"Our Circumstances Are Every Bit As Compelling":
Scenes from the 2013 Tom McCall Legacy Gala

By Craig Beebe, Communications and Development Coordinator

On March 1, 1000 Friends of Oregon gathered with roughly 350 of our supporters, filling a ballroom at the Benson Hotel to celebrate a legacy 40 years in the making: a vision of Oregon as forward-looking, unified, and attentive to long-term quality over shortsighted destruction.

Our Tom McCall Legacy Gala is always a time for connecting with friends and supporters, and for reconnecting with a mission that helped create the Oregon we know and love today. But this year it was an especially inspiring event, commemorating not only the landmark passage of Senate Bill 100 in 1973, but four decades of passionate advocacy and persistent activity since that moment.

We were joined in this effort by keynote speaker Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who cast a vote for SB 100 in his first term as an Oregon legislator; Henry Richmond, who founded 1000 Friends of Oregon two years later with Governor Tom McCall, to help ensure that the program’s lofty goals were not ignored or undermined; and Peter McDonald, a Clackamas County hazelnut farmer and small forester whose forty years of steadfast support for land use planning were honored with the presentation of the Tom McCall Legacy Award.

It was also an evening of looking forward, as captured by the event's theme of 40fwd. A table of our Land Use Leadership Initiative participants reminded attendees of the crucial investments we must make in the next forty years of land use planning, while the generosity of long-time supporters assured that 1000 Friends can continue working for Oregon’s productivity and health long into the future.

Jason Miner: Knowing the Questions

Executive Director Jason Miner opened the evening with a reminder of a unique concept embedded in Oregon’s land use program: an awareness that many of the challenges communities face are deeply interconnected and cannot be solved without a comprehensive approach.

“Will Oregon build housing that everyone can afford in neighborhoods where they can safely cross a street?” Miner asked. “We know that is the same question as will we fight obesity, diabetes, and air pollution.”

He continued: “Will we continue to have family-run farms in Oregon? We know that is the same question as will we protect farms and forests from the onslaught of sprawl. We know the answer is yes, and we know we have to labor, to focus, to plan, to accomplish these things.”

Miner pointed out that often land use planning is seen as a set of policies concerned with place alone. “But the end, it is really about people,” he said, urging attendees to never forget that the land use program depends on Oregonians as much as it works to improve their lives.

Peter McDonald: Inspire a New Generation

We next honored one exemplary Oregonian: Peter McDonald, who from his hazelnut farm near Wilsonville has given countless hours and considerable talent to support smart long-range planning as a county planning commissioner, an agricultural leader, a founding board member and steadfast supporter of 1000 Friends, and a frequent letter-writer and testifier before committees and commissions from Metro to the Legislature.

Introducing Peter and his contributions, 1000 Friends founder Henry Richmond reflected on the importance of farmers to land use planning’s success. "People who own farm land, and who successfully work it, have more credibility than anyone to persuade non-farmer Oregonians that laws protecting farmland are a good idea," Richmond said. "And making that case is exactly what Oregon farmers have done."

Read Henry Richmond's speech, including a list of farmers he recognized for their contributions to Oregon land use planning, here.

Recounting his personal friendship with McDonald and the extraordinary time and energy he had put into furthering Oregon land use planning, Richmond said "we owe a double debt of gratitude to Peter," for persuading others to support SB 100 and for bolstering the work of 1000 Friends of Oregon.

But as he rose to accept an ovation, McDonald was modest about how much credit should go to him alone. “This award goes as much to me as it does to tens of thousands of Oregonians who supported SB 100 and have continued to do so,” he said, “staying up until 3 AM at public meetings, writing letters, knocking on doors, supporting groups like 1000 Friends.”  

Although we have much to be proud of, McDonald said—noting that farmland actually increased in Oregon last year while it decreased substantially in much of the country—without continued persistence from a new generation of Oregonians, all of these achievements could be lost.

“We must inspire a new generation,” he said, “so that in 40 years another group of people can also be here celebrating Oregon’s accomplishments.”

Earl Blumenauer: We Are the Stewards

We next heard from someone whose life’s work has been dedicated to securing Oregon’s greatness and extending it to communities around the nation. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who 1000 Friends Board President and Master of Ceremonies noted “is no ordinary Congressman,” gave a rousing keynote address recounting the many ways his work has been inspired by and interacted with Senate Bill 100.

Matching the theme of the evening, he urged the audience to think forward. “In 40 years, are we still [going to be] on the cutting edge?” he asked. “Will people still be coming here to see where America is going?”

Blumenauer shared that he has just become a grandfather. “My grandchildren will probably be alive in 2100,” he said. “We are the stewards of what that year will look like…and it is really the next ten years that will make the difference.”

The challenge may seem huge, Blumenauer said, but he asked that we remember who came before us. “Those people weren’t giants,” he said. “They were people who had a sense of vision, who grew to the status of giants."

“I think our circumstances are every bit as compelling," Blumenauer asserted. "I hope we will be as equal to the challenge as they were.”

It was a strong charge; it is the charge that 1000 Friends of Oregon is committed to carrying forward as we confront new challenges, changes in our climate and demographics, and continued threats to the land use program. As the evening’s events ended, and guests lingered in the ballroom, the sense of purpose remained palpable. With good friends like Peter McDonald, inspired leadership from people like Earl Blumenauer, and a smart set of emerging leaders like the participants in our Land Use Leadership Initiative, Oregon can continue to shine as Governor McCall believed it should, as Senate Bill 100’s framers believed it could.

Thank you to all who attended our 2013 Tom McCall Legacy Gala, especially our Patron Sponsor, John Allcott; Business Sponsor, NW Natural; Congressman Earl Blumenauer; the family and friends of Peter McDonald; and volunteers Alexa Heidrich, Daniel Ronan, Brandon Spencer-Hartle, Laura Waddick, and Hallie Will. Thanks also to in-kind donors Chehalem, Cristom, Eyrie Vineyards, Ponzi Vineyards, Westrey Wine Co., Widmer Brothers Brewing, and Winter's Hill Vineyards.

If you missed the Gala and would like to make a special contribution to 1000 Friends in honor of the 40th anniversary, you may do so at friends.org/support. Thanks so much for your support.