Down by the river

It's been almost a year and a half since "Killer" Kate Brown left office as governor of Oregon, and we haven't heard a peep out of her during all that time. Apparently she's had teaching fellowships at Harvard and the University of Chicago. But now she's back in Oregon, and she's landed a new gig as...


It says here that she's the new president of something called the Willamette Falls Trust, described somewhat cynically by the Weed as "a nonprofit that’s been trying for years to build a public walkway up to the state’s largest waterfall." Willamette Falls, down by Oregon City, is a sacred site to local native tribes, but it's largely inaccessible due to its being dammed up and surrounded by industry. The Trust is a creature of four native tribes, which control its board of directors. They want to put a viewing site and learning center on the west side of the falls. Meanwhile, the Grand Ronde tribe, not included in the four, has its own property on the other side, which it reportedly wants to turn into a hotel and shopping center.

I must say, for Brown to take the job promoting the more touchy-feely "inter-tribal public access project" seems odd. The pay can't be great, and the scope of the work seems pretty modest. Quite the contrast from when Neil Goldschmidt first stepped out of politics. I remember he became some sort of vague vice president at Nike, and it was Next Stop: Dunthorpe. The cash really started rolling in for him, to match his immense power. This deal with Brown? It's a pop stand by comparison.

On the other side of the contract, what's in it for the tribes? Brown's got a marquee name, but not necessarily in a good way. And although she's obviously familiar with the native nations, her connection to them hasn't been all that close. She gave an entry interview with a native news organization where she sketched out her rez cred, and it's pretty weak:

As one of my last acts [as governor], we signed the Klamath Dam removal agreement. And key to that, honestly, was the voice of the Confederated Tribes of the Klamath. It made me realize that their tribes, their voices weren't being heard. And I worked very hard to lift up their voices in that world. And as you know, one, and now two, three, and four are coming out this year [Copco No. 1, John C. Boyle and Iron Gate].

The other project that I was engaged with was the Columbia Basin Project. Oregon was a plaintiff in that work. It was my job to push the Biden administration on moving forward on dam removal on the Lower Snake River. That agreement was just signed in February of this year. I'm very pleased that they have centered all of the Pacific Northwest tribes in the basin. February wouldn't have happened but for me pushing and screaming, and my sense of urgency there.

And then the other project that I think is relevant was the work that my team and I did to reach agreement on the Rose Quarter Improvement Project. The Black community was unhappy with ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation], with its plan and vision for that project. Working with Shannon Singleton, we brought people together to reach an agreement: city, state, Metro, county and members of the Black community including the leadership of the Albina Vision Trust. We have now received significant resources from our federal partners, led by Congressman [Earl] Blumenauer, Sen. [Ron] Wyden and Sen. [Jeff] Merkley. So that was a half-billion-dollar investment that the feds made, but that only happened because we were able to bring people together.

There's actually a link in that story to Shannon Singleton's campaign website. And to the Albina Vision Trust site as well. Yuck.

I'd love to see Willamette Falls become a place where the public can admire beauty and contemplate history. Heck, for all I care, go ahead and blow up the dam, too, and really get the water ripping. But it seems like a weird place for the ex-guv to be hanging out. I would have expected her to wind up on the faculty at Portland State.


  1. Must be embarrassing to find that this is the only gig left.

  2. It's quite the fall from (dis)grace...

  3. What could she possible teach at Harvard and the University of Chicago that would be worthwhile for anybody to attend? She has nothing to offer.

  4. Yes, because there are hundreds of native Americans just lining up to get as close as possible to the Falls in Oregon City. Been waiting since 1860 as a matter of fact. Who comes up with this stuff? And why do certain groups only celebrate the past when it comes to certain minorities? What’s done is done, and no matter how hard you try you can’t turn back the clock.

  5. Wonder if this hire might be part of a tribal push for a casino along the falls?

    1. First salvo

    2. Hardly the first salvo. This has been ongoing for a few years now. Many (including me) believe the Grand Ronde intend to put a casino in Oregon City. Every other local tribe with a casino (or plans for one) is lining up against them. Each side are lining up Salem face cards for the fight. We'll see who wins.

    3. Missed that. I need new sources of info

  6. She's probably working with a political image rehab consultant that told her to take some teaching gigs to build the resume a bit, and to do some non-profit work to show that you still care about the downtrodden and social justice, etc.

    I'm guessing we see her running for Congress in a few years, or maybe Senate when Wyden retires.

  7. This is just a play in the battle for the rights to build a casino, pure and simple. Also, remember when the locals journos tried to tell us she already had a job lined up on the Biden admin? Ha!


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