Another Busy Summer

Randy Leonard

portlandcityhallWelcome to my maiden posting on blue Oregon.

When I was first elected to the Portland City Council, I was told that the budget season, basically from January through June, was the “busy” time. More than one person told me that summers were “very slow”.

They lied to me.

This is my second summer on the Portland City Council and it is, once again, anything but slow. I will touch on just some of what we are working on in my office. I will expand more on any of these or other topics if reader posts request I do so.

Not counting our working on the budget impact of the Portland Police Associations collective bargaining agreement arbitration award, my office has been busy putting together the first case for enforcement action against a liquor establishment that is causing havoc for its residential and business neighbors. My goal is to allow the night club to continue to operate but in a manner that respects its neighbors. If that fails –and so far it has- we will be proposing to cause the hours of operation to be dramatically reduced. Businesses must respect their neighbors.

My office developed a multi-agency strategy to deal with a rooming house in NW Portland that had become a nightmare for the Portland Police Bureau, the Portland Fire Bureau, social service agencies that place some of our most vulnerable citizens and, last but not least, the surrounding neighborhood. The owner was stone walling all attempts to improve the conditions at the location until we brought together all of the various agencies concerned with this property and developed a coordinated strategy for enforcing the multitude of violations. I am pleased with the progress we are making on behalf of the residents and neighbors. There is a good article in the current issue of Willamette Week on this issue.

We have also been crafting a resolution opposing the ballot measure that would prohibit same sex marriage in the Oregon Constitution. When the resolution is filed, I will be requesting that the Council hold hearings throughout Portland (at least three) so that those who want to express their positions on same sex marriage will be given the forum to do just that. It is my strong conviction that marriage is a right that all citizens should have irrespective of the gender of their partner. We should find inspiration and joy in two people in a loving relationship who want to marry one another.

We are developing an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in all workplaces and public establishments in Portland. Currently, workplaces, restaurants, bowling alleys and taverns and bars may have designated smoking areas. I believe it is time for Portland to recognize that second hand smoke kills and that it is long past time that Portland pass an ordinance that protects the non-smoker from breathing others cigarette smoke.

I am closely analyzing the public finance of city campaigns being proposed. It is fair to say that I am skeptical of the proposal. Not just because it will cost a lot of money. I also suspect, as do others, that there may be a small dose of mayoral politics driving the current proposal. If there are those who did not want to support a resolution calling for more accountability of the Portland Police Bureau because they thought it may be politically motivated, it is then fair to judge this proposal in that same context. I believe there has been enough happen up until now between some council members and the timing of the ordinance itself that will detract from the merits of the proposal. If we are going to debate publicly financed campaigns, let’s have the entire current council agree to do so after the new Mayor and Council person takes office next January. I believe the seriousness of the topic justifies delaying the debate to remove any questions of motive.

Those are just some random thoughts…I have more, but I will wait to see what subjects the readers are interested in.
Commissioner Randy Leonard

Comments

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    With respect to the campaign finance issue... I'm still quite skeptical about the various "clean money" proposals for a number of reasons - but I can say this: I was talking to the good folks in Erik Sten's shop about this proposal long before Tom Potter announced he was running for mayor. If there's mayoral politics being played here, it's arrived after the Sten/Blackmer proposal was underway.

  • Randy (unverified)
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    Actually, the bad feelings between Jim and Erik pre-date Tom entering the race. He was actively seeking an alternative to Jim before Tom entered the race. To be clear, I do not think Tom has anything to do with the resolution. To be fair, it is Erik who raised Jim's motives in the Police Accountability resolution.....now others are raising that same issue re Erik.....Maybe not accurate, but it goes with the territory when you raise someone else's motives as a reason for voting no.....Randy

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    And, by the way, Erik missing the filing deadline that the ordinance had to be filed by in order that the city council could refer it to the voters did nothing to reduce speculation as to whether the real goal is to address campaign finance or to try and embarass Jim....maybe not, but it dosen't look good...all the more reason to ackowledge the "perception" (ironic given the subject) and wait until the new council takes office in January.

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    This is going to sound like I'm saying no one should be skeptical of motives, and everyone knows I couldn't say that without being hypocritical. What I do what to do is mention some facts, at least as I understand them.

    While Sten did raise the question of motives on Francesconi's PPB resolution, the Mayor beat him to it by firing off an emailed statement almost immediately after Francesconi originally announced his resolution.

    As for the timing of the Clean Money report, it's not as if Sten was sitting around writing it himself. The report itself lists 21 people who were contacted about or who contributed to the report, and my understanding is that it's creation -- and therefore its timing -- is mainly the result of people from the Auditor's office. So if there's political timing here, one would apparently would have to accuse Gary Blackmer, not Erik Sten.

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    And, actually, Francesconi only helped people raise questions of motivation by name-dropping the Albina Ministerial Alliance (who had recently pitched its own reform package to the Council) when talking about his resolution and then having ot turn out that they didn't support what he was proposing at the time. When an elected official who also happens to be running for office tries to wrap a proposal of his in the name of a community organization that turns out not to actually back what he's doing, I think people have the right to have their BS detectors go off and question what he's doing.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    Well, I am not as upset as some that politicians propose/support legislation for political reasons. I think it is a little naive -if not self-serving- to gasp and recoil because an elected official takes a position for political reasons.

    "Let he/she who has not (fill in the blank) cast the first stone."

    My only point is this. Commissioner Sten raised that specter as his reason for not supporting the police accountability resolution. Fine. But then others should not be surprised if that same motivation is attributed to him in this case. Further, some have learned that the auditors office isn't as "neutral" in political contests as one might hope.

    If there is no attempt to bring this resolution to embarrass Jim Francesconi, then it should be an easy call. The resolution does not take effect until the next election cycle anyway and holding the hearing in January Vs before the election has no impact on the resolutions stated purpose

    However, I predict that will not happen.

  • (Show?)

    Randy: You are now officially a blogger! A historic day. I look forward to many more posts.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    Jack- I hope your enjoying your time away...I appreciate even more the amount of time your blog took...the posting is the easy part....It's trying to figure out what to write that takes the time...any pointers from the Grand Master would be appreciated!

  • (Show?)

    Now we need the rest of the Council to follow Leonard's lead on this. I wonder if any other cities in the U.S. have managed to get their entire elected government to blog.

    Imagine having all of us, and the Council following behind Leonard, and whatever the City Club is launching in September.... Who else can we assimilate into the local political blogosphere?

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    Of course, there's an interesting question - if all five City Commissioners are posting comments on a single blog post, does that qualify as a quorum? Would BlueOregon suddenly become subject to open-records law? ;)

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    I was wondering this myself before I posted that comment. I cant remember what I came across in my open meetings/records law research, during the County's same-sex marriage controversy, about asynchronous electronic communications.

  • Kevin Hayden (unverified)
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    While I recognize Randy and a few other folks here, I wish I knew a little more of each of the blog's writers. Can someone (or everyone) do an intro?

    One thing I wonder: Is this blueoregon or blueportland? I hope it grows, whichever.

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    Kevin, on the front page, just click on "About our Contributors." Not everyone is in yet, but mini-bios are coming soon.

  • Amanda Fritz (unverified)
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    Regarding whether having all five Council members blogging here would constitute a quorum:

    When I was serving on the Portland Planning Commission, we were advised that sending e-mails to all the members not only constitutes a quorum, but also that the public must receive notice that a Public Meeting is being conducted before such e-mails are sent.

    Whether or not that's correct, it would seem prudent to either avoid having a quorum of the Council commenting on a particular topic, or to publish notice that such written conversations are being conducted. Otherwise I can picture citizens showing up to a public hearing in Council chambers, only to hear some version of "well, as we all agreed on [insert favorite blog name here], the deal should be....." Or worse yet, finding the outcome has been decided without having any idea where or how.

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    That said, I wasn't suggesting they all blog together, but that they all have their own blogs somewhere.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)
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    Commissioner Leonard states: "Well, I am not as upset as some that politicians propose/support legislation for political reasons. I think it is a little naive -if not self-serving- to gasp and recoil because an elected official takes a position for political reasons."

    Absolutely true, and most importantly, I think this gets to the heart of people's unease over this whole "commissioners meddling in other C's portfolio's" business.

    We have a unique and (compared to the gridlock of Salem, just 'fer instance) on balance and over time, somewhat effective city system. (Hey, I don't call it perfect, but - it's nothing to be ashamed of, like, I think I already hinted, Salem.)

    Built into this system are safeguards to preserve a dainty and difficult balance - between our "5 CEO's" varying levels of straining desire for the limelight, and their equally varying levels of capacity to move from the moment of grand idea, to the much more complicated realization of same.

    Commissioner will come, and they will go. As they always have. But while they are here they manage the bureaus - where they are responsible for policy and process and the nitty-gritty that "their" employees work through, and with, every day.

    On a scale of Warren Buffet to Kenny Lay - most of ours fall somewhere in the middle. (Sorta like all of us do, too.) Further, the Lay's and the Buffet's don't have the added pressure of running for their offices every couple of years.

    So the system attempts to corral the grandstanding impulse and hold the politicians responsible for their own territory, at a minimum. I think that's ok.

    I can't begin to speak for why Commissioner Francesconi chose to do what he did when he did. And, I think too much focus on that takes us from what is really important in this discussion. For, as a citizen interested in effective city management - I stand against the destruction of a system that encourages Commissioners to take their concerns, their desire to be supportive and a voice for change, to the "Commissioner in charge" and offer their support. In this case, the Mayor and the Police chief, who, perhaps are working on the same issue, and, perhaps, would have welcomed support for their efforts - without regard to the media but with all regard to the process and the people who really matter in it - those who will be the ones to actually work in the system as designed/redesigned - and those who will interact, daily, for years to come, with them.

    For the good of the city, and no particular individual - there's a time for grandstanding and sticking your name all over this or that. It's after all attempts to work with the relevant parties, have failed. Personally, I have not been convinced that we were there yet. And NONE of the coverage of this issue has indicated that we were. The most affected parties were clearly invested in working with the Mayor and the Police Chief on this - in my opinion, because they really wanted a real, workable, solution to this issue.

    So (and I don't always agree with Auditor Blackmer) I think his stated opinion that this was an important, difficult issue, and required a methodology that would lead to a higher level of deliberation than was proffered, should be respected.

    And I think that the whole godawful boring "process" part of this discussion is what is most important, and least attended to, and therefor, the most easily destroyed.

    Anne

  • (Show?)

    For the good of the city, and no particular individual - there's a time for grandstanding and sticking your name all over this or that. It's after all attempts to work with the relevant parties, have failed. Personally, I have not been convinced that we were there yet. And NONE of the coverage of this issue has indicated that we were. The most affected parties were clearly invested in working with the Mayor and the Police Chief on this - in my opinion, because they really wanted a real, workable, solution to this issue.

    This kind of conflates both the specifics of the PPB situation and the more general question of whether or not to give commissioners authority to "meddle." On the specifics, I'm not convinced that the process had broken down to the point that such "meddling" was required. But as to the larger process question of whether or not the authority should exist, I don't believe it inherently disrupts the balance of the commission form. It simply adds another tool to the existing "auditor signature" and "four-fifths agenda" tools which already exist to "bypass" the commissioner-in-charge.

    I have little doubt that the tool is going to abused, probably in the relatively early period of its existance. But that too doesn't mean it's inherently problematic to have the tool in place.

  • (Show?)

    Ah, apparently my em tags to italicize what I was quoting didn't take. So, since it may be unclear, that first paragraph is meant to be a quote.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    So as to give readers an accurate picture of the facts, I want to clarify some of the comments posted above.

    At the request of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, I met with Bishop Wells and other representatives of the AMA in the same time period as Commissioner Francesconi did. They presented to me the same resolution they presented to Commissioner Francesconi. Bishop Wells said that I, as a member of the Portland City Council, was "obligated" to respond to the communities request and introduce an ordinance that held the Portland Police Bureau accountable for their lack of responsiveness to the community.

    I told them at our meeting that I had had a number of private meetings with the Mayor and Chief Foxworth regarding the issues they were concerned about and that I too was frustrated by the lack of responsiveness to the concerns that I raised that were, by and large, mirrored in the AMA's proposed resolution.

    I reminded them I raised concerns at a city council informal meeting with Chief Foxworth where I criticized the police bureau's use of a taser on a 70 year old blind woman. Chief Foxworth angrily confronted me in front of the council chambers after that hearing saying for me to "never embarrass him like that again."

    I reminded them that I had been advocating, publicly and in private meetings with Chief Foxworth and Mayor Katz, the creatiton of a labor/management system that would help create "buy in" by the officer on the street of changes I believe are needed consistent with the AMA's resolution.

    To make a very, very long story shorter than it could be, I think it is fair to say my suggestions to the Mayor have been met with varying degrees of condescension and hostility. It has become clear to me that she did not intend to entertain any suggestions I made to improve the management of the police bureau.

    Because of the Mayor's lack of response to the concerns I have raised, I cosponsored with Commissioner Francesconi the resolution now in question. I did so because I believed I had made every effort possible to communicate publicly and privately to the Mayor and Police Chief my ongoing concerns regarding the management of the police bureau.

    To say I was surprised at some of the public pronouncements of the AMA after they made the presentation they did to me in my office is a vast understatement.

    I am very, very sensitive to the Mayor's medical condition and I will continue to give her any benefit of any doubt with respect to her management of the Police Bureau. However, I must also balance my respect and concern for Mayor Katz with my obligation to do all I can to make sure that the public has the most professional police bureau possible.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)
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    B!x posts: "This kind of conflates both the specifics of the PPB situation and the more general question of whether or not to give commissioners authority to "meddle."

    I was responding to a specific statement Commissioner Leonard made "I think it is a little naive -if not self-serving- to gasp and recoil because an elected official takes a position for political reasons."

    I agree with him - what, we're all going to get a case of the vapors because politicians, are political?

    Nah. But I say again, the knowledge that Leonard’s statement is true, is at the heart of folk's discomfort with, and suspicion of, the tactics employed in this case.

    Whether/what Commissioner Francesconi's motives might have been in this specific instance are entirely beyond my view. Which is why I think that fiddling around about that is a waste of time. I can, however, refer to a public process, based on the concept of checks and balances, and count on the rules written into it. That I can verify.

    Commissioner Leonard's statement, above, is really very illustrative of the dangers of doing city management by Salem's standards. You find the ally you thought you had is now standing in the background and saying "oh my, oh no, I never said thaaaat?" (Maybe. I mean, I don't know what is true in any of the above.)

    Regardless, it all comes unglued on the cable-tv cutting room floor.

    I don't know if what he is saying about Foxworth and the Mayor is true or not. I would really like to see these issues dealt with in a more substansive process that would give all of us, just plain Janes or Joes like myself, more surety that we are hearing what is real, or at least - some likelihood that the result of all this Strum and Drang will be productive.

    That's the problem with tossing bombs in council chambers. It doesn't give us, just exactly that.

    I think the tricky part is that our Commissioners are not just politicians. They are managers. That's our system. Myself, I don't think it's as bad as some do. Say, for instance, that the manager of IBM's R&D department should be able to redesign IBM's Finance department (minus any depth of internal knowledge of same), based on the fact that folks getting bills from that department have been coming and complaining to him????????

    I don't think the half-half model will work, either - you either go with the strong Mayor/city manager model, and take the commissioners out of their bureau management roles, or you hold them to their obligations to be responsible for their own departments, and work city-wide, for city-wide benefit.

    As it stands, I've never noticed that any of them have any problem, either working together on things they agree on, or fighting each other, publicly or not, on things they don't. Why do we need yet another process for this????

  • (Show?)

    "I don't think the half-half model will work, either - you either go with the strong Mayor/city manager model, and take the commissioners out of their bureau management roles, or you hold them to their obligations to be responsible for their own departments, and work city-wide, for city-wide benefit."

    Well, we already have elements of a half-half model in that commissioners do have two available tools for "going around" a commissioner-in-charge. So it's not that the system as we have it doesn't understand the need to potentially "go around" a commissioner-in-charge. What we have at the moment is a difference of opinion as to what DEGREE of that authority we should have in place.

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