Why I'm Supporting Dan Saltzman for City Commissioner

Rich Rodgers

In the 11 years I worked at Portland City Hall, as a policy advisor to Commissioner Erik Sten, I certainly had a few disagreements with Commissioner Dan Saltzman. It was by no means automatic for me to reach the decision to strongly encourage you to vote for him in the upcoming primary. But I tell you this based upon my experiences and a lot of reflection: I think that Dan Saltzman is the most effective member of the Portland city council, and he deserves another term in office.

I'll share an example of one of our past disagreements, before sharing what I believe are Dan's biggest accomplishments. From 2002 to 2008, I was Commissioner Sten's liaison to the Fire Bureau. One of my main tasks was to help guide the implementation of a voter-approved general obligation bond to upgrade the city's fire stations. We were looking at better seismic safety, sleeping quarters that reflected the increasing gender diversity in the bureau, and, of course, operational efficiencies from the standpoint of response times and costs.

Dan raised a critique of the planned location for one of the fire stations in SW Portland, where we already had the land and were ready to begin construction. Dan argued that the station should be closer to the Tualatin Valley Fire District, and that the staffing should be shared with TVFD. Reflexively, as I look back on it, I resisted Commissioner Saltzman's push for a closer look at that planned location. It wasn't one of my best moments, to be sure, and to make a long story short, a study was commissioned, and Commissioner Saltzman was right. The smartest thing to do was to site the station where he suggested. And that's what we did.

Lately, there's been a bit of a minor frenzy around the idea that Commissioner Saltzman is somehow unwilling to make the hard decisions when it comes to use of force in the Police Bureau. The leveling of these accusations by his political opponents, and credence they've been given by some media outlets, prompt me to speak out in defense of Dan and his undeniable record of accomplishment and principled stands on some very important issues.

A few examples:

Dan has consistently pushed for a strong city response to domestic violence and child abuse, without much fanfare, but with great results.

Dan backed and delivered passage of the Children's Levy, which has supplied tens of millions of dollars to programs that continue to play a central role in earning Portland's deserved reputation as the most child-friendly city in the United States.

Nearly ten years ago, Dan created the Office of Sustainable Development, and the joint City-County Food Policy Council. An MIT-educated engineer specializing in sustainability, Dan made essential contributions to Portland's efforts on climate change, food policy, and green building--efforts which have earned Portland international praise as one of the few US cities to take responsible steps on these critical international issues. Dan was years ahead of the curve.

Dan Saltzman achieved the practically unthinkable, when he ultimately delivered voter-approved measures to reform the city's Fire and Police Disability and Retirement system, once called the "Pension Fund that Ate Portland" by the Willamette Week before Dan's reforms. The city's most talented financial planning professionals could not have asked for a better champion--not the kind of stuff that thrills voters, but without a doubt necessary, responsible, and politically courageous.

In 2003, when Commissioner Sten approached Dan to seek a stronger level of city support for Portland's public schools than was being proposed by other council members, Dan signed on without hesitation. His leadership helped to prevent a meltdown in the finances of our local schools and senior and social services, by delivering over $100 million of local support.

Dan also signed on enthusiastically to address long-term injustices in the way in which many East Portland residents were being charged for water, sewer and stormwater services. These reforms have saved Portland residents tens of millions of dollars since they were passed by the city council.

As a longtime political advisor, I've often thought that if Dan has one major fault, it's that he too often displays a stubborn and principled streak in the face of intense political opposition. So while Dan has been attacked lately by his political opponents for his alleged unwillingness to take on the tough fights, I've felt an obligation to lend my voice to his defense. It's ironic and unfair, as I am not aware of any other example in Oregon politics of an elected official who has been so willing to take on such tough issues, and who has been so successful in the effort.

On the specific question of Dan Saltzman's recent tenure as police commissioner, I hope that voters realize the real leadership that Commissioner Saltzman has shown. He has personally asked for a review of the Portland Police by the FBI and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. This kind of external, federal review is exactly what we need to make progress, not politically-motivated sniping from people with no track record of delivering results of any kind. The reversal of the Humphreys discipline was a result of Dan stepping back from a decision that would have been reversed by an arbitrator. It certainly cost Dan politically when he changed his decision, but it saved Portland taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in wasted legal fees that would have been associated with the grievance process.

I share the public outrage over the ongoing use of force incidents generated by a handful of Portland Police Officers. I believe very strongly that our best course of action in bringing accountability to the Portland Police Bureau is to support our elected officials in their efforts to crack down on this unacceptable behavior. Commissioner Saltzman is serious and committed to this effort. He knows how to get things done.

I urge you to vote for Dan Saltzman for re-election as Portland City Commissioner.

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    You are right on in your essay -- I would also encourage everyone to vote for Commissioner Saltzman. While we are fortunate to have a lot of great candidates this season, I’m supporting Commissioner Saltzman because he has demonstrated truly visionary leadership in protecting both at-risk children and our environment – two issues very close to my heart. Over the years, I have also found him to be extremely fair, honest and level headed – all important qualities to have in any leader.

    Even though I’ve been very busy with running Ethos Music Center and with raising a young child (another one is on the way in a week or so!), I made time to deliver lawn signs for Commissioner Saltzman a couple weeks ago because I really believe we need his leadership on City Council.

    Commissioner Saltzman is different than many politicians in that he doesn’t seek the lime light, he just diligently works diligently trying to make Portland a better place for everyone. I hope you will join me in voting for Commissioner Saltzman for Portland City Council – we need to keep him in City Hall working for us.

    Charles Lewis

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    I just saw that I used diligently twice! Although it was a typo, it's appropriate -- Commissioner Saltzman truly works hard for us.

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