My friends tell me that I have a rather bizarre sense of humor and I know they are right. There is nothing funnier to me than watching Portland’s liberal elites being hoisted on their own politically correct petards. Two recent events highlight the travails of their political correctness but it has taken me weeks to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes such that I can write this column.
First, there is the continuing saga of Jack D. Graham, Portland’s Chief Administrative Office (CAO) and Director of the Office and Finance and Management. He was originally appointed to his position by former Portland Mayor Sam Adams – the city’s first openly gay mayor who is mostly famous for pursuing a minor boy in the City Hall’s public restroom and surviving a car crash with his pants down around his ankles. Mr. Adams is not Portland’s first mayor who pursued minor children – there is former mayor and governor Neil Goldschmidt who repeatedly and admittedly raped a thirteen year old child over a period of at least three years. But I digress.
Mr. Graham attempted to divert $200,000 from the city’s utilities department to his financial office to offset budget reductions demanded by Mr. Adams. Mr. Graham was warned repeatedly by his employees that the attempted diversion was inappropriate and probably illegal. But Mr. Graham persisted and was only stopped by a group of whistle blowers who, dismayed by the lack of action when they reported it to city officials, reported it to outside sources prompting a lawsuit by utility ratepayers and bringing the matter to inescapable public attention. The Oregonian, laid out the case:
“Portland’s top administrator, Jack D. Graham, tried to divert nearly $200,00 of water and sewer ratepayer money to the city’s general fund last year over the objections of staff, prompting an outside investigation that substantiated allegations of ‘impropriety’ but resulted in no recorded discipline, according to information obtained by The Oregonian.
“Graham’s actions, intended to shield his office from cuts during city budgeting in 2012, emerged just months after a group of utility ratepayers sued the city over accusations of improperly spending water and sewer funds.
“Although city leaders knew about the allegations — brought to them by multiple whistleblowers — since at least July, Portland did not hire an outside investigator until November. And both mayors Sam Adams and Charlie Hales kept Graham in his role as chief administrative officer, even after the investigation confirmed the claims against him.
“The city has been fighting since May to keep the investigation secret and denied the newspaper’s public records request for related documents.”
Why, you might ask, would the mayor and members of the city commission try to sweep this under the rug? Well, if they were personal beneficiaries of Mr. Graham’s financial manipulations, that might explain it – but they were not. If this was an inadvertent mistake, that might explain it – but it was not since multiple staff members warned Mr. Graham that his actions were inappropriate and probably illegal. Well, could it be that Mr. Graham is African-American and Portland’s uber liberal politicians’ testicles shrivel at the fear of being cast as racist for criticizing or disciplining a person of color. While maybe Mr. Hale doesn’t get it, Mr. Graham understands it completely – the Oregonian quoted Mr. Graham as telling fellow staff members who were warning him of the probable violations, “What are they going to do to me. If it comes up, I’ll say ‘Oops.’” Mr. Graham knew he was immune from criticism by these pantywaists.
And if you don’t believe that, how else do you explain this same Portland city commission’s similar inaction regarding Ellis McCoy? The Oregonian reported:
“This marks the second high profile instance that a whistle-blower complaint forced Portland to investigate a top official only for the city to leave that employee in a position of power and influence. In recent years, the city investigated parking manager Ellis McCoy, who last year pleaded guilty to accepting bribes after the FBI launched its own inquiry.”
As tragic and humorous as these might simultaneously be, they pale in comparison to the latest dust up involving two competing liberal touchstones – an African-American man and African-American woman. Several weeks ago, Baruti Artharee, former chairman of the Black Justice Committee and currently Mayor Charlie Hale’s handpicked Director of Public Safety for Portland was preparing to introduce Dante James to a group of African-American leaders at a dinner. Let’s let Portland’s Willamette Week describe what occurred:
“A top aide to Mayor Charlie Hales is under fire for suggestive remarks and gestures he allegedly made toward Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith at a Thursday night event.
“WW has learned the aide, Baruti Artharee, 60, and about 40 others gathered Thursday at the Quartet Restaurant at Riverplace. The purpose of the event, which was arranged by Bernie Foster, the publisher of The Skanner newspaper, was to introduce Dante James, the director of the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, to leaders of the African-American and other minority communities.
Hales named Artharee public safety adviser in December, which makes him the mayor’s liaison to the Portland Police Bureau. Part of his job is to help the bureau address long-standing civil rights problems.
After Foster made some opening remarks, Artharee, who was there representing the mayor, took the microphone to introduce James. In the course of making those remarks, according to several sources who were in the room, Artharee acknowledged certain audience members, including Smith, who stood in the back of the room. According to sources, Artharee commented that he found Smith physically attractive, and then made a suggestive motion with his hips.
Reached on Sunday afternoon, Smith declined to comment on what happened at the reception. But when told how others described Artharee’s comments and gestures, Smith told WW: ‘Nobody should have to be subjected what I was subjected to Thursday night.’”
Commissioner Smith is also a person of color and her rebuke of Mr. Artharee is a mild epithet that would have been better stated by saying. “Mr. Artharee’s comments put him in a class of Troglodyte pigs that never will learn to treat women appropriately.”
So here’s what has us laughing on the sidelines. Mr. Hale’s senior staffer has insulted a woman by sexualizing her presence at a public meeting. But Mr. Artharee is a person of color and criticism or discipline of him may be construed as racist. On the other hand, Ms. Smith is a woman – and a person of color – and failure to take adequate disciplinary measures can be construed as sexist. And to compound the dilemma, other members of Portland’s uber liberal city commission – Nick Fish for one –are waiting in the wings to condemn Mr. Hale’s action or inaction whichever way it goes. The predicament is so acute that there has been serious talk of renaming “Gordian’s knot” to Hale’s knot.” No wonder Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein chose Portland to satirize liberalism in the hit indie television production of Portlandia. It just doesn’t get any better.
But in the end, Mr. Hale rose – well more appropriately stooped – to the occasion and administered a “kiss-your-sister” punishment to Mr. Artharee. As the Willamette Week describes it:
“Mayor Charlie Hales this afternoon announced his decision on the discipline he’s handing to Baruti Artharee, his top advisor on the Portland Police Bureau, for suggestive comments toward Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith at an event in June.
“Hales has chosen to suspend Artharee, 60, for one week without pay and ordered him to complete diversity training. The mayor has ignored widespread calls for Atharee’s firing.
“Artharee makes $85,000 a year; a week’s docked pay equals $1,681.”
Wow! That will send a message to others.
But this is Portland and it’s dominated by the far left who manage to capture seventy plus percent of the vote in every election. And that is why you have the kind of government that Portland has.