City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is now, officially, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, having been sworn in at a very patriotic ceremony in SW Portland this afternoon. And good luck to her:
You can read all about it after the jump.
"I feel like I have 150,000 new friends," said Fritz, relating to the crowd a conversation she had with a well-wisher, shortly after election day. "And he said, yeah, until you mess up. So please, everyone, help me not to mess up."
Fritz's swearing-in marks the first success for Portland's controversial voter-owned elections program, which has had its ups and downs, to say the least, since its introduction in 2006. For example, one candidate took a bunch of taxpayers' money and essentially ran off with it to Montana, while another candidate, one of Fritz's rivals in the primaries this time around, wanted to pay his chief of staff $25,000 for three months' work planting lawn signs. Still. Tonight was less about Fritz than an opportunity for her to thank the grassroots supporters she has relied upon to become Portland's first successfully elected, publicly funded candidate, and no aspect of the evening seemed insignificant in this regard...
For a start, there were the lemon bars, which were a team effort. Fritz's daughter, Ali, a graduate of Wilson High who is now studying theater at a college in Southern Oregon, had a hand in their production, but she was eager to give credit, too, to a bunch of Fritz's supporters and friends, who had turned out with plates of their own. The lemon bars this reporter tried, only three of the six varieties, were all excellent. "I think because they're a little tangy it gives people a feeling of happiness," said Fritz's daughter. Fritz herself told the Mercury later that lemon bars are "one of the greatest American inventions," (they don't exist in England, where Fritz was born...) and that she plans to have them in her office as often as possible. There was also some surprisingly well seasoned homemade pork loaf, which can, likewise, be seen here, atop dainty wedges of French bread:
Then, there was the national anthem, "because politics is not a spectator sport," Fritz told the crowd, before leading all 250 of them in a startling rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.
Former City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury introduced Fritz, describing her election as contributing to an atmosphere of "unbridled hope" at City Hall. Then, the rest of Fritz's family, her husband Steve (dressed in a matching houndstooth cap and jacket), and her two sons Luke and Maxwell, not to mention her parents-in-law and even her mother, who had come all the way from England, all looked on in pride as Fritz signed her declaration to become commissioner.
She got two standing ovations over the course of the ceremony.
"I can honestly say that Portland got its money's worth," said Fritz's former campaign manage, Ellen Miyo Ino-Klaastad. "We've worked so hard to elect someone who'll represent all of us at City Hall."
"What made me realize Amanda was the one for city council was that she didn't tell us what she wanted to change, she asked us what we wanted changed," said a 17-year-old high school student, speaking about her support of Fritz's campaign.
City Commissioner Nick Fish and Mayor Sam Adams were both kind enough to show their faces, and Fritz invited them on stage to say a few words. Adams said that with Fritz on board, city council would be "more neighborhood focused than ever before, and that's awesome," while Fish told the crowd he was looking forward to working with Fritz towards ensuring equity for all 95 of Portland's neighborhoods.
City Commissioners Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman were not in attendance, although as Fritz pointed out, three members of council was a quorum. Nevertheless, this reporter was surprised by their absence.
Afterwards, as a young pianist played Chariots of Fire, ensuring that no other tune would ever find room in the heads of those present, thank you, the Mercury caught up with blogger Lynn Siprelle of Oregon Media Insiders, who has also worked as Fritz's web host since her first campaign for office, against Saltzman, in 2006.
"And after that campaign in 2006, she was going to stop blogging," said Siprelle. "But I told her, no. One, because you're getting attention, and two, because you've got something to say."
So there we have it: Grassroots activist becomes city commissioner, thanks to hard work, innovation, and a controversial program using taxpayer dollars to pay for her campaign. It will be interesting, now, to see how Fritz juggles her hard-pushed reputation as a voice of the people with all the agendas that will soon be competing for her attention at city hall. When asked, for example, what the biggest misconception has been about Fritz until now, Mayor Adams told this reporter he thinks it has been that she may be "anti business," and he believes that is not true. I guess it's easier to be seen as "anti business" when you don't owe any campaign contributors a back-scratching for their election favors.
But blah blah blah, there'll be time for all that, later. For now, I have but one more word that trumps, for interest value and sheer delight, any nonsense about citizen power versus the political clout of America's almighty dollar. And ladies and gentlemen, that word is...shoes.