That's the last time I try to predict which way a city hall vote is going to go, or worse still, try to look inside Nick Fish's head...
In this week's newslede, which is about to sit on the street being wrong all week, I made an effort to predict which way Fish would vote, based on his close relationship with Randy Leonard. Fish went for lunch with Leonard, yesterday, and I made the cynical point that in the end, Fish's vote may well have come down to what was said over a few dumplings.
"Barring unprecedented independence of thought on Fish's part," I wrote...he'd probably side with Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams.
Unprecedented independence of thought.
Because that's what Fish's "no" vote represents, at least, to this reporter, who spent most of today stewing in a pool of his own cynicism, thinking about how election pledges are rarely matched by performance in council.
Since the vote went down, I've been trying to reconcile that cynicism with the fact that for once, a city hall politician has actually surprised me. Maybe it's the negative atmosphere that's prevailed down there over the last two months. I don't know. Fish, in fact, suggested I might want to take a vacation when I talked to him on the phone about his decision, just now. But then, he could use a vacation, too, he said. And neither of us is likely to get one, any time, soon.
"I went to Steamers, I had lunch with Randy, because in this system of government, you've got to be straight with people," Fish says. "You don't sneak around. Randy and I have a lot of heavy lifting to do on a lot of key issues, and I owed my new friend the courtesy of speaking my mind."
Fish said he wants Leonard's support on homeless shelters, putting restrooms in parks, crafting a responsible budget, and so on.
"But Amanda and I agree that this is not the right time for this deal," he continues. "I didn't take this job to be afraid of my own shadow. I said very clearly when I ran for this position that I would be an independent voice on council. Maybe I'm going to be a short termer if I piss off enough people."
"My father voted against his own President on an impeachment vote," Fish said, when I asked him if he wasn't concerned about voting against Adams, at least. "And I watched my father do that, and to do this today was not an issue of that magnitude."
"We're supposed to vote independently," Fish insisted.
I'm still completely dumbfounded.
"Maybe I don't understand the way the building works, but I also spent some time talking to my good friend Randy about this, and hopefully it won't change our relationship," he insisted.
So this one's for you, commissioner. May it haunt you in your sleep as it doubtless will me, in mine...
NICK FISH: I WANT TO LOOK INSIDE YOUR HEAD...
Actually, hold on a minute. Peter Sarstedt has a beautiful voice, and even though I'm on my third O'Douls, it turns out there's still a cynic in me, after all. And that cynic is wondering whether Fish might be trying to distance himself from Adams with this vote, in the dimly probable event of the Attorney General's report into the Breedlove scandal coming back with charges. I wish I'd had time to ask Fish about that on the phone, just now...
I asked on Blogtown, yesterday, whether Fish was ready to make a move against Leonard and the Mayor, speculating that the golden rule of a first year as city commissioner is to keep one's head down. And now, Fish's office is sending out press releases to commemorate the "no" vote—which I've posted, after the jump. It appears that he is ready to make that move, after all. So: if the cynic in me weren't so dumbstruck at the vote, he would be pondering the implications of this high-profile parting of ways in the broader context of the next few months at city hall.
But for this beautiful sun-soaked evening, at least, perhaps it's just nicer to believe that sometimes, politicians do in fact do the right things, for the right reasons. That unprecedented independence of thought really is unprecedented independence of thought, and not some other thing...some darker, more calculating thing...that might perhaps like to be mayor a little sooner than it's letting on. Wait! I said...not tonight! So, sing it with me: Well you talk...like Marlene Dietrich...and you dance...like Zizi Jeanmaire...
Fish's press release:
Commissioner Fish votes no on stadium deal
On Wednesday, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish voted no on a proposal to allocate at least $60 million in public money to a plan that would bring major league soccer to Portland. He issued the following statement at the conclusion of Wednesday's City Council meeting:
"We are in the midst of the worst economy in recent history - this means job losses, tough program cuts, and drastic impacts on our homeless, youth and elderly. My vote today in Council was not about the merits of a stadium deal, but about protecting our dwindling public resources. The case simply hasn't been made to me that there is sufficient economic benefit in this deal.
In this tough economy, we need a major league commitment to parks, affordable housing, jobs and education."
Sam Adams' press release:
March 12, 2009
Today we mark a huge step forward in realizing the dream of bringing
major league soccer to our great city. The City Council, by supporting
the resolution to accept a partnership with Merritt Paulson and the
Paulson family, has demonstrated a commitment to raising our city’s
national and international profile. And, the Council has chosen to
support an effort that will bring jobs, revenues, visitors and
much-needed spending to Portland’s Central City.
Every commissioner on the City Council has the best interests of the
City at heart. The partnership with Mr. Paulson protects those
interests by leveraging the best assets and attributes of the private
sector with the long-term planning and fiscal responsibility of
Portland’s public servants.
The myriad businesses downtown, the thousands of soccer fans, the tens
of thousands of youth soccer players, and all the citizens of the
Portland region stand to gain from the revenue, visibility and
benefits of welcoming Major League Soccer to Portland. From the
construction and operational jobs that will be created to the hundreds
of thousands of visitors that will bring their families and their
pocketbooks downtown and year-round, this deal means economic
development as much as it means family-friendly entertainment.
And, we must not minimize the investment that the City and Merritt
Paulson are making in the existing AAA baseball club that is so
beloved in our city. This deal brings real investment and real
revenues for the tens of thousands of baseball fans who come downtown,
80 percent of whom travel from outside the City of Portland to attend
I want to thank Commissioner Randy Leonard first and foremost for his
commitment to negotiating the best possible deal for the City of
Portland. Without his unwavering focus on the City’s bottom line, this
deal would not have been as strong or sound as it is.
I also want to extend a special thanks to the Portlanders who
volunteered their time and energy to serve on the Citizen’s Task
Force. Their diligent review of all the issues related to bringing
major league soccer to Portland gave the entire process the kind of
transparent, frank and thorough examination Portlanders expect.
And lastly, I want to thank Merritt Paulson and his team for working
hand-in-hand with the City in good faith to reach this deal.
Negotiations were tough but fair. And in the end, we see a deal that
brings together the private and public sectors to shield the city from
risk and support the entrepreneurship of the business community.
Imagine if every dollar of federal stimulus money were matched by a
dollar of private investment. That is the kind of public-private
cooperation we see in front of us today in Portland.
I look forward to moving this process forward, and thank all those who
supported this challenging, worthwhile opportunity. We are at the
beginning, not the end, of a long road, and it is a journey we will
make side by side with our partners at Multnomah County, the school
districts, and the many civic organizations that have lent their voice
to this conversation