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Leading From The Heart w/ Judith Rizzio

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About this Episode

May 19, 2020

Sarah joins style activist Judith Rizzio / @outofourclosetpdx on Instagram Live to discuss being a woman in politics and why having women in leadership is so vital.

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

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 [inaudible] 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. It's election day Tuesday, meaning teen 2020. If you've not yet turned in your ballot, you need to drop it off no later than 8:00 PM tonight. This is such an important election cycle. We have a chance to get a people's mayor in that seat who can actually have access to power on behalf of everyday working Portlanders. That said, here's a fun conversation out of the ordinary with Judith Regio. She's an amazing stylist, personal stylist. She calls herself a style activist. She advised me on this campaign, we pull back the curtain a little bit, um, on how she helped me navigate some of the gendered mind fields of being a woman in politics and just some basic things about what women's leadership brings in the middle of the coven crisis. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Speaker 3
Good morning. Lovely people. I guess it's afternoon. It is. Hi there, Sarah. Hi miss your beautiful face and face to see you. It's so good to see you too. And I'm giving you hug, hug, hug from afar back at you back at you. Oh, I know. Well here we are and I am really, really happy that I can, uh, have this time with you. Thank you for hosting me. I'm so excited to talk with you. So much has happened since the last time I saw you. I think we were together probably before the sunrise climate debate and that's the last we've seen of each other. So two months, two months. I figured that out as well. And, uh, and I've been thinking about our history together and uh, how so much has changed during that time. And so I want to, I want to explain to people a bit like how we, how we first got connected.

Speaker 3
Please. I would love to, plus I'd love to hear your version of it. Okay. Okay. Absolutely. Um, you know, so last year I got a call, you know, from my friend Chris, who's been helping you with your camping is a small word for what Chris does, Chris and masterminds, our data and all of our operations. So, exactly. And, uh, and believe it or not, I got to work with him when he was in middle school during, um, uh, doing a play with him. Uh, you know, as a teacher. It was wonderful. Anyway, anyway, with that said, I, you know, I'm, I'm a stylist or I refer to myself as a style activist and I was asked to have the fun with you to create, uh, some different looks for your campaign. Um, and we had a lot of fun going through your clothes and playing dress up in breasts, excuse me, dress down. Um, depending on the occasion where you're going and this was, and since you ride your bike everywhere, the clothes had to work for that too. And I have to say it was one of my, uh, most favorite challenges I've had as a stylist. But I want to ask, what was, what was that like for you doing that, you know, with, with me?

Speaker 2
Well, first of all, I just want to say a big shout out to Chris for everything he's done and any friend of Chris's is a friend of mine obviously. And thank you for all of the guidance that you've brought our campaign. You know, one of the things that my campaign director has learned as a young man is that there are some things that women face when they're in politics that are unique to our gender. Um, and some of the things that I warned her I tried to warn him about because as many people may know that I did run in 2016, I said, you're going to have to be aware of this pitfall and this pitfall and this pitfall with regard to my gender. But as he had to start to field those directly as part of his job, he said, Oh, Whoa, I hadn't quite, yeah, I hadn't quite believed you when you warned me that this would be pervasive and um, significant.

Speaker 2
And so the fact that we had to think about in advance, um, my gender as potentially a liability and try to transform that into an asset for many voters who value, um, what femininity and what women and people who are conscious of things beyond men in suits, right. As, as ideas of leadership might, uh, entail. Uh, you brought up such a great deal of wisdom to my understanding that for me to be a good leader, for me to be in my full power didn't mean I had to step into a business suit necessarily to embody power that I could step into an outfit that was comfortable for me, that helped me shine, that helped me feel freer and stronger. And also how to highlight some things that I had been trying to play down. You know, often when you were having an athletic build and you do a lot of athletic activities like I do, you might want to play down your femininity or try to escape your gender so that people don't focus on that.

Speaker 2
But you really encouraged me to lean into that and to own that power and to actually model, uh, a more resistance type of leadership to the patriarchy. Not that that has to be a mother's, uh, leadership or a woman's leadership, but that it was a counter model to what a male dominated image of what a leader looked like. So I appreciated that. For me it was a big learning curve for me. You remember I was a little resistant at first. Yeah. Well, you know, I think that is for women, uh, quite quite a challenge. And you know, I'm wondering, uh, besides just what you were putting on your body and your clothes, which was our initial contact, uh, you know, as you've encountered, um, this experience of, of campaigning, what other gender differences in running your campaign have you have you faced besides just appearance, which is a big one.

Speaker 2
Don't get me wrong. Well, it's surprising how much appearance and seems to play into how you're taken. See how seriously you're taken. You know, we had a mayor previously, bud Clark, who was a Tavern owner. Yeah. A burly guy, a little bit gruff, a populist, you know, kind of a working class hero, if you will, whose only prior qualification before running for mayor was opening that Tavern. Really? Yes. And despite the fact that I have opened a small business that had been open, uh, at that point until it closed from COBIT, it had been open, uh, for 15, 16 years. Uh, despite the fact of having engaged in a decade of public policy advising on key committees and projects and policies in the city. Um, despite having a doctoral level education and sustainable development, despite a decade of experience internationally, talking to high level, uh, officials from around the world and basically being a defacto ambassadorial function on that front.

Speaker 2
So I've been able to demonstrate, for instance, my proficiency and turning up in a, in a setting, dressed as a professional, engaging as a professional. I often get dismissed as an activist. She's an activist, right? Um, her, her knowledge and understanding of Portland's theoretical, uh, we don't trust her. She doesn't understand money or budgets, right? Despite being a single mom who's had to make ends meet paycheck to paycheck and actually someone who serves on the city budget committee, so not both practically and theoretically. Just overcoming the narrative of what it takes to be taken seriously has been something that we've actually had to build a whole campaign around not getting the benefit of the doubt that I am qualified, capable or what a leader looks like or how that, how I act in the world is what a leader does. Now. I think that's made us stronger in the end because when you're forced to do that, the definitions, people sometimes uh, ascribe to you, you don't have to take those.

Speaker 2
You have a chance to rebuild who you are and claim your identity. And my team has done a fantastic job of getting out in front and saying we're going to challenge assumptions about who Sarah is and what she brings. And our work will speak for itself. The coalition that we'll build will speak for itself. Our campaign is on track right now to break city elections history by having the most number of donors in any campaign cycle. So even though I've never been taken seriously for having the most money, usually just having the most money in a campaign puts you in the front, but they've never given me that, that, um, that benefit of the doubt. So by us having the most donors, we're actually gonna make history before people actually give us credit for running a winning campaign. Yeah,

Speaker 3
absolutely. I'm always amazed too, and how, um, even for myself, my, my tone be an East coast girl proud of it, but I get a port with her since 1976 so don't get me wrong. Um, but anyway, um, how that as a woman, uh, can even affect how, you know, people see and feel about you. And I know that some of the work we did was also having to sort of face that is that sense of just being a strong, powerful, intelligent woman. Sarah, um, you, we had to talk about how do you, how do you even sound about that in front of, in front of people? What is, what does that sort of been like for you in different situations?

Speaker 2
Um, you know, I've been, I'm used to being called the B word and the C word a lot. Um, and I mean, you know, there's so many social media trolls who want to come after you and take you down. Um, and in many ways I've actually learned to not let criticisms about bitchy resting face or things like that bother me. I just am kind of trying to, to lean into an own who I am, but at the same time, I do think that having to offset some of those, maybe, I don't know if I want to call them, they're probably internal biases or you know, people's internalized biases. I think women hold them against women as much as men maybe hold them against us and people from other genders or non binary people. Um, that the, the sense that having to be seen as compassionate and empathetic and engaged is excellent.

Speaker 2
Good practice anyway. So if I want to be relatable, if I want to be seen as human, if I want to be seen as trustworthy, then I should probably just work hard to be a relatable, um, humane, compassionate and trustworthy, and then my actions will speak for themselves. I don't have anything to prove to anybody on that front. So that's been an interesting evolution I think for, for me anyway, as opposed to trying to prove something to anyone, just being my best self. And then if people try to impugn me for that, I can be like, you really have no leg to stand on because I am standing in authenticity here and I'm acting with Goodwill and compassion and you know, all those things.

Speaker 3
Yeah, I mean, uh, you know, as we dive into, you know, dealing with Colvin, one of the things I'm finding, needless to say, that is lacking, especially, uh, straight out of the white house who said a true sense of, of almost radical compassion for what is going on. Um, and I fear that saying that about you, the thing I have always found, uh, you know, why, why I really believe in what you could do for us, um, as our marriage that you bring that you bring that sense of compassion. But from that a deep dare I say that radical place of, of um, not fearing that and, and being able to hold both at the same time. Because bottom line is that our sense of humanity and what needs to happen, um, is so crucial right now. And you know, I, you know, right now this thing has, is turning my life upside down. Um, in many ways. Again, I want to bring it back, if you may. What are you hearing from women about their needs as they're facing this pandemic? Has anything come to the surface?

Speaker 2
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And we know in fact that when there's a crisis, women bear the brunt problems, right? And so even though men had higher death rates than women in coven, when it comes to dealing with the fallout of that, when it comes to dealing with the pace of recovery, when it comes to who will be bearing the brunt of that for the longterm, what we're seeing, not just in Portland but around the world is this will be women with our access to childcare centers or schools being closed, who is doing the bulk of labor in the household still, right? Who is going to have access to returning to the workforce if we have limited, um, capacity for childcare or sending our kids to school or even parks and community centers in the summertime for summer programming. Right. We know, um, just based on the data that that will be women largely and then we know that that's women of color disproportionately.

Speaker 2
Um, we know when it comes to the economic wellbeing, when we're losing all these jobs women have tried to make for so long, I'm in the workforce and as jobs may never come back, some of them, as our economy transforms, what does it mean for us to think carefully about who even is doing work in our society? We're seeing now that these jobs that women have been performing right as clerks, as caregivers, as, um, people who deliver food or take care of our elderly, we know that these are jobs that oftentimes are low paying jobs with poor benefits that women do. And now we're seeing that those are actually our essential workers. So the fact that we're looking at this and still not, um, compensating people for work that is essential to the future of our species on the planet. It gives me great pause, but it also gives me great inspiration when we have to look at things like our green new deal because what would it mean for us to make sure preschool teachers were adequately compensated and that we valued something like universal pre-K, things like that.

Speaker 3
Yes. I think that that's going to be something that's good would be the core, uh, beginning, you know, steps of, of you being our mayor is, is really looking at the hopefully the slow uh, aftermath of um, you know, the spike of this and then going into this new normal. So can you speak a bit more about that? Some ideas that you have and I know it will vary because who knows what it's going to be like?

Speaker 2
Well, we don't know what it's going to be like, but we know what it's already like for people who are in this position. And that's one place where I am so adamant that this is not laying bare for a many people. Our new normal, this has been what life is like in Portland for a lot of people for a really long time, right? Hunger, pervasive hunger, lack of access to shelter, lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to the supports, the mental health care supports or the addiction supports or the community supports that you need to make it day by day. And we've criminalized people in that situation. We have spent a good bit of our tax dollars criminalizing people experiencing hardship as opposed to bring Portlanders together to uplift people through hardship and I hope that there are few gains that we are actually able to maintain as we move through this for so long.

Speaker 2
The people that I've been working with, experiencing homelessness has said, please could you stop sweeping us every time you displace us, you up in our lives, you take our medication, we lose our cell phone. Chargers are things get wet and ruined and we have to start over each day. But then when the pandemic strikes, the CDC says, yeah, maybe you shouldn't be displacing people when there's a crisis. Well, that housing crisis was there before the viral crisis and this is something we need to acknowledge. We need to talk about the fact that hunger and food insecurity is pervasive for people, whether or not they're housing insecure, low income people are, have a hard time accessing healthy food. People are going hungry all over Oregon and too children are going hungry here in our city, access to medication in the absence of universal healthcare. What does that mean for us as Portlanders? All of these things where we're having to build new systems. I want those to be systems that stay in place. Right. That is, I believe the silver lining in this horrible, horrible situation is that some of the unintended consequences of how we've had to adapt more largely as a society will reflect what many people who are already disadvantaged in Portland especially have had to have been doing this for so long. Yes, absolutely. For, for decades. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, they're, they're looking at us like, Oh, you're learning this.

Speaker 3
Yeah. We could've told you that so much. So, you know, I was, I had to be honest, I feeling, um, as it's going on a deep sense of loss and, um, sometimes that's really hard to talk about cause it seems very personal. But I mean, I w I mean I would just want to hug my friends. Um, I want to go dancing. I Clyde's prime rib with my husband. You're old school Judah and I want to visit my grandsons in new Orleans, you know? And um, it's, it's surprising how every once in a while that's the only time cause I'm in such a privileged place of living in, in, in Northeast Portland, being able to walk around, I have a home, I'm fully aware, fully aware of my own privilege in regards to what's happening with others. But I think, um, you know, we're talking, I'm going to go deep with you here just as a, as a friend, a person, um, within us, uh, our city. You know, how, how can you help, you know, this city deal with this great sense of loss that that is happening now and will be a part of this, um, in the future.

Speaker 2
This is where leading from our hearts matters. Yes. This is why, uh, the prime minister of New Zealand is doing such a fantastic job right now. Right? When you look at people who are leading from a place of compassion, but also an unwillingness to accept a bullshit that's hurting people, right? It's that combination of soft love with tough love that I think we benefit from as a society when it comes to acknowledging our collective grief. Our family is over here. Very sad. We've been in tears many times for the loss of the family business. Um, and just watching, you know, my ex husband and my daughter as they're sad to let something go for which they weren't prepared and watching the neighborhood be sad with them and being open to that sadness and sharing that without shame. Um, talking with each other, it even in our privilege, we're allowed to be sad.

Speaker 2
People are allowed to be sad. They're allowed to grieve the loss of what their personal normal was. They're to be complex human beings who can grieve and experience joy and experience isolation and experience connection at the same time. And allowing space for the diversity and the complexity of human experience is so important and saying, even as we are so sad and even as we are so broken and as we are scared, we need to be reflective and say we're not going to let fear drive our decision making. We're going to stay grounded in a sense of optimism and hope. We're going to build community because we're stronger together than we are apart. We will traverse divides, we will fix the civic fabric that is frayed and we will make it more robust. And then what we're going to do is we're going to take everything that adversity has taught us and bred in us and strengthened us, and we are going to deploy that for a better future.

Speaker 2
On the other side of this, and I believe that as long as we stay focused on that, that tactical optimism of each day, you have to engage with a sense of gratitude, with a sense of hope and with a sense of purpose that Portlanders we are amazing when we do that. We are unstoppable and we really need leadership that will unleash that capacity for us and say, go forth and connect and build and create and improve and innovate and dance and sing and find joy because we are in a beautiful place. We are so blessed and we need to find that every single day.

Speaker 3
I can tell you how I'm a little bit choked up here in a great way that that is. So that's the one thing I'm amazed at is that, um, when I take my walks, even with a mask on now, you know, I've looked people in the eye and I'm finding six feet away at least, you know, people are looking back at me and making sure that, uh, I say hello. And what I'm finding, which is interesting is younger people that normally have the earbuds on a lot more than some of us that are a bit older. And I really, I'm amazed at that. I will literally wave to them so they realize that I'm going to say something to them because they're so it, you know, and I'll go, Hey, how you doing? And it's been a really cool thing to try to cuts through the combination of just being the age I am.

Speaker 3
Um, and, and sort of almost reaching out and in a way of like, hi, I want to recognize you when you recognize me. And I find as an older women woman, that's very important for me to, for me to do. Um, and I think we have a great opportunity to sort of break down, hopefully remember, uh, some of these things that we're, we're both experiencing no matter who we are. Um, and uh, and where we lie, uh, with our age. Um, and other, other differences, um, you know what, I want to go back to here a bit. You've been doing this amazing work, um, with your campaigning and you know, just hanging out with lots of different people in lots of different places. And I know that you had some definite ideas of policy concerns and, and things that you would want to move forward, uh, as our mayor. However, have you been surprised if something's, you've learned that people really find important, uh, you know, very important as living in Portland that they want you to do for us as the mayor? Was there any surprises during the campaign at all for you?

Speaker 2
I wouldn't say there are so many surprises, and this is going to sound slightly arrogant, but one of the reasons that I'm running for mayor is just I feel like I have this very

Speaker 2
robust working knowledge of Portland and it's people across the spectrum of whether it's the geography, the socioeconomic status, the political apparatus, and so I haven't been hugely surprised on the policy side, but I do have to say that on in the coven response, I've learned a couple of things which are when you know something is right and that is driven by both knowledge and wisdom and experience, that combination of things, when you know something is right, don't let people bounce you off your square because back in October we were talking about things that in that green new deal, I've got that poster up here, um, that people said, Oh, you're so radical. You want municipal broadband. How on earth are you going to do something like municipal broadband? We're going to create a whole new utility. Well, now we're looking around and you look at these PPS families, you look at these workers and it just seems like common sense at this point.

Speaker 2
And I never really allowed people to disabuse me of the notion that that was something that was essential, that we get that high speed fiber to every household in Portland. Um, another place where I had kind of forgotten I guess, or rested on our laurels with regard to our capacity was in the arts and culture side. Yes. You know, we take it for granted. I think in terms of we did try to invest, like for instance, we hired local artists for everything we've needed to do and make sure that we're supporting them with our campaign dollars. But when you look at who's struggling now and who makes Portland special, really centering them in our community, in our economy, so that it's not just these, the Amazon dot Combs of the world who are dragging us along with whatever they want to happen in our city.

Speaker 2
And I mean that right down to the streets in which we live and how they want to move about it. But that we're thinking about what's going to make our local makers prosper, what's going to make our artisans, how can we create a city where what makes Portland special isn't taken advantage of? And the first time you have a crisis, these people are all starving and homeless even though everything that has made Portland great either has to come from, you know, culture and arts, our connection to the environment. And again, parks, people value our parks so much. So why is it always this afterthought that we should be funding parks? Meanwhile, year after year after year, police budgets go through the roof and w no Portlanders really that I know of or like we wished our policing were more militarized or we wish there was more armored vehicles in the streets. And so just cutting through some of the nonsense around what we've been served up and tapping into a Portlanders really value because they keep expressing, it gives me a lot of power to say this is what Portlanders want. So it's a lot of reinforcement, a lot of refocusing and a lot of like staying on track based on what basic human needs. And wants and Portlanders are

Speaker 3
yes. I just want to say, uh, that wasn't arrogant at all. You know, as a woman, I hear that. And I think no, that just comes from the fact that you know, your shit, Oh, excuse me. I swore, you know, I had to get one in. Um, what, you know, I have to ask this because it is where my heart is. And, um, when you think about children right now I'm facing this and, uh, with very proud parents and guardians, you know, helping them through this. What do you, what do you feel as a leader we can do to continue uplifting and creating a world around them that goes beyond even being safe, but a place where they really see a hopeful future? Um, which I can only imagine. Um, every, once in a while, especially our, our class of 2020, um, that is, you know, unceremoniously at least in the way it used to be. You know, leaving, um, our high schools. What, what do you think about that? What are your feelings right now

Speaker 2
as the parent of a 20 year old who's doing her her coursework at the kitchen table? While I'm doing all of my campaigning, I'm trying to actually keep young people engaged and centered is something this campaign has always been about. Um, you know, we have been engaging youth since day one on this campaign and really tapping into their power and their knowledge to shape our policies. And that is something of which I'm proud, but it also shows in the results I don't see centering the needs of youth or children as some kind of work that you have to do. Um, in terms of, Oh, let's do this outreach so that youth can feel represented. When you're with young people and you're listening to young people, you have access to their power, you have access to their insight, you have access to their creativity, you have access to their freedom of thought in which they're unencumbered by all.

Speaker 2
No, that's not possible. And so for me as the future leader of Portland, what I need to do is think about how youth can be beside me and guide me through this. There are some places where I see an opportunity to meet the needs of youth as a way to meet the needs of all Portlanders. Air quality is an important one, right? When you think about the fact that we've made gains on air quality now because of the lower commuting rates, people not driving as much. And you think about how could we hold the line on some of that? Well, I want to focus on where young people gather because we know that poor air quality has a negative impact on their cognitive development, on their health. They develop, you know, asthma when they have, uh, air pollution. So thinking about things like that and then really saying, you know, let's focus on where there is an abundance of young people, which would be around schools and parks and consider those thrive zones.

Speaker 2
But anyway, this point being that we can, uh, create opportunities by meeting the needs of youth and when youth are well served, when our elders are well-served and when we're connecting them, then we're all well-served. And similar to st things like people with who are experiencing homelessness or uh, black Portlanders or communities of color when their needs are met, we're all safer. So yes, yes. Yeah. Well I just want to say that. Um, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for all the work that you've done so far, um, and bringing us along with, uh, with you and um, um, I'm with you all the way. Look at, I'm wearing, I'm wearing your big bright t-shirts.

Speaker 3
Oh great. I didn't know how to dress for this Judith cause I was like, Oh no, what if I wear an outfit? Judith doesn't approve them. Then what happens is listen, you look at great darlin. Oh thanks. The team and I laugh because every week I am as, I can't get a haircut. You can't, you could even imagine from the pins, the number of pins, I have to put it in the back so you can't tell me the haircut. So miserably. That was the one thing I was doing, like look at my hair and I thought Judah did. It isn't about you. So, um, well you look beautiful. I'm so grateful

Speaker 2
for you for setting me up for success in this campaign. We're looking forward to a big night on Tuesday. I hope anybody who hasn't voted, make sure you turn in those ballots and if you have an extra an hour, you want to either spend phone banking or texting everyone in your network and saying, Hey, turn in that ballot. Even if you're not a hundred percent sure about Sarah, vote for anybody. But the incumbent probably at this point is a good strategy, uh, on election day. But I hope that they'll cast their votes for me and if they have any questions, they can reach out@sarahtwentytwenty.com and learn more.

Speaker 3
Absolutely. All right, well I'm going to go outside and garden again. There you go. All right. You too. Take care. Bye bye. This has been a production of friends of Sarah for Portland.