John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Could Oregon's largest city be helmed by a tree-climbing arsonist, a man who holds proof of God's existence, or the guitar genius behind the tweaker anthem, "Mobile Crank Lab"?
Could Portland's next mayor run the city while perched 50 feet high in a tree?
This is the strange question a voter might find herself mulling when casting a ballot in the Oregon city's upcoming May mayoral primary. Among the candidates is Tre Arrow, aka Michael Scarpitti, a convicted arsonist who has a habit of scampering up firs and oaks. In 2001, while protesting a logging site, Arrow fell out of a hemlock from about 60 feet up and sustained a broken pelvis and concussion.
More recently, on January 8 firefighters had set up an aerial ladder to communicate with Arrow after the environmental activist climbed a tree and refused to come down. A Portland Mercury reader recalls listening to him scream "for 3 hours straight" stuff like this:
"PORTLAND OREGON! I AM TRE ARROW! DONT FORGET TO RESPECT YOUR EARTH MOTHEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!"
Quoted in its entirety, that would make a memorable campaign slogan. But the great thing about Portland is that Arrow – who in 2008 was also convicted of two counts of arson for burning logging trucks – has fierce competition for being the weirdest candidate for mayor. There are nearly two-dozen people vying for the spot, a parade of characters so Portlandish that even Fred Armisen would be taken aback.
The election will likely be won by a more traditional candidate, including businesswoman Eileen Brady, ex-city commissioner Charlie Hales or state representative Jefferson Smith. But it's still fun to imagine the possibility of Portland's voting population electing a dude who wants to remove all the city's bike lanes. Who could be running the Pacific Northwest's quirkiest city as soon as 2012? Let's take a look:
Current Mayor Sam Adams
Everybody from longshoremen to pixie fashionistas could get behind this guy's jeans-forward platform. The owner of denim boutique Blake explained his job already has a very intimate understanding of the local populace, as described in this 2008 interview with the Portland Monthly:
Nieman-Davis has assured women that having “fat days” is totally normal. He’s counseled men through their I-bike-therefore-my-thighs-are-huge self-consciousness. Indeed, given his passion for his patrons’ britches, it’s no wonder he’s been dubbed the “Denim Doctor.” “It’s very intimate helping someone into the perfect jeans,” Nieman-Davis says of his interactions. “I’m staring at their butts; I’m pulling the waistband.”
Robert James Carron
Carron would definitely bring scientific cred to the city with his reputation as the man who "beat Einstein" by applying e = mc2 to the human body, or something along those lines. Upon the day of his election, a Mayor Carron might take humanity to a new level of theological enlightenment by revealing his quantum theory proving that God exists. Potential problem: The Carron administration spins out of control after devoting unheard-of city resources to finding out who took down his previous website. ("There were many things on that site but the first one was THE SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD AND, YOU KNOW, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, I MYSELF WOULD HAVE LONG HESITATED BEFORE FOOLING WITH IT.")
Watch this incredible music video for "Mobile Crank Lab," in which Dant goes all Incred-a-shred on the guitar, and then try not rushing out immediately to vote for him. Truly, it is the "Citizen Kane of rolling meth-lab music videos":
Loren Charles Brown
Finally, a politician who's willing to take a stance against Portland's rampant environmentalism. Whether from a stern libertarian belief in hands-off urban planning, or because he was knocked on his ass once by a careless bicyclist, Brown is promising to change Portland so that "people come first, instead of bike lanes." The single father, former stage actor, firefighter and Buddhist explains: "PLEASE elect me as the 2012 mayor instead of someone else who wants to see the environment GREENER or more bike lanes added as that is costing us taxpayers instead of getting us out [of] debt."
The "tough Korean-born American" would make his homeland Portland's No. 1 trading partner. From his campaign website:
My generation in Korea achieved Korean miracles in the last 40 years. I speak the same language; I share the same cultural background, and have many connections with Korean business men. I will make a 40 year-blue print to make Portland prosperous by creating a close relationship with Asian countries. When I get elected, Portland will be the central connection between the United States and Korea, China and Japan. I will invite Sam-Sung, LG, Hyun-Dai to open their offices here in Portland creating jobs and opportunities. Elect me as the first Asian mayor, to work for you.
Shonda Colleen Kelley
This disabled, single homemaker (as she puts it on her campaign filing) plans to raise money while in the mayor's seat to build low-income, green-energy housing. Colleen Kelley also would research "mental health topics such as pre/post cognition, thought transference, telepathy, and any and all extra sensory." With luck, her work would not be affected by the "voices in my head [that] don’t always respect me."
Despite being one of the more electable entrants, Brady made news recently over a 2003 run-in with a city cop while bicycling that she later complained about in a letter to the mayor. While she seems like she'd be a competent-enough mayor, her missive does nothing to alter the stereotype of Portland residents as meek yet overwhelmingly entitled:
"I was not clear why he wanted me to get off my bike," she wrote. "I stopped, got off my bike and said, 'You scared me. Don't talk to me like that.' He did not say, 'excuse me' or 'sorry that I frightened you.' He, instead in a threatening tone, said, 'you don't want to get into this.' My heart was pounding at this point. I had no idea what he wanted. I definately [sic] had not heard him earlier, if he had in fact called out to me. I just knew he wasn't being very polite about what he was trying to say."
Campbell described his occupation as "unemployed" on political filings before furiously scratching it out. Flip-flopping already? The aspiring mayor also needs a laptop for his campaign, so if you have one please hit him up on his 1990s-style website featuring an out-of-nowhere clay-looking man.
The first of the Maxes. This community-college student blazes with the style power of 100 Tim Gunns in his leather USA jacket. He decided to run for mayor in 2009 after hearing about Sam Adams's plans to pay for a bridge with city money, thinking, "Hell, I can run this city better than him! And I'm only 18!" Follow Brumm's Foursquare updates on his Facebook page.
Max No. 2. Also in college, this Max is notable for his resemblance to British comedian Stephen Merchant. He is trying and not yet succeeding to win a Facebook "Like" battle against Max Brumm, despite pointing out alleged deficiencies in that candidate's grasp of the English language: “I'm in this race to show Portlanders that it's possible for a young person to run for office who can compose emails and tweets that aren't full of spelling and grammatical errors."
Portland's “underdoggiest candidate for mayor” promises to be a voice – and mustache – for the 99 percent. Nuttall describes himself as a "broke-ass gas station employee who eats off my roommate's food stamps" who wants to “do my best to help broke-ass people.” He says his broke-assedness, though perhaps not good for his inter-roommate relations, makes him an ideal candidate for office: “I don't have personal investments or rich friends to protect, so if you are looking for a candidate who is not afraid to tell rich people to go [f---] themselves, this guy is your guy.”
Little is known about this man other than that he "successfully developed with my wife the Portland-area franchise for Jazzercise up until 1995."