12 December 2017

Abysinnia, Vera Katz

Vera Katz, Portland's mayor from 1992-2005, died this week. She was 84 years old and since retiring from government, she had been battling cancer. She eventually succumbed to that cancer, but if you consider how long it's been since she left the Portland mayoralty that she had and, indeed, since about 2000, been fighting some form of cancer (breast, that first time), you have some idea of how much fight there was in the woman.

She had firsts: First woman speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives (1985), first woman mayor of Portland (and possibly the only local politician  who could possibly follow Bud Clark's act) and a good deal of the reason why the City Club of Portland is no longer a men's room.

A bronze statue of her sits on the Eastbank Esplanade, which is named in her honor. It sits right at see-level, that one could walk right up to it. No ceremonial plinth for her; she wouldn't have that. She took TriMet to work. She was Portland that way. She had courage, as when she stood in Tom McCall Waterfront Park with President Clinton during the '96 floods, which were threatening to overtop the Seawall; she was visionary in that Portland way too, dreaming of capping I-405 (a dream that, as of yet, has not come true).

A friend on Facebook, Tim James, did a splendid caricature of her, and it's wonderfully fitting: that smile really did kind of light up the place. It disarmed one no matter what one thought of her.

Vera Katz. Caricature by Tim James, used with permission.

Abysinnia, Vera. She was a character, and that character was Portland.
Oh, yes ... Tim James' website, http://www.timoworld.com/, is full of his inimitable art and redoubtable wit. Give it a visit.

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