Tsunami Books owner Scott Landfield runs donation-free campaign for Eugene mayor
Since Scott Landfield, owner of Tsunami Books, declared his campaign for Eugene mayor last month, he’s spent $3.47.
This accounts for the cost of making copies of supporters’ signatures, plus parking his car at city hall to turn in his mayoral application.
“Now I’m riding my bike to campaign events,” Landfield told the Emerald. “I want to save that money.”
On May 17, Oregon’s primary will include the ballot for mayor. A candidate can win the election immediately with 50 percent plus one vote; if no candidate receives the majority, the mayoral election will be held again in November with the two highest-earning candidates. Landfield doesn’t want the race to be over in May.
“That was… the seed that started this,” said Tsunami Books employee and University of Oregon alum Kelsey Yoder. “He wants the candidates to be pushed to do more, [and] get to know the communities they’re working with.”
Landfield has updated the bookstore’s Facebook page with some musings on his mayoral run. In the first post, he established the three “planks” of his platform: (a) he’s not running to become elected as mayor, but rather (b) to extend the election process past the primary date and into November, and (c) he’s doing this with as little money as possible to demonstrate that any citizen can run for office without major financial backing.
After growing up in southern Illinois, Landfield moved to Eugene in 1978 and planted trees for 20 years with the Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative, a 600-worker “earth healing” movement. His parents, both journalists and literature buffs, named him after F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. He wanted to be a writer since age 5 and opened Tsunami Books in 1996.
The entrance wall of Tsunami Books is a towering assemblage of historical and cultural iconography — the Register-Guard’s front page after the Apollo 11 moon landing, the New York Times front page after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, flyers for Oregon Country Fairs from years past, Obama’s iconic “HOPE” poster, a poster of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac standing arm in arm and a loud red, white and blue poster screaming “NO IRAQ WAR.”
But one poster is noticeably absent — one in support of Landfield for mayor. It’s intentional, he says. He’s not even using lawn signs. When one supporter asked him about this via the bookstore’s Facebook page, he told people to make their own.
“Scott is definitely going the route of grassroots, DIY, do-whatever-you-can-in-whatever-way-you-can sort of style,” said Eugene artist Ila Rose, who’s working with Landfield to make a mayoral sign for the storefront.
In lieu of financing his campaign, Landfield hosts fundraisers at the bookstore and donates the proceeds to local nonprofits. This Thursday, April 14, a fundraiser for Occupy Medical Eugene, a volunteer-run clinic that offers free medical care, will be hosted from 7-10 p.m. at Tsunami Books.
“Instead of raising money for my campaign, I’m raising money for something real,” he said. “The longer I run, the more money I’m going to raise for nonprofits.”
The event includes community activists, poets, artists and writers, and an auction of local artists’ works.
“He wants to see resources go to community need rather than toward people running campaigns,” said Jorah LaFleur, emcee of Tsunami’s slam poetry nights. “That seems pretty straightforward and a really neat citizen voice to be added to the mix.”
Landfield wrote on Facebook that campaign fundraising is “a despicable waste of resources.”
“I think people need to stand up and tell these small-town candidates to quit raising so much money for their campaigns and start running on who they really are,” he wrote. “It takes very little money to get that across.”
Vinis remarked that she’d love to not fundraise for her campaign, but at the same time, it forces a candidate to be beholden to his or her constituents.
“Fundraising for a political campaign is a huge endeavor and it would be wonderful as a candidate not to do that. In a self-interested way, I’d love not to fundraise,” said Vinis. “[But] I think it’s a very important way to establish credibility as a candidate.”
Merrill Watrous, an education instructor at Lane Community College, says that Scott’s campaign exemplifies “a new paradigm” with his dismissive approach to donations.
“Maybe we’re at a tipping point and Scott is representing that right now,” she said. “I hope we’re more thoughtful about how we spend money in campaigns.”
Landfield said he was “very unhappy” with the election’s mayoral candidate prospects and that no candidate represented the ideas that he and “everyone” around him feel are most important — local campaign finance reform, slower urban growth and fewer projects contracted to out-of-state developers.
One of Landfield’s nemeses is MUPTE, the tax incentive that lets multi-unit housing projects avoid paying new taxes for 10 years in exchange for developing. According to Eugene Weekly, that’s the equivalent of a $16-million tax break for Capstone, the Alabama-based developers behind the 13th & Olive apartment complex.
“It’s moving out of control for the big corporate dollar,” he said. “Their idea of growth is not real growth.”
The perfunctory construction work at 13th & Olive – hallmarked by the persistently defective units – is proof of how developers can dupe the Eugene community, he argued.
“A lot of student housing that has gone in under the city’s rules is a total scam,” said Landfield. “They’re fucked. And in 10 years from now, they’re going to be really fucked.”
He cites Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy’s support for the 13th & Olive tax break — the largest downtown redevelopment project in the city’s history — as a “huge failure.”
“They’re wiley sons-of-bitches; they’re full-on pirates,” he said of these developers. “Johnny Depp would just be a hand on deck.”
He’s also spoken before Eugene City Council to denounce the proposed construction of luxe condos above the downtown public plaza Kesey Square.
“It won’t do anything about the criminal element right there; it’ll move them a few feet,” he said. “And it’ll make a couple guys millions of dollars.”
Landfield — whose candidacy also looks at homelessness, unchallenged City Council seats and term limits — knows the May 17 primary may mark the end of his run, as voters may choose one of the election’s other candidates who’ve invested in lawn signs.
“If I make it past Lucy [Vinis] spending no money, I’m proving something that no one else in America is doing right now,” he said. “I’m showing how possible it is for an average person to do it.”
Craig Garcia also contributed to this post.
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