I recruited from Bark.

Salesman, a charismatic community organizer that embraced the Green Party.

Savant, the scholar of election law and dedicated Green that has done more to hold things together than anyone else.

None of the above are women. This experience more than any other has taught me that the healthiest groups have a mixture of male and female participants.

It began at Bipartisan Cafe

Savant was helping me understand how I could make the Pirate Party officially exist, and in so doing recruited my active participation in the local chapter of the Green Party.

Martyr ran the meetings as executive director. The cafe was loud and seemed barely tolerant of the weekly Thursday night Green sprawl.

It seemed like a scholastic social club rather then the best representation of Greens in Oregon’s largest city. My brother loved it. I was dissatisfied.

Enter the canvasser

Mercenary came to a chapter meeting with an idea to develop canvass driven outreach and fundraising for the Green Party.

Through consensus style decision making, I facilitated the decision to try out a canvassing operation.

Badger wasn’t at the meeting and later shared concerns about canvassing. Mercenary tried to educate him as he had Savant, Martyr and me.

Mercenary wrote:

Benefits of canvassing that are not fund-raising related include citizen education, acquiring a donor base for low overhead renewal, messaging development for campaigns and candidates, identifying willing community volunteers, and VOE donor identification.

  • Pirate, Mercenary, and Savant versus Badger, with Martyr unsure.
The Pirate’s coup
What volunteerism means as executive director
Unpaid labor can be rewarding.

A successful outreach operation required professional canvassers. People that got paid. The chapter needed to change to handle employees.

First we got a new venue for member meetings; a quiet space, where in our first meeting we set bylaws and had a board election.

Martyr wanted on the chapter’s board. He wasn’t elected, but Rocker was. Since we agreed that someone shouldn’t be executive director and be on the board, we saw Martyr’s interest as a sign that he was willing to take a break.

Rocker was a fan of the chapter changing and nominated me at a board meeting three days later to replace Martyr as executive director, something Mercenary wanted because of my talent facilitating and support of a canvassing trial. I accepted and the board led by Savant approved despite my lack of experience.

  • Pirate, Mercenary, Rocker, and Savant versus Martyr.
Broken eggs, the price of becoming functional

It was a coup that thrilled Savant and Mercenary, but there was a misstep that caused a rift that would haunt my years as Executive Director and still causes angst and discord today.

Badger and other old guard had missed the message for the member meeting that changed everything. They rebelled against the new, and ironically wanted a return to the lack of organization that had left them in the dark.

Savant appealed to their logic and failed as if they’d been banished to Tartarus.

  • Pirate, Mercenary, Rocker, Savant and others versus Martyr, Badger and others.
We got to ask for free money

We forged ahead with Savant, Mercenary, and myself at the core of an experiment that intended to make greater use of the Political Tax Credit than anyone ever had before.

Unlike the other canvassing operations, we were a political action committee. Up to fifty dollars a year that was donated to us could be returned to the donor by the state government with their tax refund.

Anyone that paid taxes in Oregon got free money they could spend on us!

We picked IRV and VOE to campaign
Representation of the vote to endorse by the Portland Greens
I made this graphic after the vote.

Switching our election process to instant runoff voting (IRV) was close to Savant‘s heart, and I am grateful to him for first educating me about this preferred voting method.

Voter owned elections (VOE) was close to Rocker‘s heart and connected us to City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Mercenary prepared and we started hiring canvassers.

From our Craigslist ad:

The Portland Green Party is hiring. We need you.

We are looking for energetic, out going people for political outreach.

We believe that corporate political donations corrupt so we only accept support from individuals.

Do work that you can be proud of.

Work with an experienced team focused on conservation and social justice.

When I met Sabotage I said, “Do you want a seat at the table of power.”

He did. So much so that years later he would try to replace me in a hostile take over.

  • Pirate, Mercenary, Rocker, Savant, Sabotage and others versus the world.
The oscillating scope of my executive director duties

Despite the title of executive director, I was a volunteer with an unrelated full-time job and a family demanding attention. I had no experience as a boss and no political background.

I was challenged, and I learned. It was exhilarating and exhausting.

I was very protective of my employees, and I did everything I could to make them happy.

For Mercenary I schemed to get the best possible street canvassing locations. In particular I allied with Bark and worked to bully the other canvassing groups.

I judged the others harshly. They weren’t local, and I didn’t see their fundraising doing much more than sustaining their canvassing operation.

In contrast to Bark, we were struggling to be effective.

We had very low overhead due in large part to my volunteerism and were well poised to leverage the support of many small donors for political advantage.

Siting on that tractor was like being an executive director.
I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was driving anyway.

But…

We didn’t have a lot of member participation, and I was stretched thin. I focused on administrating regular monthly meetings, sending out newsletters, fighting for our canvassers, working on campaigns, and trying to get the chapter to accomplish something concrete.

For Sabotage I convinced the chapter to get some office space. He was adamant that we needed it, but we almost never used it. It was a disappointing write off that embarrassed me and burned bridges for the group.

While executive director I attended every monthly member meeting but one. Riding my bicycle and delirious from a fever I surrendered to sense and failed to make it.

I tried to rely on Sabotage to stand in for me and get everyone settled, but he struggled and lost trust that would later make me shy about him taking over.

For Mercenary and Sabotage I pushed to get employees healthcare. It made us competitive employers, and it felt good to help them.

When I say convinced the chapter, I really mean convinced Savant.

I was a key part of a team that was close to something truly special. This feeling lent me a great deal of tolerance and motivation, but not enough to be diplomatic all the time.

Hammer was a member that seemed to have had some long talks with Badger and friends about the “horrible” things our chapter was doing. I made him liaison for us to the state party in hopes that we could mend some fences. He failed to fulfill his obligations and when questioned about it became irrational, insulting, and over all very confusing. I removed him as liaison and in so doing made an enemy that would haunt the rest of my volunteerism with the party.

  • Pirate, Mercenary, Savant, and Sabotage versus Hammer, Badger and the state party.
Co-opting Occupy Portland for the Greens
https://www.adbusters.org/content/corporate-america-flag
Mine is faded and has some different stars.

I had an Adbusters flag before the new millennium, and I was talking about separating corporations from political power before Zuccotti Park.

Occupy was a fantastic opportunity for recruiting talent that we desperately needed. I knew I couldn’t sustain my level of commitment, and we still weren’t to my mind a functional chapter.

All of our board members wanted a break, and I needed one. I was coming up on two years and was wondering how to untangle myself without disturbing our house of cards.

Mercenary took a leave of absence just as things started to get interesting. He lost his place at our table and Sabotage found his.

I recruited four of the best Occupy offered and nominated them to fill out our chapter’s board. They were elected, and I felt less alone.

The first proposal I got passed at Occupy was the following:

The General Assembly of Occupy Portland advocates for Ranked Choice Instant Runoff Voting (or IRV).

Understanding that this step is in itself insufficient but that we will take small steps as well as large.

I built upon this success to push for the creation of an IRV subcommittee of the city charter review commission. This helped justify the canvassing operation that was highlighting instant runoff voting, but ironically didn’t use any money to do it outside of “outreach”.

Sabotage speaking about the scope of his canvassing did demand the commissioner’s respect, which I would remember fonder if he hadn’t some months later disparaged my participation within a lengthy tirade to the board I mostly recruited.

  • Pirate, Savant, Sabotage, Poet and others of Occupy versus the status quo.
The election where Greens mattered

As members in their twenties and thirties took over a chapter and party that had been dominated by an older generation, we found major candidates were interested in our endorsements.

Welcome to the partyOur relatively youthful face fit well with the political tone the Occupy Movement set. Local politicians saw us as a way to tap that progressive shine, and I welcomed them in.

The Mayoral elections was the focus and Eileen Brady the most controversial topic. The hate for her was as visceral as it was unfounded. It reminds me now of the raging against Burnside 26.

Brady had earned my respect at the Red and Black Cafe when she coolly handled a press of men with pointed questions. It was an interview to make up for her missing the debate I’d organized. Savant and I didn’t expect to be impressed.

It was striking and meaningful to see all the men, more than a dozen, ringing her, with one woman orbiting in the back. I thought it a great weakness in the activist community, in Occupy, and in the Green Party, certainly within our chapter. We lacked female participation, and it was refreshing to see Brady stand up to the hostility that I think keeps interested women away.

Savant and I worked especially hard with all the major and many of the minor candidates that election to prepare for our chapter’s endorsement meeting.

Poet, the board member I’d recruited from Occupy, facilitated the endorsement meeting. Savant, Sabotage and I were the majority of the remaining voting members. The only woman in the room was a candidate for county office seeking our support.

This is the group that decided. It was a disappointing turn out, but not for lack of trying. For months I’d being getting the word out in newsletters, posts, emails, debates, and conversations.

Cameron Whitten won as our first choice, Eileen Brady as our second, and Jefferson Smith as our third. I liked Cameron. I would later approach him about replacing me as executive director.

I wrote to him:

Ideally for our chapter the Executive Director position is something that others can step into every year or so.  I can stay active by joining the board and still help out as much as I can.  I think it would be a great leadership experience for you if you can cut it.

I could see Cameron in the volunteer role of administering a minor party chapter, but I didn’t see him running a major city. I voted for Brady, but I accepted the order of endorsements. I volunteered for and publicly supported every candidate we picked in my role as executive director.

  • Pirate, Savant, Poet and others versus radical Occupy with Sabotage wavering.
A breakdown in consensus

Hammer was a Jefferson Smith supporter. So much so that he was willing to team up with Sabotage who didn’t like Smith any more than Brady. Their mutual goal was to take her down.

Brady loved being endorsed by the Green Party and even welcomed and promoted our first choice Whitten. She talked about us and we mattered enough for criticism and scrutiny from without and within.

I bent over backwards to address concerns. I changed Earth Day plans to work with Brady as I’d been doing with the other candidates so Sabotage could vent to her, but he could not be satisfied.

I was really looking forward to talking to her about Portland and my thoughts on the election, but I sacrificed what I wanted to do because of what I saw as my administrative responsibilities. I was trapped by a chapter on the verge, but never quite achieving stability. Too many plates were spinning.

Sabotage called for a re-vote on the endorsements at a members meeting. Hammer showed up to support him despite the distractions of the toddler daughter he brought along. Salesmen was present for his first chapter meeting, along with Poet and another board member I recruited from Occupy.

An important job of an executive director is the integrity of meetings.Hammer berated me in a tirade as I quietly fumed, took notes and looked after his wandering child. Sabotage was facilitating and doing a poor job managing time. They spent so long bullying the pulpit that our consensus process couldn’t be followed.

I wrote this in our minutes:

(Pirate)- adjourns decision making part of meeting without consensus due to time issue (around 8:45), facilitation break down, and consensus process not being known/implemented.

  • Pirate, Poet, Salesman, and others versus Sabotage, Hammer, and others with Savant wavering.
The first and last meeting of the seven

While I worked my day job, spent time with my family, and did my volunteerism Sabotage worked the board members, especially those I recruited from Occupy… except for Poet.

After Brady’s endorsement Poet had accepted a job on her campaign, which made him a pariah in Sabotage’s eyes.

It was supposed to be a night for me to geek out with some gaming friends. I needed the break and hoped the surprise board meeting wouldn’t take too long.

It was a bitter sweet moment to see the seven board members gathered together for the first time at the behest of a man that had been giving me so much grief. I figured it would be the last time they would ever be in the same room together.

After four hours it wasn’t a guess, but a premonition.

Sabotage started off with disqualifying Poet because of being on Brady’s staff. He thought I’d set him up with the job, and I clarified that I did no more than look meaningfully at the right moment. Sabotage was worried that board members were going to treat me like a friend rather than an executive director on trial. I was worried that the board would struggle simply to hold together.

Sabotage came at me with everything under his hat. A mountain of angst that had been building for months, even before Occupy had lit a fire under him.

He blamed me for hiring a canvasser that had being fired from another group for sexual harassment, despite this being Mercenary’s recruit and my feeling that repentant people can be given second chances.

He said I did a terrible job representing IRV at the charter review commission meeting, despite it being good enough to get a subcommittee made.

Lataya Dailey changing her mind after intitialy wanting to volunteer with the Green PartyHe said I didn’t listen to him when he told me to stop commenting on a facebook thread attacking me for organizing an election debate in Occupy and the Green Party’s name, which is true and I still don’t regret it. After 1,318 comments in a few days I think everyone’s concerns were addressed, and I hadn’t bowed to bullying.

He came at me with everything he could think of or imagine and finally expressed the heart of his discontent as “blocking” his attempt to re-vote on endorsements.

I missed Rocker. He’d left the board some months ago. He would have had my back.

I looked around the room. Savant was leaning back, trying to seem neutral, playing the game too clever. Poet was tongue-tied, unsure what he’d be allowed to do. The others were just looking at me and waiting for my defense.

I gave them none. “I have nothing to say.”

It was a rebellion. I felt the rage rising up as Sabotage droned on, and I refused to let it define my moment. I did the opposite of what I wanted to do and it felt great.

In hindsight I should have asked for a break to process everything Sabotage had said, and then I could have come back with a response to his re-vote blocking allegation and asked to table everything else.

Instead I sat it out and responded to prompts from board members.

Soon after I wrote to a curious member:

I didn’t counter a lot of (what Sabotage) said because, not because I thought what he said was valid or true, but because of time issues and wanted to let you guys figure out what to do.  It was a little frustrating to know th(at) most of you were out of touch with many of the details and (Sabotage) had contacted you all while I didn’t have a chance to.  Not for any nefarious reasons, but just that I’d been working 6 days straight for (my day job) in addition to all the Green Party stuff.

To a new board member I clarified that Rocker had asked me to be executive director. I did not seek it out, and I wasn’t interested in seeking to continue. I would only consider doing so if again asked, but I needed a board willing to be more active to ease the burden.

Savant was interested in Sabotage taking over for me and reigning in what I had made the position into.

I was eager to pass on my duties, but I didn’t trust Sabotage, and I wanted to respect the process that endorsed our candidates.

Savant was swayed by Sabotage and my disappointing defense. He was “happy (to have) a meeting to reconsider the endorsements”. This despite saying that at the last member meeting I had let Sabotage “go forty-five minutes over schedule to try to get consensus, and it was never reached”.

  • Pirate and Poet versus Sabotage and Savant with the rest of the board watching.
I wasn’t invited

Savant wanted Sabotage to run the re-vote meeting the board decided to support. I doubted Sabotage’s ability to organize it for the same reason I didn’t think he would make a good executive director. He wasn’t reliable.

He proved this when I got calls at my work from irate campaign mangers and curious news reporters about an announcement that the Green Party had removed endorsements from both Eileen Brady and Jefferson Smith.

Ipo all aloneThey not only had the re-vote meeting without inviting me, but they didn’t use any of the lists or social media that had been developed. I was told I’d been excluded accidentally. I believe Sabotage was incompetent enough for this to be true.

I was confused when I got the calls and I held back with the reporters, trying to salvage the situation. Sabotage accused me of running to the press. He projected that I disrespected the consensus process.

Sabotage, Savant, and Hammer came at me publicly for casting doubt on the re-vote meeting. I held my tongue and didn’t respond publicly to their comments for the sake of unity.

I heard from Savant that the meeting was nearly equally divided. If I had shown up alone and done nothing but raise my hand, then the endorsements would have likely stood.

I wouldn’t have come alone. I’d have brought enough members to assure Sabotage and Hammer’s idiocy was countered.

Salesman was a big fan of Brady. So much so that he had a separate Portland chapter he formed endorse her after the re-vote dropped her.

My exclusion was discounted as an accident. This was hard to swallow, but I tried. It was much harder to accept all the other members that were effectively excluded because they weren’t told about this meeting.

Savant now writes:

(Sabotage is) posting most of our social media stuff (and) you disagree with (him) on some fundamental level so he doesn’t post (in the facebook group) much since you control it. I tried to get you to work with him, but you refuse.

The initial endorsement members meeting had low participation, but after that our name was bouncing around campaigns and interest in us was high. I could have brought a dozen people with a few days warning.

To hear that Sabotage is still organizing exclusionary meetings is disheartening, and for the record Pirate is willing to work with him.

  • Pirate, PoetSalesman, and others versus SabotageSavant, Hammer, and others.

Rock the Ballot

I was disappointed in how things went down, but I was thrilled to have some responsibilities alleviated. It was wonderful to put aside administrating to focus more on a single project, and there was a great need.

In the midst of our chapter’s strife, the state party was endanger of getting kicked off the ballot entirely. We were desperate for thousands of new registered Greens.

Salesman was a new Green candidate that excited the party. When I first met him I offered to help his campaign, and I followed up with this even while under siege.

We came up with a plan to have an event that promoted voter registration. It was very ambitious and I leaned on the experience Salesman claimed to have.

Savant gave key support at the beginning, and Sabotage tripped up broader support from the party.

Salesman was seductive, but Rocker saw through his shine. His reluctance helped keep me wary. This led to the realization that our event could not be successful. Salesman had misrepresented what he could bring to the table. Sabotage was hampering chapter support as Hammer was hampering state party support.

I pulled out of the event, which enraged Salesman. He threatened my family and called every Green he knew.

I saw myself as jumping on a grenade for Savant and the Green Party. This guy was a problem. The party was in crisis, with Savant now its only hope.

Hammer tried to jump in with some old guard to salvage Rock the Ballot, but it was too little too late. Salesman stubbornly moved forward, and I don’t know of the event succeeding in any way, especially not in getting voters registered for the Green Party.

  • Pirate, Poet, Rocker, Savant, and Salesman versus Sabotage and Hammer initially but shifting to…
  • Pirate versus Salesman and Hammer with most everyone else confused.
Buying voters

Savant decided to hire Sabotage to help save the Green Party’s ballot status in Oregon. He funded a registration drive that worked.

I spoke against this. It was suggested that I had a problem with Sabotage profiting, but I just thought it would stimulate grassroots support if Oregonians saw what happens when they aren’t active.

Ultimately I did support the effort if not entirely loving the means.

Altruism doesn’t existgreenbirdonit2

My day job was manual labor so it was fun to use my brain. I liked being important. Having the ability to effect change is my definition of power, and I was enjoying a taste of it.

Being the executive director educated me in a way I hadn’t since college. I loved being in the crucible. I fine tuned my political beliefs and learned about issues I didn’t know were important to me until I heard them.

That part of my life is over. I don’t want to take on so much again, not with infighting isolating me. I would be willing to join a good team though…

Can’t we all just get along?

Blue and Green working together
Working together is supposed to make things easier.

Savant is banning me because of false claims.

I didn’t block Sabotage. He tried to bully past the consensus process.

Even if I did block him all those years ago, why ban me now?

What Savant and Sabotage are presenting as the current chapter is an even more exclusionary group than what existed at the Bipartisan Cafe. At least then Martyr would welcome anyone interested.

I can’t see what they have as a chapter of a political party, but rather an activist group that has chosen to keep its distance from me. I accept this and see a place for such groups, but if they want legitimacy then I require transparency and meetings promoted to party members.

  • Pirate versus Savant, Sabotage, and hypocrisy.

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