Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has — in her words — “the bad tenant story to end all bad tenant stories.”
It’s a personal story, too, because it happened to her parents. They were small-scale landlords, with a modest rental property in rural Oregon. One day, they picked the wrong tenants and eventually had to evict them. Eudaly described what happened next at a recent Portland City Council hearing:
“The tenants responded by breaking every window in the house, filling it with garbage, and using it as a dog kennel for an untold number of days. So you can imagine what that looked like,” she said. “My father was driving home from assessing and photographing the damage on a rainy day in October 1983. He lost control of his vehicle on a tight curve, hit an oncoming truck and died instantly.”
This conversation is part of an occasional series about the pivotal moments that shape the lives of people in the public eye. If there’s someone whose story you want to hear, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Backstory” in the subject line.
Part 1: Then The Ladder Slipped: Oregon State Rep. Diego Hernandez
Part 2: Sen. Ron Wyden: ‘He Was Constantly Afraid.’
Part 3: Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly And ‘The Bad Tenant Story’
Part 4: Oregon’s Secretary Of State On Faith, Race And Same-Sex Marriage
The bad tenant story ended in her father’s death.
Eudaly ran as a champion for the rights of renters. Portland’s housing crisis helped propel her, an upstart and outspent politician, into a surprise election victory last November. She’s a lifelong renter, a former bookstore owner and the single mother of a son with cerebral palsy. She herself has struggled with rent increases. At that City Council hearing where she publicly told her private story, Eudaly was pushing an emergency measure requiring landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants they evict without cause. It passed.
So, how did Eudaly go from suffering “the bad tenant story to end all bad tenant stories” to championing the rights of renters?
In her telling, it’s not a leap at all. Having access to stable, affordable housing anchored her at a time when she was lost.
Eudaly spoke with OPB “All Things Considered” host Kate Davidson about her backstory, which you can hear by clicking the audio player above.
Editor’s note (March 30, 2017): After publication of this interview, OPB learned more about the Oct. 30, 1983, car crash that killed John Ray Eudaly, Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s father. According to records provided by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, John Eudaly had a blood alcohol level of .12 percent. The accident report states Eudaly’s vehicle likely crossed the center line after rounding a curve too fast, crashing head-on into a truck. That collision killed a child on the passenger side of the truck. The female driver of the truck died two months later, reportedly as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. OPB requested a follow-up interview with Commissioner Eudaly. Her communications manager David Austin responded by text, “The commissioner is done talking about this story and her family.”