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Neil Goldschmidt
Gov Neil Goldschmidt.jpg
33rd Governor of Oregon
In office
January 12, 1987 – January 14, 1991
Preceded by Victor Atiyeh
Succeeded by Barbara Roberts
6th United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
September 24, 1979 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Brock Adams
Succeeded by Drew Lewis
45th Mayor of Portland
In office
January 2, 1973 – August 15, 1979
Preceded by Terry Schrunk
Succeeded by Connie McCready
Personal details
Neil Edward Goldschmidt

(1940-06-16) June 16, 1940 (age 83)
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Margaret Wood
(m. 1965; div. 1990)
Diana Snowden
(m. 1994)
Children 4
Education University of Oregon (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)

Neil Edward Goldschmidt (born June 16, 1940) is an American businessman and Democratic politician from the state of Oregon who held local, state and federal offices over three decades. After serving as the United States Secretary of Transportation under President Jimmy Carter and governor of Oregon, Goldschmidt was at one time considered the most powerful and influential figure in Oregon's politics. His career and legacy were severely damaged by revelations he ... a young teenage girl in 1973, during his first term as mayor of Portland.

Goldschmidt was elected to the Portland City Council in 1970 and then as mayor of Portland in 1972, becoming the youngest mayor of any major American city. He promoted the revitalization of Downtown Portland and was influential on Portland-area transportation policy, particularly with the scrapping of the controversial Mount Hood Freeway and the establishment of the MAX Light Rail system. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Transportation by President Jimmy Carter in 1979; in that capacity he worked to revive the ailing automobile industry and to deregulate several industries. He served until the end of Carter's presidency in 1981 and then served as a senior executive with Nike for several years.

He was elected the 33rd governor of Oregon in 1986, serving a single term. He faced significant challenges, particularly a rising anti-tax movement (leading to Measure 5 in 1990) and a doubling of the state's prison population. He worked across party lines to reduce regulation and to repair the state's infrastructure. His reforms to the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF), a state-chartered worker's compensation insurance company were heralded at the time, but drew strong criticism in later years.

Despite his popularity, Goldschmidt did not seek a second term as governor, becoming an influential and controversial lobbyist. Over the next dozen years or so, he was criticized by editorial boards and Oregonians for several of the causes he supported, including backing the forestry corporation Weyerhaeuser in its hostile takeover of Oregon's Willamette Industries and his advocacy for a private investment firm in its attempt to take over utility company Portland General Electric. .....

Early life

Goldschmidt was born in Eugene, in Oregon's Willamette Valley, on June 16, 1940, into a Jewish family to Lester H. Goldschmidt and Annette Levin. He graduated from South Eugene High School. He later attended the University of Oregon, also in Eugene. He served as student body president at the school before graduating in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Goldschmidt served as an intern for U.S. Senator Maurine Neuberger in 1964 in Washington, D.C. While there, he was recruited by New York Congressman Allard K. Lowenstein to do voter registration in Mississippi's 1964 Freedom Summer civil rights campaign. Goldschmidt married Margaret Wood in 1965. They had two children, Joshua and Rebecca, and divorced in 1990. Goldschmidt earned a J.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1967. From 1967 to 1970 he worked as a legal aid lawyer in Portland, Oregon.

Political career

In 1970, Neil Goldschmidt entered politics in Oregon. This began three decades of being in the public eye in the state, serving as mayor of Oregon's most populous city and as the state's governor. During this time, he also served in the Cabinet of President Jimmy Carter.

Portland City Commissioner and Mayor

Goldschmidt won a seat on the Portland City Council in 1970. As City Commissioner (1971–1973) and later as Mayor of Portland (1973–1979), Goldschmidt participated in the revitalization of the downtown section of that city. He led a freeway revolt against the unpopular Mount Hood Freeway, building consensus among labor unions and other powerful entities to divert Federal funds initially earmarked for the freeway to other projects, ultimately expanding the federal funds brought to the region to include the MAX Light Rail line and the Portland Transit Mall. He is widely credited with opening up the city's government to neighborhood activists and minorities, appointing women and African-Americans in a City Hall that had been dominated by an "old-boy network". During his mayoral campaign, he questioned the benefit of expanding the city's police force, preferring to direct resources to crime prevention. According to Nigel Jaquiss, a reporter for Willamette Week, for thirty years he was "Oregon's most successful and charismatic leader".

In 1973, Governor Tom McCall appointed Goldschmidt to what would be known as the Governor's Task Force, which was tasked with exploring regional transportation solutions. Goldschmidt served alongside notable leaders: Glenn Jackson, chair of the board of Portland Power and Light and chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, was considered the state's leading power broker on transportation issues; and Gerard Drummond, a prominent lawyer and lobbyist, was president of Tri-Met's board of directors. The task force considered an unpopular deal that would have funded the construction of the Mount Hood Freeway, which would have bisected southeast Portland. The deal, which would have been 90% funded by the Federal Highway Administration, was rescinded, with first the Multnomah County Commission and, later, Portland City Council reversing their positions and advising against it. Goldschmidt was initially opposed to diverting funds to light rail, instead favoring busways and more suitable local road projects; as the 1981 deadline to reallocate the funds approached, however, light rail became a more attractive prospect. By a process not clearly documented, light rail was included in the final plan. All federal money initially intended for the Mount Hood Freeway ultimately went to other road projects, but the total amount was doubled and the first leg of MAX light rail was approved and ultimately completed in 1986.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Goldschmidt became the sixth U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 1979. His recess appointment by President Jimmy Carter came on July 27 of that year, as part of a midterm restructuring of the Carter administration's cabinet positions. The United States Senate confirmed his appointment on September 21, and he was sworn in on September 24. In this position, Goldschmidt was known for his work to revive the financially ailing auto industry, and efforts to deregulate the airline, trucking and railroad industries.

A newcomer to the Carter administration and to national politics, Goldschmidt traded not only on his experience in transportation planning, but on his political acumen as well; following Carter's unsuccessful bid for re-election in 1980, Goldschmidt expressed doubts about the future of the Democratic Party if it couldn't learn to cultivate political allies more effectively. Goldschmidt's time in Washington, DC, informed his own understanding of politics, as well. He remained in office through the remainder of the Carter administration. In late 1979, Republican presidential hopeful John B. Anderson called for Goldschmidt's resignation, and members of the United States Senate Banking Committee later chastised him, for having suggested that he would withhold transportation funds from municipalities, such as Chicago and Philadelphia, whose mayors supported Ted Kennedy in his primary election bid against Carter. Goldschmidt resigned at the conclusion of Carter's term on January 20, 1981.

Between positions in public office, Goldschmidt was a Nike executive during the 1980s, serving as international Vice President and then as president of Nike Canada. He was considered as a potential chair of the Democratic National Committee in 1984.

Governor of Oregon

In June 1985 Goldschmidt announced his candidacy for Oregon Governor. His name familiarity and access to large donations through his business and political ties made him the Democratic front runner. He easily defeated Oregon State Senator Edward N. Fadeley in the May 1986 Democratic primary. Goldschmidt defeated Republican Secretary of State Norma Paulus in the 1986 general election 52% to 48%, succeeding two-term Republican Governor Vic Atiyeh, becoming the state's 33rd governor.

Goldschmidt's policy for economic development brought together Democratic liberals and Republican business leaders. His personal focus was on children's rights, poverty and crime, but the challenge of meeting increasing needs with a decreasing budget overshadowed his tenure. An anti-tax movement took hold during his term, passing the landmark Measure 5 in 1990, which restricted the generation of revenue by property tax. He was credited with leading "The Oregon Comeback", bringing the state out of nearly eight years of recession, through regulatory reform and repair of the state's infrastructure.

Goldschmidt oversaw a major expansion of the state's prison system. In May 1987, he hired Michael Francke to modernize the state's prisons, which an investigator had described as overcrowded and operated as "independent fiefdoms". Francke was charged with supervising a plan to add over 1000 new beds to the prison system. Francke was murdered in the Department of Corrections parking lot in 1989.

In 1990, Goldschmidt brokered agreements between business, labor and insurance interests that changed the state's workers' compensation regulations. Workers' compensation has been a contentious issue in Oregon for some time, as the state-run State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF) insures approximately 35% of the workforce. The legislature passed a law as a result. The changes were considered to benefit the insurance industry and business interests, at the expense of claimants, who were required to establish more extensively that their employers were responsible for injuries. The issue was contentious for some time, involving lawsuits and various efforts to modify the law. In 2000, Governor John Kitzhaber attempted to reform the system again. This led to a new law in the 2001 Legislature, which was complicated by an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that occurred during deliberations.

Goldschmidt's Children's Agenda was important in Oregon with its community initiatives. In 1991, he helped create the Oregon Children's Foundation, as well as the Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) literacy program, which puts 10,000 volunteers into Oregon schools to read to children.

Goldschmidt declined to run for re-election in 1990, despite the widely held perception that he could have been easily re-elected; at the time, he cited marital difficulties. Bernie Giusto, who was Goldschmidt's driver at the start of his term and later became Multnomah County Sheriff, was widely rumored to be romantically involved with Goldschmidt's wife Margie (and would later date her openly after the Goldschmidts' divorce).

Goldschmidt had hoped at one time to serve two terms, noting that most of predecessor Tom McCall's accomplishments came during his second term. In his farewell address to the City Club of Portland, he stated: "After only four years, everything is left undone. Nothing is finished."

After leaving elected office

Goldschmidt founded a law and consulting firm, Neil Goldschmidt, Inc., in Portland in 1991, four days after leaving office as governor. His clients have included Schnitzer Investment, Nike, PacifiCorp, Paul Allen, Bechtel Enterprises (a subsidiary of Bechtel Corporation), and SAIF.

Even out of elected office, he was widely considered the most powerful political figure in the state for many years. His influence extended all over the state and the nation. As a member of the Oregon Health & Science University board, Goldschmidt was an early advocate of the controversial Portland Aerial Tram, which connected the research hospital to real estate projects by his longtime associates Homer Williams and Irving Levin near land whose owners Goldschmidt later represented. He stayed active in Portland as well, advocating an expansion of the Park Blocks (a strip of open park space cutting through downtown Portland.) Goldschmidt assisted in the deal that led to the construction of TriMet's MAX Red Line to Portland International Airport that opened in 2001. He also started the Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) volunteer program in Oregon schools.

Goldschmidt drew criticism in recent years for some of his business activities. In 2002, he lobbied business and political leaders to support Weyerhaeuser in its hostile takeover of Willamette Industries, Inc., then the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in Portland. In early 2004, he backed a purchase of Portland General Electric (PGE) by Texas Pacific Group which, though never consummated, put on hold city and county studies to acquire PGE by condemnation. Criticism of Goldschmidt's business activities peaked when, on November 13, 2003, Governor Ted Kulongoski nominated him to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

Goldschmidt's appointment was initially expected to meet with little opposition. Several state senators, however, voiced concerns about Goldschmidt's involvement with SAIF and possible improprieties in the dealings he and his wife had with Texas Pacific. Senator Vicki Walker, in particular, emerged as an outspoken critic of Goldschmidt. ..... These revelations ended Goldschmidt's extensive career at the center of Oregon politics and policymaking.

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