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Fostering Portland’s Artistic Community w/ Chris Funk

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About this Episode

May 16, 2020

Sarah joined musician Chris Funk / @criticalfunk on Instagram Live to discuss fostering the artistic community in Portland.

Find your nearest ballot drop box at sarah2020.com/dropboxes.

Here's how you can help get Sarah elected Portland's next mayor on May 19th:

Have a question for Sarah? Email it to ourportland@sarah2020.com.

Transcript

This transcript was generated automatically and has not been reviewed for accuracy by our transcription team yet. Please email ourportland@sarah2020.com if you would like to help!

Speaker 1
Welcome to our Portland with Sarah Ayana road made possible by contributors to friends of Sarah for Portland. Portlanders have everything we need to make radical progress today on emergencies like climate chaos, housing affordability, and staggering inequality. Each episode we'll hear how Sarah plans to be the mayor to lead the city of Portland to a more equitable and sustainable future. And now here's Sarah.

Speaker 2
Hi, Portland. Sara, I Anna rune here. I'm running for Portland mayor. My pronouns are she, her. Ooh. Election day is right around the corner. Tuesday, May 19th I think you've already missed your last chance to safely mail in your ballot. So you're going to have to look for a Dropbox. You can go to the Mount Noma County elections website and find a location near you. This is a very important election. It's a given that we'll have the same incumbent through the end of 2020 but who do we want to be our mayor through the recovery and into the next phase of our prosperity starting on January 1st, 2021 I hope it's someone who thought of a green new deal in advance of coven. So when he's thinking about good government reform so that everybody's voice matters here and someone committed to avoiding displacement and making sure that Portland stays affordable for the future. All right. You want to hear me talk a little bit about this with one of our most famous musicians here in town. Here's a special episode of a conversation I had on Instagram live with Chris Frank of the Decemberists. It was a wonderful talking with him about his understanding of how and why Portland works for creatives, what I might do as mayor to support that and to maybe even a little conversation about Indiana's favorite card game. Without further ado, enjoy our talk.

Speaker 3
Hi Sarah. Hi. How are you? I'm good. How are you? You know, staying alive here in Southeast Portland at the time of coven and your have a warm head. I have a very warm head, a very Portland look today, don't I? There's nothing more comforting than a warm beanie, I don't think. Awesome. So for people watching, this is mayor may Oriel may oral candidate for Portland, Oregon, Sarah Ann [inaudible]. Am I pronouncing your last name correctly? I am sorry, I fumbled through Bryn. Sarah. Awesome. Can say the last name. Awesome. Well, she's on your ballot. Um, I've voted for her. Um, thank you. So please, uh, everybody should know that balance or do I believe May 19th, right? Yep. Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me here on, uh, Instagram live and, um, I just, I guess would want to ask you a few questions to, to acquaint people with you that have not made their decisions for voting for Marietta. Um, some things that attracted me to you as a candidate, um, were, um, your position on the, on the, on home does. I like to refer to them. That's a compassionate way of putting it. Yeah. So our, our Portland, uh, homeless population. I wonder if you could speak to that a little bit.

Speaker 2
Yeah. And thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate your taking time to engage in civics. One of the things that's made me so happy about this campaign and the fact that we're building this grassroots momentum has been the reach that we've had in terms of trying to engage folks from all parts of Portland, arts and culture and small business and entrepreneurship that just generally don't weigh in on this stuff because either they feel not very engaged or it's not very inspiring. So I really appreciate you hosting me today. Of course. Yeah. And yeah, you know, the, the situation of our housing crisis is so intractable in many ways, it's beyond us. And people laugh a little bit when I talk about it being a global issue, but it really is, you look at cities all around the world and what we're seeing is how housing a speculation and corporate profiteering off of something like access to housing has affected urban dwellers all around the world.

Speaker 2
This is not unique to Portland, but what I am proposing is that our solutions can be and should be uniquely Portland. And that may be what's resonant resonating with you is the fact that in Portland we have a way of doing things that includes making sure that we are connecting with each other as community, making sure that we're not racing resources or leaving good ideas off the table, making sure that we're not focused more on the profits of corporations than we are on say, small business owners or local people who want to be helpers while making a livelihood, right. Earning a right livelihood. And so for me, the approach has just really squandered opportunity in so many ways. When I think about all the design capacity here and the innovation capacity and nonprofit capacity and community capacity and neighborhood capacity, how is it that we're not able to leverage that for unique outcomes?

Speaker 2
We had dignity village here 20 years ago now and they just had their 20 year anniversary. And so it's not like these models are anathema to us. Sure. So I just want to be deploying what we do best. And if you don't have a mayor who's connected to the people of Portland in that sense, and I don't want to make it all about heart, but in some ways it is largely about heart. It's about hearts and minds and inspiration and connectedness that these solutions are going to be iterative. We're going to learn together, we're going to try things and fail. And that may be on the other side of that, we actually have some really amazing strategies that we can share with cities around the world.

Speaker 3
Right? Absolutely. I mean, I people, uh, touring in a rock band, people look to Portland, um, all the time. Uh, we tour across the United States and people ask us about Portland. Portland's a leader, um, having grabbed, lived in Portland for over 20 years and grew up in the Midwest. And I look at how we do things here. We do things differently and I think we lead here, um, culturally and also I think politically we can as well. Yeah.

Speaker 2
Yeah. And don't you think, I love that you bring that perspective though, because that's an outsized reputation. Right? And I've worked internationally with cities around the world and you've traveled to them. In some ways, we need to maintain that, not just as part of our competitive advantage in the global marketplace, but as a responsibility, as a city that carries that reputation. If we're not doing our very best and we know that people from around the world are looking to us, we have a responsibility as a role model to be going above and beyond even what Portlanders need because we know people are watching. Right. That's a huge, I think, ethical imperative to us doing better too.

Speaker 3
Yeah, of course. Sure. Yeah. Um, one of the things that I've appreciated you speaking to recently too was the subject of, of campaign finance and, um, what's been going on. And I was wondering if you could update any Portlanders or beyond what's happening with our mayoral race and campaign finance.

Speaker 2
We are so excited. This is groundbreaking and in some ways this is where Portland does best, right? Civic innovation. And what does it mean for us to rethink how we're going to do things? 50 years ago it was forming a whole new government. So that we could create an urban growth boundary and constraints sprawl. We've thought for a very long time about beating back highways and making investments in transit with other cities were expanding their highway infrastructure. So it's not an athema for us to be iconic classic in terms of governance and how we come together. So the fact that this has been the wild West of campaign finance to me is a little disconcerting, especially when you look at some of these state races and how much money say Phil Knight gave to Newt Bueller last cycle. And just bananas to me how this can, uh, rule the landscape.

Speaker 2
I liked Rob Davis is polluted by money series in the Oregonian where he talked to just about how the lack of campaign finance regulation is resulted in us really being hogtied when it comes to trying to realize some of the goals that we profess to espouse through policy like climate action. So when Portlanders who are working on honest elections here came together. There were a few things coming down the pipe that when I built a team, they were the folks who had been working on this for a decade or more. And the first one was called honest elections. And now that was a ballot measure that voters passed by 87.4% that said that we are going to cap campaign contributions locally at $500 and Multnomah County had passed it previously. People like the Portland business Alliance and the realtor's association. A lot of the people that you know, our incumbent mayor hangs out with actually took that all the way to the Supreme court saying, nah, just give it writing big checks to candidates is free speech.

Speaker 2
You know, we've heard this argument all over. And so we've been waiting for that Supreme court decision to come down. And fortunately it came down a couple of weeks ago in our favor, which is that law was actually never enjoined and should be upheld as it has been in full effect this whole time. And so we're actually suing the mayor's campaign right now saying you're holding a lot of money that was accepted illegally. We'll see how that plays out in the courts. But I thought it was our kind of our, our duty to uphold that. Now the other one that's really exciting is publicly financed elections. Now when you look at the 2016 mayor's race and look at just about 400 donors shaped the outcome of that race in terms of being able to write the majority of checks for the money that came in. And then you think about now under campaign, publicly financed elections, it means that I can focus on a small donor campaign of over 3000 donors. We're on track to set Portland city elections, history of people writing checks of around $30 a piece that is going to level the playing field against these folks who are writing $20,000 checks to politicians and means Portlanders everyday. Portlanders voice doesn't matter in politics and it has been transformative. I am just, it's so exciting to see. I can't wait for election night.

Speaker 3
That's amazing. What's, uh, what's it been like? Um, campaigning in an era of covert, I mean obviously we're doing this, this is something that is free and you can use to your advantage. But I mean, how has, how has that been, um, how has it been affecting your campaign or your momentum or your, your um, outlook on, on the campaigning in general?

Speaker 2
Yeah, I, we joke that I'm smiling cause we had to set up, you know, a multimedia empire. We joke about what my operations manager was the CTO for Pickathon and I have a huge capacity existing going into this knowing that we were going to try to be connecting with a wider range of Portlanders. Anyway, so for us it's been a real Testament to the capacity that we built by building our campaign around young people from day one, innovation, marketing, communications, deep policy that was grounded in things like resilience and equitable futures. Anyway, so in some ways the policies that I proposed are more relevant than pre coven, which has been phenomenal. A Testament to the fact that we were listening to frontline communities on things like climate action because the same types of resiliency that we need to deal with climate change are exactly what are going to protect us in the face of public health crises or political upheaval or even economic upheavals.

Speaker 2
So it's been a learning experience, but I feel grateful that we have been able to connect with each other because our phone, our people phone banking, our talking to elders, our phone banking calls are lasting so much longer now than they would have pre coven. People are lonely. They want to connect. They, they're happy to be called by a campaign, which is like, usually they're like, don't call me anymore. Right. And so just to be able to use our existing campaign capacity to connect with each other has been so phenomenal. Um, I'm so grateful for Portland's community. I don't know about you, but when I look around at Portland, I'm always really proud of our people.

Speaker 3
Absolutely. Yeah, of course. Yeah. I live here by choice for sure. Yeah. Um, w w for those of us that might not know your background, um, you're not coming from a long institutionalized, uh, uh, governance background, right? So what, what is your background and what do you think of your experience and your background you're going to bring to the mayor's office that will benefit us all?

Speaker 2
Yeah, I definitely don't have that career politician vibe in some ways. I call myself a reluctant politician. I'm a pragmatic problem solver and I just looked for the levers of problem, the levels, the levers of power that are going to help me achieve the outcomes that I want. Right? I was just a mom who wanted a crosswalk, uh, 15 years ago so that we could get our kids safely to that beautiful mountain Scott Park and community center where they have the slide and the swimming pool and the playground and the transportation department said, well, we can't give you a crosswalk because that's not really a safe crossing and someone got killed trying to cross the street. We'd be liable. And my thought is a mom was like, that's idiotic. What's wrong with you people? We, we need to be putting in crosswalks and then ensuring it's safe.

Speaker 2
You don't not put in a crosswalk because it's not safe. And it's been a, it's been just a constant. Um, I guess what I would say is civic engagement, right? Of trying to find the institutions that can shape outcomes in Portland. And so I've worked, um, at my neighborhood association, I've worked on rethinking the strategic plan for what was formerly called, uh, the Portland development commission and is now called prosper Portland. Uh, thinking about the comprehensive plan update and how we would, uh, increase density here so that there's more affordable housing for Portlanders, uh, looking at our climate action plan and our transportation plan and thinking about all the ways that we can put forth policy to achieve outcomes that we want. Now, on the other side of that, I was a small business owner, so back in 2006, um, I opened a little joint here and brunch joint, you know, the types of places that people line up outside of, and it becomes a urban legend via Portlandia of people.

Speaker 2
Like, I still refuse to line up for breakfast, but I knew a lot of Portlanders do. And so I was happy to make that possible for my neighborhood when we had some pretty disparaging nicknames out here, which people used to call it felony flats and meth L'Chaim. And when I looked around I just didn't see that it wasn't my place. It was vibrant and the neighbors were awesome and there were trees and parks and so much good stuff. So we opened that small business and I understood the complexity there. And it's actually gone out of business since coven because of coven. But this notion that you can have someone who understands what makes Portland tick at the street level, it's our neighborhoods and that's something that we can maintain. Even as we grow. We don't have to turn into Seoul, right? As our population grows, we, I actually know that people from Sol visit here or um, Tokyo because they want to learn how to recreate our neighborhood scale style of urban development.

Speaker 2
So it's that notion of being really connected to that. I have a strong background in and then my training at Portland state university. So what I did was, uh, look at cities as this human settlement pattern really where we can start to think about as humans on this planet dealing with global warming, which we still had the courage to call it then, um, how are we going to use energy more efficiently? How can we arrange our housing and move around these places where we live together to try and conserve resources so that our children have a planet to inhabit. And still, so I studied sustainable urban development there and actually ended up, um, having the job of hosting, visiting leaders for around the world who were coming to Portland to study sustainable urban development policy. So I would have the parks director of Copenhagen over here asking Portlanders wait, you have this rom prophet friends of trees that plants trees and then the trees grow because Portlanders understand how to take care of trees. Wait, cause we bought 10,000 trees and they died because we didn't have enough city staff to plant them. So it's not like we're not leading on amazing things in Portland, but my, my insider information about what's working here and what's not relative to other cities around the globe is something I don't think we've had an a mayor in quite some time. So I would actually like to bring that it's this really nice balance of professional training, um, global expertise and just street cred probably as if you wanted to put it in a nutshell.

Speaker 3
Right? Absolutely. Um, as you know, I being a member of in Portland as quote unquote artistic community, um, and it's, uh, having lived here for 20 years ago, it was a much different place as a living here as an artist. Um, we often talk about how you can get a big house with all your friends and start a rock and roll band and then, um, those, those types of opportunities I feel like are waning. I still see them here and there. But do you have any, um, any approach or any ideas of how you can help foster this thing that we hang our hat on, which is Portland's artistic community, right? So it being an affordable place for young people to live and um, you know, get a job as a dishwasher and hone their craft and then take it to the, to the masses. You know, I think that's an important thing, um, for the city to be thinking about that. I think Wheeler, you know, PR, I don't really see how that's how he's our, our artistic community right now and I feel like it's budgets are being slashed, um, to, to help the arts right now. So is that something that speaks to you or resonates with you?

Speaker 2
Sure. And I mean it comes right down to, I use this illustration. We had those 30 food cards right downtown, right by the Galleria, the Ritz Carlton owned by Marriott corporation and opportunities zone where they're receiving immense tax breaks. They want to build a Ritz Carlton right there, center of downtown. Why? It's not because Portland's an unattractive place. It's because Portland's amazingly attractive to people from around the world who want to visit there. Why? Because of our arts and culture. Because of the vibrant neighborhoods, because of trees and parks and clean air and clean water. They hear it's an amazing place to visit. And so what happens, we displaced 30 small family businesses in those food cards with no succession plan, no requirement that Hey Ritz Carlton, you need to put in a commissary kitchen and actually create storefronts for these businesses. Because this is what makes Portland attracted visitors anyway.

Speaker 2
We allow them to be displaced. It means I don't give a shit about you, right? Which is what we're telling small entrepreneurs. Each one of those food carts is a small family business. Like the one that I had opened. Not to mention the fact that if we take all of that for granted, no one's going to want to come here anyway. So it's not like it's altruism to take care of our artists and creatives and small businesses and entrepreneurs. It's the basis of our success. Why would you take that for granted? Why would you ever, um, like not focus on preserving and protecting that and investing in that at all costs. And also why would you let the Marriott corporation just like have a free pass in our city? I never knew anyone who was like, Oh I'm going there cause they have a good Ritz Carlton in that town.

Speaker 2
No one says that. And so it's this notion of what you measure and what you focus on is what you're going to get. And if you think we have to put on our big boy pants and put on a suit and tie to be successful in the global marketplace, you don't understand Portland at all because the reason that the New York times fell in love with us and the reason that you end up having a Portlandia show in the first place is because we were iconic classic and we said we're going to make a good place for our people. And when you have a good place for your people, you can be Barcelona, you can be Paris. It doesn't matter when your people are happy and enjoy living there. That shows and people from all around the world, they want to part of it because it's something so special and I hate that we are losing that and letting that slip between our fingers on the current mayor's watch because once we lose it, you can't get it back. Yep. Yep. It drives me bananas. Sorry I get so passionate about it. But you speak

Speaker 3
like this, you know, it's how I feel. Um, as I watch a lot of our culture evaporators, I hear the younger people, you know, I produce music as well and I hear, um, I work with a lot of younger bands and I hear their, um, problems just living in this city right now and it, it's, we're going to start to lose that culture here. The things that we're known for, they're going to become, um, you like they, the example of like you just saying like putting the, at least being given the, the food carts have given an opportunity to have a commissary in the Ritz Carlton. I think that's would have been amazing. But it also breaks my heart to be like, wow, these things that are Portland are going to be compartmentalized and kind of made to look like I'm downtown Disney or something.

Speaker 2
Well, but that's the thing. I think we as Portlanders have to fight right now and what we have to fight for is I think a couple of things. One, we cannot take our foot off the gas in terms of climate adaptation, mitigation and fighting climate change because that's going to keep us economically resilient. It's going to keep us prospering and able to bounce back to affordability if we allow everyone to be displaced, not just our artists and creatives, our teachers, our small business startups, um, our families. Then we're not a, we're not a convivial city where we enjoy each other. Who wants a playground for elites that you want to be San Jose, you want to be San Francisco, even look at Seattle like they've lost touch with their place. It's not a place anymore. And then you think about things like traffic and like you want to end up like Los Angeles.

Speaker 2
No, like we have to fight right now. For the good life. And we can't just let that accrue to like white people in inner Southeast Portland. We have to see like East Portland and North Portland and anti-displacement as critical so that all of the Portlanders have a shot at this good life and the opportunities for community energy and municipal broadband and like thinking outside the box. We're built for that. Why are we not doing that? I hate it. It's like who we are. Yeah. So I think we can still do it, but I do think this election is critical. I wouldn't be running again if I did and I thought it was critical back in 2016, which is why I ran the first time. I just, we don't have a lot of time to, to dig this out.

Speaker 3
Yeah. What, um, if anybody's just joining us too, this is Sarah. I'm voting for her for mayor. So she's a mayoral candidate here in Portland, Oregon. And we're just having a chat. Um, what, uh, so you'll, you'll be inheriting this brave different world also with a post, you know, put, hopefully postcode or could be continued coated. Um, once you're elected. Mayor. So what, um, man, that's a whole another can of worms you have to think about, you know, hit the ground running. So do you have any sort of like thoughts around that or any sort of like anybody on your team helping you, like assimilate a plan of action for how you, um, inherit this, this mess to be handed? You know,

Speaker 2
I mean we, this is where someone who operates in community who has a strong network, not just among Portland's nonprofits and small businesses, but also a global network of people who are leading. I was briefed on Kobe back in early March, got a word from an epidemiologist, from a virologist, checked in with my friends around the globe and said, I see the self-imposed soft core hardcore team coming and now we're going to have to think about how we short for community. And so by March 12th, I had issued a community action plan for responding to coven that was around clarity about who was doing what. It was about citywide communication networks. It was about the eviction moratorium, but not just that, but making sure there were some resources. On the other side cause what's everyone going to do when that moratorium is lifted? It's going to be like a tsunami of debt coming on our people.

Speaker 2
It's about thinking about the role of the Portland mayor, not as some shill for wall street, but when we're looking at not just our renters and our small business tenants, but our small business landlords and the people who have small buildings here like I want to fight wall street for Portlanders, like who gives a shit about wall street profits right now? Like if you're in that space, I don't want you displaced and I want a mayor that I know is going to fight for me on that front because just like losing that family small business, once they're gone, how are people going to get back in?

Speaker 3
Yeah, they're not, the vultures are hovering. I feel like. Yeah. Not to sound like a conspiracy person, but I really believe that.

Speaker 2
Yeah. I mean look at Katrina. It's not like we're imagining things. I used to live in new Orleans before I came to Portland and I saw the impacts of Katrina and what happened with regard to people who had been renting on very informal terms. And then post Katrina, what happened when speculative global interests came in and just swept that undermined their whole arts and culture community because the people who could afford to live there and make art and contribute to that were not the highest wage earners in that society. And so access to housing that was affordable and access to community capacity and having all of that broken apart has really undermined, I think new Orleans is strength because that was part of its brand and part of its, you know, contribution to the world.

Speaker 3
Yeah. It's such a fantastic city that has forever changed unfortunately. And it still has a lot of vibrance but not quite the same. You know, and I, I could see that happening here and that's, that's exactly what I'm talking about with this thing that our city is known for. Can we maintain it and preserve it? Or does it become something in a Airbnb pamphlet to attract visitors from Tokyo? Right.

Speaker 2
The thing is, is this, this, if you know the visitors from Tokyo are smarter than that, they'll just find the next place and that we never will ever make a place that is going to please everyone. But we make it for Portland and everyone's going to want a piece of it. I think we shut out some of that global noise sometimes and really focus on the good place for Portlanders cause that demand is always going to be there. I've seen it, I felt it in people all around. Like I go to South Korea or Brazil or China and they can't get enough of it. That's like, how do you get, they let you ride your bicycle naked and no one says anything. They can't believe that we would actually say, well yeah, do whatever you want. It's not just about running your bike naked. It's about people being themselves and having freedom and opportunity.

Speaker 3
Sure. Absolutely. Um, so you, you live in the Lentz area. Is that true? Or are you living?

Speaker 2
I'm just this side of 82nd from lens. So lens is on the other is on the East side of 82nd for me and I'm on the West side of 82nd and the Mount Scott our lead a neighborhood. What's your neighborhood?

Speaker 3
I live in Clinton neighborhood, but I love lense. I love uh, the East side. I go out there all the time. You know, it's not far from here at all. No, I love foster. I love like the slow changes that are happening there. I think it's kind of a, a neighborhood, you know, it's hotly fosters like this kind of fostered lens is like, it seems somewhat contested, you know, like what's happening. But it's very slow and it seems with intention,

Speaker 2
well we've had 200 million in investment over 20 years there to make that happen. And the question is can we avoid displacement? I mean, this is the thing, and I'm worried about coven too, like all my beloved colleagues here along foster road and all the businesses here, if they shutter during coven, what's going to replace them and to, I'm really concerned about that.

Speaker 3
Yeah, that's interesting. I haven't thought about that at all, but um, you know, it's a great area. Well that I love. Um, I love that area. I love, I miss the Portland pickles desperately

Speaker 2
baseball back here. There you go. There you go. That's a socially distant, that's almost a socially distant sports, I guess you can't really do outs on the, if you're going to tag someone out, you would have to get close to them, but you people stand pretty far in the outfield there.

Speaker 3
Yeah. They've, they've sorted it out in Korea. It seems like actually speaking of creative, playing some baseball there, but I digress.

Speaker 2
So I hear you. I have a question for you because I hear you grew up in Indiana. That's right. Yeah. Do you play, do you play Euchre?

Speaker 3
Um, I, my family played Euchre um, or members of my family played Euchre. I felt like you could was like more of a Wisconsin thing, you know, like Wisconsin, Illinois. But people played Euchre for sure. There was weaker nights. Yeah.

Speaker 2
Yeah. My dad was from Indiana so I had to spend the summers there. And that was rather nightmarish when you think about Indiana and the summer is not a pleasant place. A lot of corn dogs and humidity and bugs. But I learned Euchre and so you could became my, I've been playing Euchre the whole quarantine and Euchre is actually great comfort for me. It's such a rhythmic, uh, game. I was wondering if you played that.

Speaker 3
I would love to. My friend, my friend Mark Mohan, who is the former film critic for the Oregonian, he's from Wisconsin. He plays Euchre and I keep bugging him, you know, but now in quarantine we'll see what happens.

Speaker 2
All right, well then sometime I get, um, uh, I can play cutthroat Euchre with three of us. So we'll do it online. If you can find Mark,

Speaker 3
I'm down. I'm down to learn. That's awesome. So is there anything else you want to toss in here for all of our viewers? And positive.

Speaker 2
I think the most important thing is vote today. As we said at the top of the, as of our conversation is today's the last day. You can safely mail your ballot and be guaranteed. It will arrive election day. So if you're not able to mail it, make sure you walk into one of the drop boxes, which you can find on the County website, the County elections website for the locations. I think libraries are included. This go round and make sure you vote. I would encourage you, even if you don't want to vote for me, just don't vote for the incumbent vote for anybody but the incumbent. Um, but uh, yeah, uh, vote for me. I do believe as a vote for a, just a different, more sustainable future one that taps into some of the things that we've been doing well and we've forgotten that we do well. So I have folks will consider it and I really want to thank you for all of your contributions to Portland and I know you've done a good job repping us around the world, so keep up the good work. Thank you so much. Thanks for talking with me. Bye bye. You're ready for Sarah? All right. Thank you everyone.

Speaker 2
This has been a production of friends of Sarah for Portland.