And The Nominees Are…
After months of public nominations, the day has finally come: here’s the current list of nominees for the 2011 Wheelies.
The awards are…
Best Supporting Activist
Oregon’s public interest sector is more than executive directors and elected officials. Those people are super-important and all, but a whole heckuva lot of the great work done in our fair state comes from the legislative aides, organizers and nonprofit program staffers working about a thousand hours a week for peanuts & basically no recognition.
So this is for them. There are hundreds of great folks working behind the scenes, but we had to pick a dozen people who stood out in the last two years. So here they are (and they are great).
This Salem native spends her days as a public-interest lobbyist with NW Public Affairs (good guy lobbyists) working to improve access to health care, human services, affordable housing and education for all Oregonians and is the association manager of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon, helping 120 organizations across the state protect Oregon’s most vulnerable populations and preserve vital services. Before NW Public Affairs & HSCO, Christel worked on the Obama for America, Yes on 66 & 67, Blumenauer for Congress and Kitzhaber 2010 campaigns. In her spare time, she volunteer to do voter-contact on hecka campaigns, takes in Timbers games & runs marathons like a maniac.
The Legislative Assistant for Rep. Greg Matthews, Derek got his first serious job in politics as Field Director on Greg Matthews’s first campaign in 2008. Since running a massive grassroots campaign and eventually winning, he’s proudest of his work trying to get good campaign finance reform passed in the 2011 session (and keeping bad reform from passing). In 2010, Derek won the Rebooting Democracy Oregon Idol contest for his campaign finance plans. He also worked hard trying to attract moderates to the cause of tuition equity and working to improving veteran services in the state. He also rocks a mean mustache.
Gus is the Oregon Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. As a fisher, surfer, kayaker and diver, Gus is committed to protecting Oregon’s oceans and supporting coastal communities. He played a big role in restoring Oregon’s ban on off-shore drilling and is actively engaged in the campaign to ban plastic bags in Oregon. On top of his lobbyist duties, Gus is a member of the Cape Perpetua and Coos Bay marine reserve community teams, the Territorial Sea Plan Advisory Committee and was on former Gov. Kulongoski’s Nearshore Research Task Force. When he’s not saving the oceans, he’s…duh, surfing.
As Rep. Jim Weidner’s legislative assistant, Jameson has been a champion of constituent care. In the last legislative session, he introduced HB 3189 (aka “Legalize Cookies”) on behalf of a Yamhill county bakery owner to allow the Red Fox bakery to keep selling their delicious cookies without having to secure a separate license. He also spearheaded HB 3334 (Bread Purity Act) which updated our bread laws to allow for organic whole grain breads to be sold without the mandate that requires the presence of artificial vitamins that do not naturally occur in whole grain bread and provided key help on an effort to remove Oregon investments from human-rights violating states. He’s also way less pixelated in real life.
On top of Steve’s role as the organizer for Oregon Action, he’s played a key volunteer role in organizations across the state. Ok, deep breath: he’s the treasurer for the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, vice-president of the Young Oregon Democrats of America, treasurer of the Multnomah County Young Democrats and helped start up a chapter of US Uncut in Portland, organizing around economic justice. He also made some national blog-o-sphere news this year for getting fired from Wells Fargo after sending an e-mail to the entire staff suggesting the bank workers unionize, which is, ya know, badass.
Jaime’s taken a bold and unprecedented role in bringing a voice to Oregon’s immigrant student community. Jaime’s day/night/weekend job is as a youth mentor for the Student Alliance Project, which grew out of the “Papers” movie project and seeks to cultivate leadership among multicultural youth in Oregon and Southwest Washington. He’s also the volunteer leader of the Northwest Immigrant Youth Alliance, a team of young north-westerners who are “undocumented, unapologetic and unafraid”. He recently led Coming Out of the Shadows a bus trip for undocumented youth to the Tacoma Detention Center to demonstrate against the anti-immigrant “Secure Communities” program. He also really knows his way around a megaphone.
As Project Coordiantor for the landmark Labor Project, a partnership between Basic Rights Oregon and SEIU 503, Jen Lleras is all about bringing together communities. Right now, she’s working on the critical project of building support for marriage equality amongst working people and building support for the right to organize among the LGBT community. Up until this year, though, Jen was the organizing director of the Oregon Student Association, where she led countless students to register tens of thousands of volunteers every election cycle. She’s also an unstoppable Duck fan.
As staff assistant to Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum, this Corvallisian has made her mark on a whole mess of major policy advancements in Oregon: working to create a paid family leave and medical leave program, increasing Oregon’s Earned Income Tax Credit to support low-income working Oregonians, banning the use of job discrimination based on credit history and, most recently, closing a health insurance loophole that unfairly disqualified women diagnosed with breast & cervical cancer from access to treatment. She’s currently pursuing her Public Policy Master’s degree at OSU & is proud to be a Beaver amongst all these Ducks.
As newly minted staff to House Democratic Leader Tina Kotek, she’s the master of connecting individuals to vital services and otherwise supporting awesome public interest causes. Back when she was legislative aide to Rep. Michael Dembrow, she was deeply involved in coalitions that fought for the Health Care for All Oregon Act, Tuition Equity and passed Tuition Waivers for Foster Youth. Michelle was an intern for the first class of Emerge Oregon in 2009, worked to pass Measures 66 & 67, ran the field operation for the Rev. Chuck Currie’s 2010 Multnomah County Commission campaign. When she’s not working or volunteering for progressive causes, Michelle can be found waving her scarf in the Timbers Army.
Emily S. Ryan
Most known as a mentor to the Multnomah Youth Commission, Emily carries a wide variety of experiences and organizational affiliations. From canvassing for the New Voters Project and the Bus Project, to rallying in Washington, DC, Emily has gained the experience and knowledge it takes to be an axle on the wheel of empowered change. Nationally, Emily has been involved with Mobilize.Org, Bioneers, the Energy Action Coalition, Generation Waking Up, and the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation. Here in Oregon, Emily works on homeless, poverty, racial equality, LGBTQ, environment, and youth voice issues. She’s also more or less the Queen of Twitter.
Basically born into unstoppable activism (his family is of Tinker v. Des Moines fame), Alex has made a big splash in more than a few arenas of the movement. Most recently as legislative aide to Rep. Jefferson Smith, Alex was key in the creation of GrowOregon, the new program to nurture small, local businesses. Before working in the legislature, he was instrumental in the appointment of Rep. Lew Frederick to the state legislature, led the national environmental nonprofit Focus the Nation to engage students across the country around climate change and back in the day worked as field manager for Working America. He’s got NEP (Northeast Portland) tattooed on the back of his neck, in case you were worried that he wasn’t hard-core enough.
Becca’s spent more than 15 years working in Oregon politics, starting with her mother’s successful bid for the Oregon Legislature in 1994. Right now, she does PR & Media for the Oregon Education Association, representing Oregon’s public school teachers. Back in the day, she’s served as staff for Kate Brown and worked on a number of successful campaigns including races for Portland City Council and School Board, Governor John Kitzhaber’s School Accountability ballot measure in 2000 and directing communications for the 2006 Defend Oregon campaign and served as the Executive Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon during the 2004 election cycle. She currently serves on the board of the Oregon League of Minority Voters & enjoys pretending to play the fiddle.
Not Just Left or Right, But Forward Award
This award goes to a great public policy idea with substantial bipartisan support. These ideas bring unlikely partners together through meaningful collaboration and generate creative solutions to common problems. By recognizing a policy, this award recognizes the many people across the political spectrum that have worked on the policy, not necessarily any two elected officials.
Bottle Bill Update
HB 3145, the much-anticipated update to Oregon’s trademark bipartisan recycling law, was championed by Rep. Ben Cannon (D) & Rep. Vicki Berger (R) and a host of advocacy groups from across the political spectrum. Read all about it here.
Turns out banning toxic chemicals from products that are designed for kids to put in their mouths is a pretty broadly supported idea. While SB 695 didn’t have the support to cross the finish line this session, it made it quite an impact, in no small part to its bipartisan champions. Drink in more info here.
HB 3376 (passed with bipartisan support & was signed by the Guv) doubles down on Oregon’s love of the 3 Fs (fairness, forgiveness and forward-thinking-ness) by allowing former felons who have gone 20 years conviction-free to have their class-B felonies cleared from their records, allowing them contribute to society free of stigma. Watch testimony from a MercyCorpsNW employee and former felon in favor of the idea.
Loan Forgiveness for Rural Primary Care Providers
Rural areas are often aching for medical care (anybody remember Doc Hollywood? Anybody?) and especially needs those all-too-rare family doctors & nurses. This year an unlikely team of legislators put together HB 2387, which is designed to solve this problem by offering big incentives to primary care providers that choose to bring their skills to rural Oregon. Check up on the details of the policy here.
SB 742 would’ve given all Oregonians a fair shot at a college education, regardless of documentation status. And while it couldn’t clear the final hurdles of partisanship in the Oregon House in the 2011 session, this bill was the product of business, labor & community groups coming together, supported by a cadre of compassionate legislators on both sides of the aisle. Learn why the Oregonian Editorial Board endorsed the idea here.
Tuition Waivers for Foster Youth
Oregon does a lot to invest in our foster youth. This year, led by Rep. Dembrow (D) and Rep. Wingard (R), the legislature doubled down on this investment by passing HB 3471, making attaining a college education more possible than ever before. Read up on it here.
Plastic Bag Ban
Plastic bags—they’re everywhere and they’re a major source of pollution and added expense to recycling facilities. So why not just ban them? A bunch of legislators on both sides of the aisle think so, at least. While SB 536 hasn’t passed yet, it’s a sharp idea to move our manual food transportation system into the 21st century. Snag more info here.
New Policy on the Block Award
This award is for the James Dean of policies—rebellious, with a sexy, casual disregard for the status quo AND with an undeniably timeless genius. This policy impresses us with its sunglasses-and-leather jackets approach to politics, but it’s the long-term vision for building a better future that really turns us on.
HB 2960, a win-win-win bill that was totally signed into law, will make Oregon’s schools more energy efficient—creating jobs, saving money & improving the environment in one fell swoop. Read all about it here, and see how some of the bill’s many sponsors describe it here.
HB 3644 will help nurture small, local business development in Oregon, growing a new generation of great Oregon business from the ground-up, just like sunflowers or zucchinis. Read an op-ed from a few sponsors of an earlier version here.
Oregon State Bank
The idea for the Oregon State Bank moves us into the future by digging way back into North Dakota’s past. It would save the state cash, kick-start the economy, and all profits go to the people of Oregon. While HB 2972 hasn’t passed into law yet, it’s got a bright future ahead of it. Hear what Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler had to say here and learn more about the campaign behind it here.
HB 3149 (signed into law) allows car-owning Oregonians to share their cars to their neighbors without having to worry about problems with their insurance. It’s a creative take on solving our transportation challenges and all it took was a clever tweak to car insurance rules in the state. Read up on it here.
Trans-Inclusive Health Care
This summer, the city of Portland continued its legacy of trend-setting policy by passing trans-inclusive health care for all city employees. Now everyone who works for the city can have their health care needs met, regardless of gender identity. Read more about the policy & its ground-breaking-ness here.
Work Place Protections for Day Laborers
This brand new policy proposal seeks to solve a 21st century problem with a creative application of early 20th century thinking. HB 2833 / SB 610 provide basic work place protections—including the protection against wage theft—for day laborers, giving them the same protections other works have enjoyed for the last century or so. Learn a bit more about wage theft here.
Irrationally Benevolent Award
This year’s crop of nominees nails the spirit of the Irrationally Benevolent Award. These are the good people who do good stuff for no good reason. They organized their communities, advocated passionately for issues on the ballot and in the legislature, raised money for causes they cared about, and greased the wheels of democracy.
There’s a whole bunch of problems out there that affect all of us. Nobody asked these folks to step up and tackle these problems. And what’s more, nobody paid them to do it either. They just did. And that’s why they’re awesome.
Erika Molina & Jackie Altamirano – Volunteer Leaders of Oregon DREAMers
Many of you might have known about the fight for Tuition Equity (SB 742) in the 2011 legislative session, a bill that would have given all Oregon students in-state tuition rates, regardless of documentation status. Two of the real heroes of this effort were Erika and Jackie, the volunteer leaders of the student group Oregon DREAMers. These two local community college students took on the mantle of organizing their classmates in support of Tuition Equity, an all-volunteer operation that set a new standard for everyday people getting involved in the political process. Check out their FB page here.
Outdoor School Student Leaders – Leading the Charge to Save Outdoor School
After steep funding cuts threatened shorter trips to Outdoor School of Portland-area students, a group of high school seniors took on the challenge of raising money to meet the funding gap. Yelin, Chiara and Russell, all former Outdoor School student leaders, led a group of hundreds, including their peers, parents and teachers, in an ambitious effort that has so far raised over $25,000. Here’s what Anna Griffin at The Oregonian had to say.
Changing the Climate in Cully – Creating Jobs & Greening the Cully Neighborhood
Last year, a group of volunteers banded together under the banner of “Changing the Climate in Cully.” They reached out to neighbors in the Cully neighborhood—one of Portland’s more underserved communities—to connect them with the Clean Energy Works Portland residential weatherization retrofit program. At the end of the project, over 200 Cully community members applied for the retrofits and a dozen new living wage jobs had been created from the resulting work. The effort was sponsored by the Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good but at its core it was a product of volunteer energy. Learn more about the project here and here.
Brian Rohter – The Volunteer Champion of Voter Owned Elections
Last October the co-founder and former CEO and board chair of New Seasons stepped up as a tireless advocate for Portland’s Voter Owned Elections system, serving as a prominent spokesperson and business voice for the campaign. He had no direct personal incentive in the race. He just believed in the cause and knew Portland’s democracy would be better off for it. Here he is in The Oregonian and on “Think Out Loud.” See how awesome he is?
League of Women Voters of Oregon Education Fund Voter Service Committee – Your Nonstop Nonpartisan Source of Election Info
Voting: like so many things, it’s way better when you know what you’re doing. Countless Oregonians get to experience the joy of informed voting in large part thanks to the all-volunteer work of the Voter Service Committee. This group of dozens of women (and a few men) puts together non-partisan voter guides for state and local races in Oregon. They have nothing at stake in the races. They just want to make democracy run a little smoother. Check out their handy work here.
High-Road Business Award
The nominees for the High-Road Business Award are a diverse set. They include companies big and small. Some you’ve heard of, and others you probably haven’t. But whether through the products and services they provide to the world or through the way they manage their business on the inside, these Oregon businesses are united by a common commitment to using their shops to help solve public problems.
Whether it’s preserving the environment, taking care of workers or giving back to the community, these nominees show there’s more than one way to balance public good with the profit motive. Some call it the triple-bottom line. Others call it social and environmental responsibiltiy. We like to call it taking the High Road.
This Oregon-grown small business started just three years ago, and already they’re one of the leading biodiesel producers in the state. Unlike other biodiesel shops that use fresh soybeans and other food crops for their fuel, their Albany, OR, factory takes it to the next level by using recycled vegetable cooking oil, making their fuel less carbon intensive and less competitive with the food supply. The net result is a fuel that’s cleaner burning (which is better for everyone’s health) with less of a strain on the environment. Good stuff. Get the low-down at their website.
Dave’s Killer Bread
Sure, you’ve seen their bread in just about every Portland area market. Heck, maybe you’ve even made a sandwich with it. And if you’re like us, you love it. But where Dave’s Killer Bread really shines is in their approach to giving formerly incarcerated people a second chance. Currently 25% of their workforce is formerly incarcerated, with many of them advancing to leadership positions within the company. It’s pretty much the best thing since—oh, you get it. Get the full scoop here.
Founded in 2006 by a group of engineers (including one early Bus volunteer) Elemental Technologies is a Portland-based business that provides video-processing technology to media companies around the world. Not only are they a thriving business (read: they make a lot of $$$), but they do it all while fostering an environmentally friendly and community-engaged workplace. They make it super easy for their employees to get to work without a car, and they regularly engage in volunteer projects for things like renovating low-income housing and raising money for OPB. Visit them online here.
FMYI (which stands for For My Innovation, to quench your curiosity) is a local technology company started in a coffee shop in Portland. They provide collaborative software to everyone from local non-profits to Fortune 500 corporations, and do it all while being committed to, as they call it, “a journey towards zero impact.” With built-in sustainability features in their platform, FMYI helps empowers teams to make a difference. And they do a heck of a lot—FMYI is a certified B Corporation helping over 40 organizations in Oregon and beyond who are committed to a better world. Learn more here.
The local animation studio behind Coraline pays painstaking attention to every little detail in their films and commercials. They bring the same attention to detail to keeping their shop running in a positive way. Their “Soul Corps” team works to make sure the company supports community organizations. Employees can earn PTO for volunteering and can earn matching contributions for donations to their favorite causes. And their “Gang Green” environmental task force keeps the company running in all sustainable-like. Take a peak.
Mycorrhizal fungi might not sound like the sexiest way to save the environment, but dang is it effective. This small business based in Grants Pass, OR, produces and sells mycorrhizal fungi to farmers around the world. The fungus attaches to the roots of the crops helping it to be more effective in consuming water & nutrients. The result? Agriculture that uses less water and requires less fertilizer. It’s an innovative and natural solution that helps farmers and the planet. Add that to the fact that this small business is creating jobs in rural Oregon and you’ve got yourself a ticket to the high road. Just gotta see ’em in action? Look no further.
It’s tough work starting a small business. The good people at Probity Builders know that, and built a business to incubate local small businesses, focusing on those started by women and people of color. They do everything from coaching to providing cheap office space with a copy machine. They’re growing the next wave of Oregon’s businesses and work to ensure that the next generation of Oregon’s leading business people looks more than a little bit like the rest of the state. Here they are in their HTML best.