Will Roy Make a Run for Mayor?

Will Roy Make a Run for Mayor?

Will Roy Make a Run for Mayor?By Sarah Blount – The Portland Observer – July 4, 2007
Business leader says it’s all talk for now

Businessman and civic leader Roy Jay faces a question that will pop up increasingly as we approach 2008: will he run for mayor?

Jay, a tireless leader who has helped shaped Portland business while significantly raising the profile of minority businesses, has been asked to run for City Council twice before but declined. He says he is flattered to be considered in the 2008 mayoral race, especially since it wasn’t even his idea.
“I’m not saying yes or no,” Jay, 59, says of a possible run. “It’s way too early, and I’ve got to weigh my options.”

One thing is for certain: Jay said he won’t even consider a run if his good friend and Mayor Tom Potter decides to campaign for a second term. Potter has said he’ll decide whether he’ll run closer to his birthday in September.

But is Jay giving the prospect a little more thought this time around?

“No,” he says. “I run a business, I’m not going around running campaigns.”

In all fairness, Jay’s popularity and business clout has others doing the early “campaigning” for him. And it’s not just city insiders elbowing Jay and peppering him with questions.

Upon checking into Good Samaritan Hospital last month for an emergency procedure, Jay recalls a nurse asking him if he was running for mayor, and where she could to sign up to help.

“I didn’t even know this woman,” he said. “I told her if I die I can’t help anybody.”

Even folks who run a blog called the NW Republican praised Jay last May in a post discussing his credentials and possible campaign. Bloggers described him as “high energy and all about Portland.”

The GOP endorsement came as a surprise to Jay, who won’t reveal his political affiliation (though everyone asks, he says) but admits he donates money to both Democrats and Republicans.

“I don’t play the “D and R” game because you wind up losing,” he explained. “You’ve got to have friends all over the place.”

Jay’s friends include a broad sampling of Portland politicians and business leaders, including former mayor Vera Katz, a Democrat. And during an interview in front of Portland’s City Hall last week, Jay greeted or was approached by nearly every individual passing by.

But though he admits individuals interested in a Roy Jay campaign have called meetings with him, he considers himself an unlikely candidate because he lacks political experience.

“But if Potter and (former Portland mayor Bud) Clark can do it.” he says, considering the possibilities.

Some might say Jay’s business expertise overshadows his lack of elected experience, possibly in the same way Potter gained credibility as police chief, and businessman and restaurateur Clark won over the city with a Reuben sandwich at his northwest Portland tavern, the Goose Hollow Inn.

Jay launched his entrepreneurial career as a teenager in the 1960s in Columbia Villa, the Portsmouth neighborhood now called New Columbia. He says his first job was sorting bottles at a grocery store, and when he saved up enough money to buy a motorcycle he charged other kids 10 cents for rides. His first car, a 1959 Ford, was used to ferry classmates to Roosevelt High School.

These days Jay says he has at least nine jobs, including president and co-founder of the African American Chamber of Commerce, president of the Oregon Convention and Visitor’s Service Network and owner of the downtown SmartPark garages.

Winning the parking management bid in 2003 was a boon to Portland’s minority business chambers; in an unprecedented move Jay brought together the African American, Hispanic and Philippine American chambers of commerce to form the Alliance of Minority Chambers. The groups partnered with Star Park and were awarded the bid over the Portland Business Alliance.

“That definitely surprised people,” Jay said. “In the past we didn’t get those kinds of contracts.”

Jay says the SmartPark garages are an example of the million-dollar bids minorities should be competing for in Portland. He wants to see more joint ventures instead of sheltered market programs that award often-smaller contracts to firms who qualify for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise programs.

Jay said another leader in the local African American community, Harold Ford, put it eloquently when he said, “It’s like feeding people baby food, but when do we get solid food?”

Jay is also creator of Project Clean Slate, a program started in 2005 that helps those with past minor criminal and civil offenses clear their records and reintegrate into the community.

At this point Jay says he’d prefer discussing Project Clean Slate to City Hall prospects. The project, until it passed last month in the Oregon Legislature as HB 3054, has been kept alive through chamber members, company donations and Jay’s personal retirement fund.

“That’s probably more important to me than any political race,” he said.

And with the 2008 May primary election for the non-partisan position 11 months away, the mayoral candidate pool is all speculation. Potter’s wait for a decision on re-election is also stalling a possible City Hall shuffle with a rumored mayoral bid from City Commissioner Sam Adams.

But Jay isn’t even sure the mayor’s title is his best tool for effectiveness – a sentiment shared by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenaur, who chose not to run for mayor in 2003 to better serve Oregonians on a national level.

“Sometimes it’s better to be a passenger in seat 38-A than to be the pilot,” Jay says. “Sometimes you can be more effective just being in the audience.”

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