Nuestra ciudad. Nuestro futuro. Nuestra eleccion.
The #OurPortland Podcast

Just give me one thing that I can hold on to…

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About this Episode

April 7, 2020

Sarah begins this episode by wishing a fond farewell to beloved singer songwriter and folk hero John Prine, whom we lost to COVID-19 on Tuesday, reminding us all That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.

Sarah then ticks through all of the ways the campaign has adapted to this new reality and how you can get involved:

Other topics covered include how we can keep our community fed, an interesting way some pharmacies are supporting domestic violence survivors, housing "rent zero," and how tactical optimism is more important now than ever.

This is an audio-cast of Sarah's live stream from earlier this afternoon. To view this and other live streams, visit

¿Tiene una pregunta para Sarah? Mándesela al [email protected].


Announcer (00:03) Welcome to the Our Portland podcast. This episode is an audio cast of an earlier live stream. To view this and other live streams, visit And now here's Sarah.

Sarah (00:22) You know, I don't want to start off on too sad a note. But, what a sad day we just had, news-wise. That singer-songwriter and folk hero, John Prine was just announced on NPR music that he died today. He was scheduled to headline Pickathon this year. It's going to be a huge loss for his friends and family, of course, his fan base... But Portlanders missing out on that opportunity at such a beloved event. He was one of the most revered songwriters of the past 50 years. And it was reported that he died Tuesday in Nashville from complications related to the COVID virus. And he was 73 years old. Yeah, a lot of deep feelings going on these days. There's a good article I've been sharing. I've shared it multiple times with my friends via DM, with my followers on Twitter. And, it's by, of all publications, the Harvard Business Review. And the title of it is called "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief." Yeah, Harvard Biz Review, Google it. Maybe I'll post the link on my Twitter again after this so you can find it a little bit more easily. But that notion, that what we're experiencing is personal grief, but also collective grief. And the stages of grief being non-linear; that we're all going through this together, but in very unique ways. And this sense that we can share this experience. Learn and grow from it. I think of grief as a fire. It's a very challenging, intense process, but also a very cleansing process ultimately. And you never get through it. You just do it. And so for those of you who are having hard times, who have experienced deep loss, whether it's of your job, or people that you love, or even a normal that you used to value, just know that your community is here with you. This is what community is for, is times like this, as well as celebrating in the good times. So we're all in this together. And as we say sometimes "We've got this, Portland."

Sarah (02:48) That said... I've been finding a lot of joy in keeping my campaign going. I, for many of you, you have your own projects that you're working on. For me, this is something that I've been engaged in since July of last year. I actually left my job at Portland State University so I could do this full time. So I work, you know, many hours per week on this, but also a great deal of commitment to such an undertaking. I know that many of you have projects that were either in the pipeline that you're having to work on from home with the kids running all around you now. Or maybe you're having to put things on hold because something didn't work out in terms of the virus, and the chaos of it has ensued. And maybe you're feeling a little upset and sad about that. But I know for me personally, getting involved in doing things is a way that I feel connected. I have a quote on my fridge that "Steadily serving others connects you to the greater good." And that is something that I live by. And so for me, being able to continue to do outreach via this campaign and using my connections to the world as a way of checking in on folks... when I'm phone banking now I'm able to say, "Hi! My name is Sarah and I'm running for mayor." And "No, we've never met, but I'd love to talk to you about what's on your mind and maybe find out what's important to you this election cycle." And I have such interesting conversations with people that I would've never talked to before.

Sarah (04:27) Now phone banking's not for everyone. It can be a little stressful. Sometimes I want to pretend I'm a volunteer working for "Sarah for Portland" as opposed to being "Sarah for Portland" because once people find out I'm a candidate for mayor, they really want to complain to me about a lot of things. But I know that for some people it's a little scary doing it your first time. But I am so impressed by the trainings that my team have developed. They're really easy. Liz and Ryan who run the phone banks are phenomenal people. Once you're trained in the system, you can pop on or off for an hour. I usually get tired after about 90 minutes of doing it, but some people go two hours, to just make phone calls, one after another, out of the voter files for our state; people who are likely to vote this election cycle.

Sarah (05:16) So if you want to be a part of that, even just try it one time. You can go to and get involved. And I know that some people don't always want to talk to strangers and that's okay too. We've got one stalwart in our crew who just does not want to talk to strangers at all. So what we've told him is that when you go to our website, mark the checkbox that says Distributed Organizer Program. Now that's something completely different than phone banking. The distributed organizer model is using your phone. You use your cell phone to text people in your network. And what you do is you get them into the system by connecting with them. It's actually really important work. And for those of you who've watched these live streams before, I've explained to you that this is a technology that AOC developed on her campaign to reach people who are residing in multifamily housing.

Sarah (06:15) Now it was behind a locked door so you couldn't get to those apartments. But now we're behind the locked door of COVID shelter-in-place orders. And so we have this growing team of super volunteers who are moving up the ladder in terms of their organizing capacity to run whole teams of volunteers who are talking to their networks about why the campaign is important; why we need a people's mayor to lead us through the recovery. And they're their own little community. I pop in with them. I think I'm going to be stopping in on one of their meetings this week. They meet weekly online. They come up with new ways of organizing. They use a chat function in the app. It's almost like a little... It's own little social media organizing tool, right in your mobile devices. So it's a great way you can connect with like-minded community members, especially if you're more comfortable in social media spaces than on the phone.

Sarah (07:17) Because I know a lot of folks don't always like making phone calls, myself included. I do it because I'm a candidate and that's my job. But not everyone likes to do that. So if you go to and check the box, that says text or call your friends, we'll make sure that you get in there one way or another. Don't worry, we won't force you to call, but you can click that box and you'll be good to go. The virtual house parties are still going on. We'd love to have you join one. They are pretty fun events. Ten or 15 of us pop into a video conferencing app. We spend about an hour connecting with people in your network. So, no strangers are there. It's just folks in your network. We have a little bit of a conversation. I give them my elevator speech about why I think I'm the best choice for Portland's Mayor at this critical time.

Sarah (08:11) And they can ask me questions and we chit chat. And we talk about things that are important to us. So if you want to sign up for hosting a house party, you go to A few more logistics, or my team would kill me. get your lawn sign. I delivered so many this weekend. I was really proud of myself, that we're doing it by bike, and we're doing it close to home so that we can be in compliance with the shelter-in-place, obviously by just staying in our own neighborhoods. So forgive us sometimes it takes us a little longer to get those to you. We have to make sure folks who are close to you are dropping them off. We still have a lot of stickers to share with you and posters. Oh, there's a poster.

Sarah (08:54) Oh, it's a really cool poster. The Green New Deal. There's no I-5. There's actually a high speed train in there. But yeah, so we don't make any profit on this, we're... But you'll see a little price, like $1 or $2 beside things in the merch store. And that's because we have to break even on those in terms of reporting to the Secretary of State for Campaign Finance Law. So we're selling those to you at cost.

Sarah (09:20) And also I think the t-shirts that we had for all of our volunteers who were gonna be knocking on doors... We have a few of those left. And we can send those out to you as well because obviously we won't be knocking on any doors, we don't think, this election cycle. So you can sit at home and text in a Sarah t-shirt from the comfort of your couch. The podcast; we're going to tape a new one this weekend. We've got a new policy coming out, so keep an eye out for that. I'm not gonna tell you what it is. I'm going to keep it a secret for now. But yeah, we'll put a podcast with that like we always do. And these live streams are also going on podcast network, too. So you'll be able to download those from your podcast store. And I... Sir Francis Bacon is joining us now. You'll be able to download those where you get your podcasts and that'll be fun. The Elder Outreach Network is still looking for people to help that would be available: [email protected]. So if you want to be involved with our Elder Outreach Network, that's going to be cool. And also you're going to want to, if you can... Hang on a second. I've gotta take care of my dog.

Sarah (10:28) He's gotta get down... We need you to donate if you can. Not all of you have money. And so, I understand that. And please, if you don't have money, fast forward through this part, or just mute. This is for those of you who have a few extra dollars. For those of you who know, we have been part of the Open and Accountable Elections Program, which means that for the first $50 that we get from every Portlander, we're matched six to one out of a public fund that's been set aside, long before this crisis started, for this election cycle. Now, that matching program ends at the end of this month. So if you're trying to decide whether or not you wanted to give on April 21st or May 21st I would say April 21st because election date is May 19th first of all. But also at the end of this month we'll be able to still take your contributions, but they're not going to be matched.

Sarah (11:26) We have a hard stop on when the matching program ends. So what we need you to do is if you have a few dollars that you were planning to get, please give it now. That's going to help us do our budgeting better. It's going to help us get those best prices that we can on the advertising that we need to buy. It's going to help us make sure that we have all of the literature that we need to mail out. There's tens of thousands of people that we need to reach between now and May 19th. And so we need your help to make that happen. If you can't, it's not a problem. This is for those of you who have the resources to be able to help with that. So, those are the logistics of the campaign. Things are going swimmingly. I got a chance to talk with Rebecca Ellis at OPB.

Sarah (12:11) She did an interview with me about how is the campaign world changing. And I said for us, it's so dramatic, but it feels almost natural now. I don't know. I'm heading into, I guess this is my third week in, almost my fourth week in, in the soft quarantine, the self-isolation here. In an effort to keep my family members healthy and to keep other people's families healthy. We've been to the store twice. I've run some errands around town. I've dropped around some lawn signs on bike and that's about it. And so the world, when I go out into it, feels so different, but in some ways it feels like we're getting used to it. I don't know if that's the right way to put it. You can chime in if that's completely nonsensical and not in your experience. But I guess there's a rhythm to the days that's coming on.

Sarah (13:07) Something funny happened. Someone made a Sarah2020 lawn sign and put it in the Animal Crossing town. I'm not sure what the name of the town is. And again, I don't play that game. But that was a cute entree to that world, and I got to talk to my daughter about, that. She explained to me that there's a little racoon who runs the place. And I thought maybe someone needs to run against him for mayor. I don't know if he's doing good job or not; Mr Raccoon. But fun to all of you who are playing Animal Crossing. I hope you come across the Sarah2020 lawn sign in your wandering about there. My seedlings are growing. I'm really excited to get them in the ground. I keep waiting for it to be warm and I think this weekend will probably be the time to put those in the dirt.

Sarah (13:52) I think we're past the threat of a freeze, so that's cool. I need a haircut. Candidating while raggedy, I guess is the new normal. So you're going to see all of us coming out looking like we need a haircut. My dog needs a haircut. I've been trimming it a little bit. Everybody in our family needs a haircut. I don't know what y'all are doing about that. Is there a choice? Like cut your own hair or don't cut? Maybe there's "Team Cut-Your-Hair," "Team Don't-Cut-Your-Hair". Hard to say. I've been cooking and spending a lot of time with my family. That's been nice. When you're forced into close confines with people, we work really hard to get along. We haven't been quarrelling or, you know, bickering. We've just been really giving each other the benefit of a doubt and learning how to live in close quarters.

Sarah (14:45) I'm using a lot of bandwidth in the things I'm doing for my campaign. My daughter's going to school full time at Portland State University. And we're switching on and off, on who gets to be on the internet at different times just to make sure that we've got enough space for everybody. We both sleep a little bit differently than we used to. I don't know if your family's sleeping differently. But we're sleeping a little bit differently over here in terms of not always sleeping through the night. Sometimes we have a lot of dreams; maybe more colorful dreams or more vibrant, some really dramatic. I tried to get everybody to leave this really great art show at little community centers in my dream the other night. And no one wanted to go do their social distancing. So I was all upset. "I know it's a great art show, but you'll have to go home" and no one listened to me.

Sarah (15:32) So that was like my wild politics dream, I guess. Yeah. I mean that's life right now. The... For folks that you meet who are the middle class, who have housing, have a family, have a strong network... I'm not dealing with physical issues. I'm dealing with mental health issues. I, I have so much privilege. This is... stressful, but for folks who lack that privilege, the stresses are exponential. We're already seeing the numbers that when it comes to the COVID crisis, the same structural inequalities, systemic racism, especially play out whenever anything happens. So when people say, "Oh, you can't make this about race." Well, of course you can because it's woven through everything that happens in the society of this country. And so we're seeing those disparities pop up in Chicago, especially Detroit, Louisiana, New Orleans, we're... These systemic inequalities perpetuate, especially in the worst of times.

Sarah (16:42) We're seeing that on TriMet still. I don't understand how TriMet can reduce their trips to only essential trips. So they've limited the number of routes and times that the buses are running, especially in trains. And they say, please limit your trips to essential trips. And yet I'm hearing reports of there being Fare Inspectors out on the trains and they're still collecting fares. How is this even possible? I don't get it legally. TriMet makes my brain hurt. And I don't know how to explain to people because I think they just hear me yelling at TriMet on Twitter. Then they're like, "Why aren't you being more professional about this? Why aren't you working with TriMet?" And I just feel like TriMet doesn't listen to the people of Portland anymore. And I don't know what's going on there. But... And maybe I'm just in a bubble, but it seems to me like everyone is saying to TriMet, like treat the riders better.

Sarah (17:41) Treat the community better. Oh look good. I have my "Up with Riders" shirt on. Oh, that's great. I wore that today. But yeah. Cool. A little environmental justice in their "Up with Riders" campaign. That's a nice coincidence. But why are they not listening to us? Even now in the middle of a crisis. Like, society is collapsing around us and access to transportation for anyone who needs it right now... You know, if people are moving around by TriMet it's because they have no other choice right now. And so the fact that TriMet is not fareless, I can't, it makes my brain break when I think about it. So much of this is brain breaking, right? Like we're looking at all this illness around us. And for people who are already in conditions of deprivation, it's just exacerbating them so much. I'm really worried about food insecurity. I'm getting so many reports all up and down the literal food chain. I guess the food supply chain anyway, in terms of where the shortages are going to start to happen. How the food pantries are looking, the soup kitchens are looking, the suppliers are looking, the large grocery chains. And I'm really concerned about how we're going to keep people fed through all of this through our neighbors fed.

Sarah (18:52) I am working out my safety hub plans now. The way that I've got it is I think I'm going to take an old utility sink and hook it up to a hose with a bucket for people to get drinking water or hand-washing water or clothes washing water. So it should be that resource. I think I'm going to put a table out with an umbrella over it so I can put fresh foods out and maybe some canned foods. And I think if I can kind of make a skirt for the table out of old shower curtains to keep it dry, we can put like dry clothing, dry blankets and other things out there. We've been sewing masks in my house, which has been fun. I got to teach my daughter how to do some sewing techniques. She wanted to learn how to sew. So I taught her how to sew and that was such a lovely private moment that we shared.

Sarah (19:44) But also thinking about the fact that we are making these things to keep people safe was really sweet. So I'll go out, I might even video some of me building out that safety hub. I was a little bit busier, yesterday and today on like paperwork and logistics things for the campaign. But hopefully I'll have some time closer to the end of the week to get all of the plans in my head for that safety hub out in the world. And then you all can, I'm sure take a look at the model that I come up with and improve it exponentially. You're all so much more creative and talented than I am. So, I look forward to seeing what comes out of that. And hopefully we can find someone to help us document this and then map it. I would like this to go into an app. And maybe it's just Googleable; where there are pins on the map. And you can say, "Oh, here's where someone's got fresh water out," or "Here's a mini food pantry." I know that I was up in my neighborhood. And on Harold Street, there's a seed bank. Someone's got a seed bank outside their house on Lincoln. It looks to me like the "Food Not Bombs" folks have a lot of spare food out. So I'd love for us to be mapping that out, like the community resources, in real time. And if someone's already doing that, by all means point me toward the map, too. If there's an app, I'll just share it. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Another thing I wanted to point out; make sure that you're checking on your neighbors. We still have some of the "Good Neighbor, 'Hello' [Cards]" left. You can send us an email [email protected] if you want us to send some of these to you. It's pretty important.

Sarah (21:14) You know, we heard last week that calls, suicide-related calls, you know, people who were, who were threatening self harm or had a, a feeling that they wanted to commit suicide were, those calls were up by 41% to the Portland Police Bureau. So, thinking about how we can try to help other people get through this, is really important. So putting your name on this and dropping it off to your neighbors and letting them know they can call you if they need to. Just to have someone to talk to can be very important. It can make the difference between life or death for so folks. But also domestic violence is up. And we knew this, right? Those of us who have a good understanding of what this is like, know that being... As much as my daughter and I are using this time to bond, and to have close connection to each other, and to work on our relationship. For people who are in, intimate partner violence situations, this is hell right now. And I know that many of you are working on this front. And if there are resources that I need to be sharing, by all means that let me know either at [email protected] or on my social media. And we'll make sure that those resources are going around. But he did hear one good tip that's coming out of, first Spain and then France. And that's; women are going into pharmacies and they're using the phrase "Mask 19." So the word "mask," M-A-S-K, and the number 19. Now, I don't know if we have anything like that in the States or if we have anything like that in Portland, but if we don't, we probably should. And if there's nothing already going on, maybe we just use that one. But, so that people who are experiencing domestic violence can have an "out." Pharmacies are pretty neutral, safe space.

Sarah (23:08) So folks, if you see any resources along those lines, and you want to share them with me, please do so. And I'll make sure that we're circulating them. I want us to be taking care of people who are in really dangerous situations, under the shelter in place order. And we can post some, when this goes up on the podcast, we can post some of the crisis phone numbers. I don't have them memorized. Another issue that's come up and I just want to stay on top of a little bit, is the notion of housing.

Sarah (23:39) There's so much chaos. These are volatile, complex times. There's a lot of ambiguity. And I've been thinking a lot about the planning profession, actually. And the fact that, you know, many of you may know that I did my Doctoral Studies in the History and Theory of Urban Planning, with a focus on planning sustainable cities at Portland State University. I spent a lot of years just learning about the profession and what does it mean. And for many people in the profession it wasn't always about zoning and land use, per se. Ultimately it became largely about that. But it really stems from the tenement house movement. And people who were fighting against poor housing conditions like overcrowding, and lack of sunlight, and lack of fresh air in the large tenements, in Manhattan, in Jersey City, and all around New York, and Chicago and the other big cities in the U.S. And also the movement for public sanitation infrastructure.

Sarah (24:43) So sewers, right, as sewage and human waste, and also drinking water. What would it mean for people to have clean drinking water in cities? And so that's really where the planning profession, you know, shut off from, was in public health interest. And the fact that we needed coordinated public policy responses when capital interests were doing things that would leave human health and wellbeing undermined, right? That the reason that we have government that does things like city plans and... Is to constrain those interests that would just scrape as much profit off us as possible and leave the rest of us in the dust. And the current crisis with regard to housing has me thinking about this a lot because what does it mean for us as a city to go into this time of chaos not knowing who's doing what? There's so much of this, right, when it comes to who's helping the small business. Is it the Feds? Is it the State? Is it the City? Who's getting the food? Beds? I mean, the intergovernmental relations here are a complete mess in large part because our Federal Government is completely dysfunctional and disinvested. But that said, there's just a lot of even, legal opacity, right? About what level of government is going to be able to most effectively solve this problem, and how can we coordinate around that? And when I think about what I would be doing if I were mayor in this chaos is, I believe that the job of cities is to meet people right where they live. When I think about where PBOT meets me, it's like right where the street comes up against my house, right?

Sarah (26:28) It's right where I leave my front door every day and get on my bike to ride around the streets. It's when I pay my water bill and that water main hooks up to my house, or the electricity, or my broadband or, you know, how do I engage if I need help by calling 9-1-1. These are the things that cities exist to do is these basic services, to protect human health and safety, right? That's why we have cities. Otherwise we could just all live next to each other without a government above us, right? So why do we come together in these municipalities, in these forms, to organize our settlements to exist as we do? Not everyone likes us. Some people are rural. But in cities we come together to create systems that actually, I hope, protect vulnerable people. And in the middle of the housing crisis, I don't know what I would be doing.

Sarah (27:27) I can say that to you honestly and have to trust that most of the people that are leading us don't know either. And if they tell you that they do, they're probably bull-shitting you. Because this, we haven't faced this before. So really what we need is a focus on values. Because when you lead from your values, then you know what you're committed to, even when chaos is coming at you. It's about displacing the burden off the most vulnerable people in our society, to the ones who can handle it most. And in the housing crisis when it comes to people who are arguing for things like "Rent Zero," right, which is not just a "rent freeze", but means like we're going to actually forgive rent right now. Like, this is a "rent free zone" because at the end of six months of pushing this down the road, in terms of rent, folks may not have six months of back rent to be able to pay it back.

Sarah (28:28) But what we really need to do is make sure that the people who can most deal with this, right, the financier class, the big bankers, the 1% that we've been occupying either physically or intellectually, and more abstractly through our organizing and policymaking... is that we're going to fight for the little guy, right? And hope that if our government was doing that and if our state government was doing that and if our state legislators were doing that in our elected officials in Congress, then at least even with this abysmal, executive branch that we have in GOP that we could make progress on behalf of our people. And this is where I just want to remind you, you know, everything feels really big. Especially when you're not sleeping properly. And maybe eating too many carbs, or getting good exercise one day and not getting enough the next. Or struggling to get your work done while you're watching your kids and worried about how you're gonna get your family fed. And worried about how people who don't have food are going to get fed because you have empathy and you're a human being.

Sarah (29:34) It's that tactical optimism. It's this notion that I've been talking about since before this crisis happened. And I was about it in terms of climate chaos. But it still holds here. And basically what I've posited through that is that fear and anxiety can really undermine our resilience and limit our ability to make critical decisions that are going to affect our city for generations to come. And at this critical time, we can't get bound up in that fear. We have to transform the energy that we're feeling, the grief, the fear into action. And we have to come together. Not just didn't navigate the uncertainty and survived the chaos together, but to carve out a better future in this period of intense transition. I mean, if we can't use this opportunity, this completely abysmal situation to make things better, then I don't know what we're doing. Because honestly getting back to normal isn't going to work.

Sarah (30:35) So many of you, if normal was working, I would have been running for mayor in the first place. I could kick back and enjoy my life in Portland right around on my bike. Eat biscuits. Have a nice day. But even before COVID, what I was hearing from folks is the people in the streets are getting swept and this leads to death. There's too much racism and inequality here. We can't have a sustainable, resilient society as long as we have such staggering inequality. The climate change; we have very little time to work on this. And yet Portland's supposed to be a climate leader and we're not making progress. Our air quality is bad. And congestion is bad. And greenhouse gas emissions are rising. And there's too much big money in government. And the neighborhoods are all divided about whether we should have this building here, or that parking space there. Or this homeless shelter here, or this resource there.

Sarah (31:30) And things were already really broken before COVID came. And now COVID is exposing how very broken they are for so many. And so, I really want us to stay focused, even as things get hard, on the opportunity in the promise that's coming our way. I don't have all the answers. I barely have the answers in many ways for my own family day-to-day sometimes. But as we go through this emergency management period, there's going to be a period of rebuilding on the other side of it. And we need the right kind of leadership in that reconstruction moment, in that rebuilding moment. And we need leadership that has the courage to admit that they don't know everything. The willingness and the understanding that tapping into community for help is an asset, not a liability. Someone who trusts that the collective knowledge of how things get done is far more important than any thing that I have in this brain right here.

Sarah (32:36) We need leadership with street smarts. I'm ground level intelligence so that we can tap into the existing networks, the aid networks and the knowledge networks. And understand that we can adapt by tapping into that knowledge because adaptation through this period is going to be essential. And so, excuse me... [Coughs]... If we can think about it in terms of being adaptive, and nimble, and flexible, and innovative, but grounded in those values of equity, and inclusion, and resilience, and preparing, right, for climate adaptation, and climate change mitigation. I believe, just as I believed before the crisis hit when I was running, and I believe now, that we have everything that we need to achieve a better future for all Portlanders, if we stay focused on this. So that's my little message for you today. For what it's worth. Stay in touch with me on social media.

Sarah (33:41) You keep me going. I really love when you engage with my, my social media accounts and let me know how things are going in your life. It's pretty hard to be disconnected from everyone in physical space. So the closer we keep each other in HeartSpace, and in good conversation, and good company, and good community, having conversations that are respectful, right, and making sure that we are allowed to disagree but not hurt other people, I think is really important. So, thanks for tuning in. I look forward to talking with you next time and be good to yourself. And be good to everyone else. Take care. Bye bye.

Music (34:21) Just give me one thing that I can hold on to. To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.