But the mayor had so much more to say than we could possibly accommodate in print, and a lot of it was rhetorical gold. Say what you want about Hales, but no one should try to argue the man doesn't know how to give good quotes.
Thusly, in the interest of transparency and fairness and humor, and maybe lulling you into somnambulance, we've decided to post lightly edited transcripts from the rest of our interview with the mayor. Read as much as you want about Hales' thoughts on the police union, budget cuts, and public safety, and his relationship with Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen.
ON THE THEMES RULING HIS FIRST 100 DAYS
I think they’ve gone well and that’s not just a happy-talk soundbite from a politician. Looking at the things that we want to address and the way we want to do business, I think it’s fair to conclude that they’ve gone well. We want to address the budget, school funding, the culture of the police bureau and guns. That’s our short list. We’re making some progress on each of those four big fronts in a short time.
The budget is really ugly from a numbers and people standpoint, but it’s how I expect it will remain, collaborative and thoughtful from a community and decision-maker standpoint. We’ve had two budget forums where people came and waited patiently and made their case for what they care about, and I think they felt heard. City commissioners have been detached from their bureaus temporarily. That created a little disgruntlement, but they knew that was coming. I telegraphed that long before getting sworn in and reiterated it when I did get sworn in that day. I haven’t asked them ‘well how’s that feel?’ My sense is that they are appreciating the freedom that it brings to ask hard questions about all the bureaus, regardless of whose name used to be on the stationery.
Steve Novick, of course, is the freest of all because he only had 30 days to get attached to his bureaus [fire and water] and didn’t so attached that he isn’t asking hard questions, say, about the fire bureau, which he is. And he’s also asking hard questions about the police bureau and about a lot of other things and I think it’s great. And Amanda Fritz and Dan have torn into some issues and so has Nick. All four of them, I believe, feel free to really probe and dig and think anew, and that was the whole reason for that. It was never about power. It was never about not liking the commission form of government. It was about deliberately allowing us to be a board of inquiry or a board of directors for a little while.
My sense is that’s working pretty well. People are going after issues like overtime. Why do we have to spend so much on overtime? Why do we have to have four hours of court time every time a police officer shows up? Some of this stuff, of course, is union contracts, which no doubt we’ll get to. I think the budget process is going well.
Council agendas are a walk in the park. We’ve been trying to keep the council agendas as benign as possible we’ve got a big budget to do here and bureaus can wait on some of this other stuff. We’ve told them that in just about those terms.
School funding, we’ve been advocating as part of the coalition. We spent time with the [ways and means] co-chairs along with a lot of the other advocates and the co-chairs have come out with a proposal that I applaud and shout to the high heavens ‘thank you’ for at least setting the bar at a reasonable point of $6.75 billion for a biennium. That’s enough to just about hold the line. You’’l hear people say ‘it needs to be 6.8’ or ‘it needs to be 6.83.’ But come on, we’re close, and we’re a hell of a lot closer than we typically are when we’re talking about the state budget. Certainly the governor did set the bar that high and he’s supportive of getting there as well. I’m not implying that he’s a foot-dragger on education. So here we are, well into the session with a budget on the table. That advocacy is going to continue by all of us that care about this. It ain’t over by any stretch.
I mean, I’m one of a lot of voices. My primary role has been to make it clear that this is a priority for the city of Portland and that’s why it’s the No. 1 item on our legislative list that we give the delegation. This is what the city of Portland as a community and as a political body cares about. Then I’ve organized a bunch of mayors around the state. Now, I think more than 50. Who are doing the same things. They’re saying: ‘Hey, we may be the mayor of Pilot Rock or Lincoln City or Klamath Falls, and we don’t manage the schools in our town either, but we agree with the mayor of Portland and these other mayors that this is so important to the life of our community that we’re going to publicly advocate for adequate school funding.’ So that’s fun and helpful and again I think it’s great politics statewide to have the mayor of Pilot Rock and the mayor of Pendleton and the mayor of Hermiston and the mayor of Portland all working together as colleagues.
We’re not going to the legislature as supplicants. We’re not going there saying ‘we would like some more revenue or please raise the gas tax.’ Although we might want to bring those things up. That can wait. Really what we want you to do is your Job No. 1, which is fund education. So have we helped? I think a little, and every little bit helps. So I’d say I’m happy with the progress on that.
ON POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
You change culture in an organization by preaching and pressure and example. Positive pressure, negative pressure. Reward good behavior. Punish bad behavior. Preach what you’re looking for. As you know, you’ve heard me go on and on about this enough already but I believe in de-escalation I believe in community policing. I want to rebuild trust between the bureau and anyone whose lost that trust. And I’m giving Chief [Mike] Reese every opportunity to succeed and I think so far I’m very happy with what he’s doing.
We’ve had a number of serious incidents so far this year. We’ve had 11 traffic deaths, which is terrible, but we’ve had two incidents of officer involved shooting. In both cases we’re not dealing with a situation in which there’s much ambiguity about why the officers had to shoot. We haven’t yet had another tragedy. I hope, obviously, we don’t. Every morning I wake up and my cell phone hasn’t gone off I say: ‘Good.’ We have not yet had a tragedy of the type that we had with Aaron Campbell or James Chasse and I hope and pray that we don’t. I think that there are a lot of people in the police bureau who are making changes that we need to make. Things like our discipline matrix and our changed policies about the use of force that are methodically exerting that pressure I mentioned.
And then, in terms of example I’m just trying to be present a lot. I’m going out on a lot of ride-alongs. Next Saturday night at 1 o’clock in the morning I’m going to be out in the street seeing how the situation at 3rd and Burnside is working out. I’m trying to be out there a lot, not with an entourage and cameras, but just paying attention. And they appreciate that and they know that I’m there to listen and learn. So I think I’m building the credibility I need as the leader within that organization to be able to exert that pressure.
No matter how many bureaus you have, if you have the police bureau it’s half of your attention span. I think that’s the case. I mean if you’re the commissioner in charge of police, it gets about half of your attention.
Yeah, so in other words: Sorry, other bureaus. (Laughter). You know, that’s just the nature of the police bureau. And, you know, I don’t know if that’s ALWAYS the case. It’s certainly the case now since I want to be a change agent with respect to the bureau. We have a department of justice mandate, we had a series of terrible tragedies like James Chasse and Aaron Campbell. So there was never any question that I was going to be putting a lot of time and political capital into the police bureau.
ON RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE COMMUNITY
I’ve only met with the full group [Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform] once, and it was just this week. Baruti [Artharee, Hales public safety director and a businessman and leader in Portland’s African-American community,] has met a number of times with both small groups and I think the full group. So Baruti’s putting a lot of time into those relationships, you know, with anybody that’s interested in police issues. I think the appointment of Baruti as my lead staff on police was a good choice, like the rest of my staff. I’m happy about those choices. And Baruti, both by who he is and by how seriously he’s digging into this work, I think is demonstrating about both listening carefully to everything the police bureau has to say but also listening to everybody else.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH REESE, WHO ALMOST RAN FOR MAYOR
I have a daughter who initially thought she was going be an engineer and now she’s thinking about becoming a veterinary technician, but she’s very scientifically oriented. Nancy [Hales, his wife,] was talking to her about subject matter in college one time and she said: “Oh, mom. I don’t believe in art, and history already happened.” So that history with Chief Reese already happened. It was a long time ago. And I have a good working relationship with him. We will argue and debate a little bit—had a little push back yesterday about overtime. To be continued. So he both is of the bureau, because he’s a long-time Portland police officer, and shares my commitment to making change.
ON POLICE DISCIPLINE ISSUES
It has not shaken my confidence [in Reese], but I’m also very vigilant about this stuff. I read the discipline cases word for word. Baruti and I talk about them. We then question the chief about many of them and he knows that we’re watching carefully and that we very strongly support a move to a more matrix approach to discipline where if you do this, that happens.
And we’ve listened close to [Independent Police Review Director] Mary-Beth [Baptista] and her staff. We value that part of the process. What’s the old Ronald Reagan quote? ‘Trust but verify.’ I trust the Chief and verify what he does and he knows that and obviously he’s willing to work under those conditions.
ON THE PORTLAND POLICE ASSOCIATION
What I hope is that all of us understand that we’re under a mandate and we’re going to comply with that mandate. The federal government is senior to the City of Portland and to the PPA for that matter, and so they get to tell us what to do. And they’re doing so. I hope everybody understands that this isn’t some trumped-up financial crisis.
This is a real financial crisis. So when we talk about shared sacrifice in terms of avoiding salary increases or any other financial awards we may be able to offer our workforce, nobody’s exempt from that shared sacrifice, either. We have a good relationship with Daryl Turner and the PPA. We have good communications. We both understand that we both have a role to play here. They have to represent their members and ask for what their members would like to have. So I’m cautiously optimistic about that relationship and know that we will have some head-on collisions, and we’ll try to keep them civil.
ON HIS MISSTEPS
I think we’ve had a few small ones in making sure that we, you know…. we’ve been getting up to speed. We’re taking the drink out of the fire hose. Just taking in a lot of information, getting organized, getting on with the work. I do believe in the commission form of government and I value my colleagues and we’ve got to always remember to wander around the building and check in with the other four voting members of this council. And so I think there’s been a time or two where we didn’t do that quickly enough.
[The back-and-forth over no-parking apartments on SE 37th and Division], that’s one of those cases. So understand that, but we do that and we’re serious about it.
This is going sound egotistical but I have a hard time thinking of another misstep.
There are some things I’m really happy about that are little positive steps. I went out to this Westside Economic Alliance, apparently the first mayor ever to accept their invitation and show up and speak to a bunch of business leaders and elected officials in the Washington County suburbs and they treated me like a rock star. I got a standing ovation. I think my speech was fine but frankly I don’t think it was the speech. I think it was the fact I paid enough attention to show up. Woody Allen, you know. 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. So I was at 80 percent the moment I walked in the room.
And I’ve gone out of my way to be a good colleague with the other mayors around the region. Yesterday I took Dan Ryan from All Hands Raised to the regular monthly meeting of the Portland-area mayors so he could tell them about what All Hands Raised is doing and so I could check in with them about the school funding coalition effort. I think those mayors around the region appreciate the fact that the mayor of Portland treats the mayor of Gladstone and mayor of Forest Grove like colleagues, not like vassals. I’m proud of that. It’s something I believe in, but it’s good politics, and I think it’s already showing its value.
So I’d say that’s opposite of a misstep. That’s a little thing that’s a smart step. I think by focusing on a short list of things, the four I mentioned and trying not to spend too much time on anything else—albeit there’s always the incoming. You know, here comes an officer-involved shooting, here comes a [Land Use Board of Appeals] decision. There’s stuff always coming over the transom that we don’t get to control. But by having a relatively short list of things that we’re going be putting most of our time and political capital into, it gives us a chance to succeed on those and it gives us fewer things to screw up on because we’re not paying enough attention. If you’re trying to do 20 things at once, your odds of tripping are higher.
ON THE PUSH FOR PAID SICK LEAVE
I knew there would be occasions where even though I’ve got good business support, I would make them mad. And this was one of those. But my goal—and I think we achieved this—was to be as thoughtful and as open as we could be in developing the policy. You heard Bernie Bottomly [chief lobbyist of the Portland Business Alliance] and his testimony at the last hearing. They were saying ‘Well, we oppose this but we really appreciate being given the time and given the opportunity to react to the details and change some of them.’ If you’ve got an opponent who’s saying something like that, that’s a pretty solid victory. And I never thought this was in serious danger of being referred to the voters and overturned but, you know, you do something in a high-handed way in a decision like this and that can happen. And maybe it was going to happen anyway on fluoride. But the way we did this decision—credit especially to Amanda, but all of us—my role was really to be the air traffic controller and team leader and say lets take a little more time and have this task force and Commissioner Fritz, who’s fervent about this, and Commissioner Saltzman, who had some reservations and who was doing a good job of articulating some of the concerns of the business community, let’s have those two in the same room with advocates and opponents and see if they can’t sand off some of the friction here.
I was happy about how that went. I think we accomplished something really significant there. It’s a solid public policy. It gives people real protection and real benefits and I think it’s going to do no material harm to the business climate in the city of Portland.
I liked that process. Again, the commission form of government has some great strengths. But one of its big weaknesses is organization. Everybody’s in their little silo, so when you take two members of a five-member body, give them a special assignment and say ‘work together and come up with a solution,’ I think that’s powerful. Especially in that case where you’re bringing in people from the community. So I liked it. I thought it worked well and I’m going to keep looking for opportunities to do that.
ON THE BUDGET CRISIS AND HIS PRIORITIES
This is the worst one in a long time. Mayor Adams did a good job and so did the council of trying to cut the budget over the last several years in ways that did the least possible damage. But with them having done that work, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room now. Fortunately we’ve got some vacancies so when we cut their budgets they won’t have to lay off as many people as they might have laid off. But we will be laying people off. How many and in what bureaus? We don’t know yet, but it’s not like this will be just rounding errors and the size of the travel budget. This is going to be real reductions in stuff that we do that is very basic.
The priorities are to maintain a level of service in those basic services that are funded by the general fund—police, fire, planning, parks, office of neighborhoods—that people have come to rely on. I have the right to expect that if I have an emergency a crew will get there in a reasonable amount of time to either deal with the fire or deal with my problem.
I want to live in a safe neighborhood. I want my park to be clean and have the restrooms be open in the summer when my kids have a soccer game. And I want my planning bureau to be thinking about the future and not letting it roll over them. And maybe we got caught a little short on this apartment issue. That changed and we had to move quickly to change the code, which is what we’re doing. Basic services isn’t just a catch phrase. It really is stuff you can look at.
So maintain that capability, then try to be as humane as possible in the positions we reduce. So for example: is there a way that we can avoid laying off the most diverse class of police officers that we’ve just hired in a long time because they are the lowest on the seniority ladder. Well, maybe if we create some temporary funding to get to the next set of retirements, you know, three or six months from now, then we don’t have to lay them off July 1.
Things like that. Can we change practices internal and otherwise in ways that save money and still let us do a good job. Examples will help rather than a bureaucratic-sounding phrase like that. If we’re leasing $2 million a year of office space outside of the buildings that the city owns, how quickly can we start moving those people back into the Portland Building and pay ourselves rent instead of somebody else? If it’s a choice between laying off police officers and not paying people for six hours of straight time or four hours of overtime for showing up down the street for 20 minutes for traffic court, can we get the cooperation of the Portland Police Association in changing that overtime trigger so that we don’t spend four hours of overtime on that but spend those dollars keeping a couple extra patrol officers.
Can we go ahead and make some hard choices about grant-making that the city has been doing over the years where we fund good things in the community that aren’t really the responsibility of city government. I love schools, but scholarship programs funded by the city of Portland are not a core service when you compare them with mowing grass in parks. I love workforce development, and we need to develop our workforce and we need to have all kinds of partnerships between local government and business and labor and everybody else to do that. But can we get some of the other partners in that enterprise to pick up the tab for the next couple of years? Because we’re short.
These are hard. You come to those budget hearings and you hear people talk about, you know, community gardens, SUN schools, senior recreation. You hear very few people show up and say, ‘don’t close my fire station.’ Now, if we actually close a fire station or two or three or four in this budget, believe me we’ll hear from people if we’re closing THEIR fire station. That’s how I’m approaching the budget. Keep the good people whom we’ve hired on the payroll. Try to hold the level of service as close to what we did last year as possible. But we’re not going to do it with debt. We can’t just borrow money and hope for a better day.
ON TALKING BUDGETS WITH COUNTY CHAIRMAN JEFF COGEN
We’ve begun it. It will get more difficult now because we’re going to talk about real dollars and decisions that have to be made pretty soon. But he and I are both committed—I think we are both committed—to taking on that set of questions afresh. Resolution A is a dusty old document now and if we’re going to have two general purpose governments on the same patch of land it is irresponsible NOT to sort out who does what. We’ve got to do that. The only wrong answer is: ‘Well, we’ll just keep patching things together.’ You know it’ll still be the case 20 years from now that when you come over from the east side you drive on a city street over a county bridge and touch down on a city street on the other side. And there could be a county sheriff’s patrol boat going by under the bridge in one direction and a fire boat staffed by the city going by in the other direction and the homeless juvenile on the bridge is Jeff’s problem and the homeless adult is my guy. If that’s still true 20 years from now, nobody should carve Jeff’s or my initials into any public building.
ON HIS SMALL STAFF
I expect my staff to be overworked, and they’re meeting my expectations. I’m being flippant, but I’m used to peak periods. Frankly one thing about coming over here from the private sector is I’m used to crunch time. I think it happens more often in the private sector than it does here but when you’ve got three proposals due, and the [Federal Transit Authority] is waiting for your final environmental document, people stay up all night and they work on the weekends and get tired. So I’m going to have a small staff not just because money’s short but because I think that’s a work ethic. And you see it here. And yet—you know you’d have to ask Dana [Haynes, his spokesman,] this privately—but I think people are having fun and they like working here and there’s an esprit de corps. And people are still managing to have a smidgen of a life. So I don’t think we have the wrong sized staff.
You can do anything for a few months, and that’s what we’re doing.