Thin field of candidates for Portland mayor; time for Saltzman?

by Dave Lister

When Portland Mayor Sam Adams announced he would not seek a second term, you could have knocked me over with a feather. It seemed totally out of character for the man who had won a City Council seat with a come-from-behind victory and had promoted himself as mayor from that point on to simply call it quits. Adams insists that the tough race indicated by the polls would distract him from his mayoral goals, but there has to have been more. Adams thrives on politics; it’s all he’s ever known.

Did the fact that two of his bureaus, Transportation and Police, are currently under federal investigation sway his reasoning? Did he think that parking manager Ellis McCoy’s scandal could expand and go higher up? Was there even something more, yet uncovered, that was likely to surface? We’ll probably never know. But Adams is keeping good to his word. He’ll spend his last 18 months putting his stamp on Portland, as evidenced by the council’s approval of reduced trash pickup in favor of food waste composting and a future bicycle-sharing facility downtown.

Equally surprising as the mayor’s announcement itself was what didn’t happen in the fallout. One by one, potential candidates from Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen to former Commissioner Jim Francesconi announced they would not be entering the fray. That leaves only Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady and Jefferson Smith, who recently joined the race, vying for the job in what should be a wide-open and attractive opportunity for a myriad of local politicians. Frankly, that’s disappointing.

Hales is a known quantity. Smith is a legislator with little management experience. Brady, so far, is an unknown quantity. Short on specifics, the Brady campaign is beginning to look a lot like the Chris Dudley campaign. The key to stanching the flow of jobs from Portland to Washington and Clackamas counties is to engage the business leaders who are standing on the sidelines because they don’t want to play Portland games. If Brady sees a way to do that, she needs to start talking about it. Portland games might buy a lot of votes, but they won’t buy a single job.

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman has said he would enter the mayor’s race if the field were thin. Well, it is. And it’s time Saltzman admitted it. He has more experience than any other member of the council. From the water billing fiasco to the Big Pipe, he’s been the cleanup man on several civic fiascoes and has performed well. He’s proved himself an efficient manager, and he looks out for the taxpayer.

During council consideration of the bike-sharing proposal, Saltzman was the only commissioner to try to pin down the details of the nebulous business plan, looking for hard assurance that no city money would be spent on operations. Saltzman is thoughtful, deliberate and principled. He’s not afraid to take political lumps for doing what he thinks is right, as evidenced by his vote against withdrawing from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. He wasn’t afraid to stand by Chief Rosie Sizer when she went public over the mayor’s cuts to the police budget, even though he probably knew the mayor would fire him as police commissioner.

I have plenty of disagreements with Saltzman. I think he takes his environmentalism too far. I don’t agree with bag bans and food composting. But this is Portland, after all. And despite the fact that talk radio had fun with his “trees have rights” statement, in context, I agree with him. Historically significant trees do, and should, have rights.

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Portland Politics | 21 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Saltzman is just as awful as the rest of the big spending misfits on the current council.  He’s said he would like a sales tax, for instance. He votes unanimously with his socialist brethren on the council.  Nope, we do need a more mainstream mayorial candidate, but this sure wouldn’t be Saltzman. 

    By the way, people have property rights and these rights should over ride the rights of a tree.  After all, TriMet wasn’t questioned at all when it started taking the chain saw out on Lincoln Steet.  Why does TriMet and other “holier than thou” government agencies get to routinely knock out trees while telling private property folks they need to bow before their tree, even if the tree poses a danger to their lives.

    Then too, I think this reduction of garbage can pick up service is going to backfire either loudly or quietly.  The latter would include folks increasing their use of garbage disposals (putting more effluents in the sewer system), more rodent problems especially for the neighborhood that gets the yard debris dump, more garbage/liter in the streets, and more garbage in the recycling bins.  AND SALTZMAN IS ONE FIFTH RESPONSIBLE!

    I’d still vote for Lister, though, if he were foolish enough to run again.

    • Dave Lister

      Thanks Bob.  I’ve had some discussions with several people about the prospects of electing a right-of-center candidate to the PDX council and popular wisdom is that it is impossible as long as the council seats are elected city-wide.  I concur.

      I am just looking at the current field and considering those who could realistically win to come to my conclusion that Saltzman would be a better mayor than Hales, Brady or Smith.

      • Not necessarily.

        At some point, those clowns’ screw ups will be so obvious, that even the bus babies will demand a change. 🙂

        Right now you have some pretty good issues:
        Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

        Almost $100 million/year taken form schools, social services, police & fore to build yuppie playgrounds.

        City’s level of debt. & interest payments.

        Driving jobs out with regulations.

        Driving jobs out by choosing winners.

        Imposing a $1200-$3000 commuter tax on interstate commuters. TO build a toy train.

        Thanks
        JK

  • Ivancie clearly now
  • Frank Martin

    To me.. The choice is VERY VERY thin.. but what is even more scary is.. the choices are just about as bad as Sam Adams himself.

    Portland is a city that complains about lack of money and proposing new taxes right and left.. but yet comes up with NEW programs and new spending constantly.

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