Scott Bailey is the co-founder of the Oregon chapter of Community and Parents for Public Schools and is the Regional Labor Economist for the Employment Security Department of Washington State’s Labor Market and Economic Analysis branch.
Portland New American Movement
The Portland chapter of the New American Movement formed in 1977, four years after NAM held its inaugural meeting. It was a lively and nationally-renowned NAM chapter, and when the merger between NAM and the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee took place, a majority of its members remained active in the new organization, (Democratic Socialists of America) and, through it, successfully engaged in regional and national politics.
Five people — Rhys Scholes, Marcia Barrentine, Nancy Becker, Scott Bailey, and Beverly Stein — were central to the chapter’s life throughout its existence. They also worked together beyond the life of the organization.
- My parents were mainstream Republicans. In fact, in 1968, Nixon passed through town, and they took me to see him. I was about [holds up hands] this close to him as he went through a room. For me, watching the Chicago demonstration, the cops beating up students – something clicked there.
- But it wasn’t until I got out of Oregon State University and started working at this alternative social service agency called the Contact Center, which was run as a collective, that I started to move to the left. There were all these incredibly radical feminist lesbians, and so as well as doing social service, we were in little study groups reading Opposing Liberalism by Chairman Mao.
- I remember one day going out for a walk with a guy—I can’t remember his name—who said, “We gotta do more than social services. We gotta do social change, too. And I think Marxism is where we need to be moving.” And then the Trojan Decommissioning Alliance, TDA, came along and I said, “Well, I have to get involved with that.”
Left unity attempts
Rhys Scholes, Marcia Barrentine, Nancy Becker, Scott Bailey, and Beverly Stein were all involved in the Alliance for Social Change, which was a failed effort at left unity, and that was followed by the Oregon Alliance for Progressive Policy, which was a second failed attempt at left unity.
School bond work
Just 587 votes: That's how many more Portland Public Schools needed to squeak by with a win for the $548 million school modernization bond measure in May 2011.
Instead, voters narrowly rejected the measure by a margin of 50.24 percent to 49.76 percent. Bond supporters largely blamed the economy in addition to their own faulty public process, which most agreed lacked genuine support from the community.
PPS leaders, parents and supporters are quietly gearing up again, six months later, to pick up the pieces and look to what’s next.
By december 2011, however, Superintendent Carole Smith and board members wanted to learn from their mistakes, which they heard about during the summer through dozens of “listening sessions” with a wide range of both supporters and foes. A common refrain: more public involvement on the front end, please.
“I want to ensure the district does a really good public process,” said Scott Bailey, a Northeast Portland schools activist who worked to push the May bond. “To me, that’s the one ingredient that was missing and within their control.”
To spearhead those efforts, PPS tapped Rhys Scholes, a longtime campaign and schools activist, to lead the district’s community engagement process. The district borrowied Scholes from his tax and legislative work at Multnomah County for the rest of the school year, through an intergovernmental agreement.
This time around, the plan was to start with a public process to update the district’s long-range facilities plan, which has been on the books since 2002 and last updated in 2007.