"A Community That Believes Oregon is Exceptional": The Tom McCall Legacy Gala 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012
The Governor Hotel, Portland

Enjoy these photos from our 2012 Tom McCall Legacy Gala--click on any photo to view its caption on our Flickr page. And look below for a full recap of the evening's speakers.

Over 250 supporters from across Oregon came together at Portland’s Governor Hotel on Friday evening, March 23, for 1000 Friends’ 2012 Tom McCall Legacy Gala. Enjoying delicious wine donated by a number of Oregon wineries and beer from Widmer Brewing, as well as appetizers and a pasta bar prepared by Jake’s Catering, our guests took full advantage of an opportunity to mingle and connect with others who share a vision of a beautiful, vibrant Oregon.

Executive Director Jason Miner reminded the gathered crowd that in nearly 40 years of land use planning in Oregon, 1000 Friends of Oregon has helped protect an astounding amount of family farms and forests land from development, and encouraged Oregon to focus on investing in its existing communities instead.  Oregon has successfully protected a million acres of farmland in western Oregon alone since 1973, he noted.

“Oregon looks different, and feels different from the rest of the nation. You hear it from visiting friends or family all the time—instead of our worst fears, we have sagebrush savannas, coastal cliffs and cascades, and the revival and retrofitting of city and suburbia,” he said.

But Miner emphasized that 1000 Friends is more than an organization. Instead, from its beginnings it has been a community, he said. “1000 Friends of Oregon is the community of people that believe Oregon is exceptional. And like all exceptional places, it requires exceptional devotion to guard its beauty and integrity,” Miner said.

The evening was also an opportunity to highlight several exceptional Oregonians who are working in different ways to protect and enhance their communities.

The 2012 Tom McCall Legacy Award: Representative Mary Nolan

First, 1000 Friends presented Representative Mary Nolan, who has served in the Oregon House of Representatives since 2000, with the Tom McCall Legacy Award. The award is given to public servants, businesspeople, and citizen activists in recognition of exceptional service to Oregon communities and landscapes, in the spirit of one of Governor McCall’s famous statements about heroes: “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say, ‘This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.’”

Representative Nolan demonstrated this commitment throughout her service in the Legislature, Miner told the guests as he presented the award. He recounted the period after Measure 37, when Rep. Nolan was one of the few legislators still willing to champion land use planning, and how she worked over the following years to make sure land use advocates had a voice as the future of the program was debated. In 2009, as Land Use Committee chair, she was a vocal advocate for the protection of the Metolius River basin from destination resort development.

“With intelligence and a persuasive approach, she has taken on land use issues, and been a true standout in her willingness to listen, to advise and to help the land use program,” Miner said.

Accepting the award, Representative Nolan expressed deep humility at the thought of an award with Governor McCall’s name on it. “It’s an overwhelming honr to get an award named for one of my heroes,” she said, recounting how she moved to Oregon in the 1970s “because Tom McCall told me not to.” She recalled how one of the first people she met in Oregon was Henry Richmond, who founded 1000 Friends with Governor McCall, and from the beginning nurtured a “deep commitment” to the mission of wise planning to protect farms and forests and create great places to live.

Our Work In Action: Protecting Farmland, Supporting Innovation

Following Rep. Nolan’s remarks, Miner welcomed Lolita Carl to the stage. Carl, who works a Marion County farm that has been in her family for nearly a century, has been fighting to protect her livelihood and those of her neighbors from encroachment by the cities of Woodburn and Hubbard. (Learn more about her fight here, from our Oregon Stories newsletter last year.)

She recalled that her father Manton had been one of 1000 Friends’ first supporters, and she and her sister were always inspired by his passionate defense of Marion County farmland from sprawl. “His eyes would light up when he talked about these ‘young guns’ at 1000 Friends—Henry Richmond, Robert Liberty—who knew that Oregon has to be protected,” she recalled.

When she returned to the farm after living in Central Oregon and other parts of the country, she saw that the Willamette Valley was still at risk of runaway development, destroying family farms and wasting irreplaceable farmland. Remembering her father’s example, she and her sister Kathleen began working with 1000 Friends’ then-Willamette Valley Advocate, Sid Friedman, to fight back in their own community. That work continues today, with Mia Nelson and Mary Kyle McCurdy; the Oregon Court of Appeals is due to hear that case this spring.

“We can care all we want about Oregon, but if we don’t contribute and work at it, it will be of little help,” Carl told the audience. “We feel constantly threatened by development. But if New York City can save Central Park, we can save our farm.”

Next we heard from Evann Remington, an innovative entrepreneur from Salem who founded Organic Fresh Fingers, a company whose mission is to connect Oregon farms to Oregon schools and childcare facilities, and to teach children about the importance of eating nutritious, local foods.

Remington, whose company currently employees fifteen Oregonians in a new processing center in Salem, described their “triple bottom-line approach,” which takes into account all aspects of environmental and social responsibility while also creating a successful business model.

Remington described the huge potential economic impact of her company’s vision. “500 million dollars of economic activity could result from connecting Oregon farms to schools, and the demand is increasing,” she said. “But we need to make sure Oregon’s land use system keeps supporting farmers.”

Throughout the evening, it was clear that 1000 Friends is indeed an exceptional community. Some of our guests have supported the organization since its founding in 1975, while others were not yet even born. Some were residents of urban places like Portland and Eugene, but others hail from rural areas of the Willamette, Rogue, and Hood River valleys. Some, like Congressman Earl Blumenauer and State Representative Jules Bailey, have positions of considerable influence, while others gain power through organized advocacy, or lead more private lives. And of course, there were many more who could only attend in spirit, prevented by distance or weather from joining us in Portland.

But wherever they come from and whatever life they lead, 1000 Friends of Oregon is built on the strength and diversity of this community, and Oregon is a much better place for it.

Thank you to all who joined us in Portland, and to all the Oregonians who support 1000 Friends with your actions, contributions, and vision for the future of this exceptional place.