Portland's Mayor Apparently Gave You All Plenty to Complain About This Year
If Commissioner Steve Novick had his way, because he's such a kidder, Mayor Charlie Hales would start off his State of the City speech with a quip: "The city is in a state." Hales is good with a quote. But the mayor won't do that. His speech, as teased a bit by the Oregonian at 6 this morning, is expected to stick close to the staid and serious themes we've been hearing ever since Hales was on the stump.
Basic services. Police accountability. Fiscal discipline. Finding ways for Portland to shape the state's and metro area's schools budgets. Et cetera—and a lot of the ground covered in our oral history of the mayor's (almost) first 100 days. He's expected to tip his hand a bit on the his plan for a city budget, which he'll unveil on Tuesday—which is one reason why this year's speech is a bit later than some others.
Of course, like all mayoral speeches, hosted by City Club at the Governor Hotel, Hales' appearance has attracted a packed house of politicians and bureaucrats and functionaries. They're all eating right now. He hasn't started talking yet. We'll be updating once he does! And follow @dirquez and @portlandmercury on Twitter.
Update 1:15 PM: Aaand he's done. And an ovation. And one "whoo!"
Update 1:14 PM: Should we save the police horses? Hales says he won't tip his hand but warned that in "some cases we'll have to stop doing things we like." Hales mentions the tradeoff for the police bureau if cops remain assigned to the mounted patrol.
Update 1:12 PM: And a very interesting question on homelessness and sidewalks. He's echoing the Portland Business Alliance. "We also have to have civility on the streets," Hales says. "We don't have that balance right yet. It's causing an economic problem and a livability problem." Hales also nodded to a street count showing 1,700 people on the streets and called that "unacceptable." Expect attention after the budget. BIG applause.
Update 1:11 PM: Is the greenway work in South Waterfront going to be done? Or is it just the ICE immigrant jail no one wanted. "The greenway will be built," Hales says, with one more grab at the "social contract." But he says it'll take development, which will serve as the engine to pay for that trail. The questioner didn't care for that.
Update 1:07 PM: Hales says it was great that hundreds of people came out to stump for priorities at budget hearings. But the city needs to do more to rethink it's advocacy and outreach to and with neighborhoods, something more formal: more young people, more recent arrivals, more nonprofits.
Update 1:05 PM: Talk now of Portland's "exotic businesses" and whether we lead the nation per capita. Member is asking Hales to discuss the city's approach to those businesses, to keep kids away, and to combat human trafficking" "Local governments are very limited in its ability" to crack down on adult businesses. He's using that to segue into a complaint that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission isn't letting Portland combat late hours for bar patios. (This may also apply to potential support for a bill that would get Portland back to its days of "sit-lie" rules.)
"There's an ongoing tension between the city and the Legislature," Hales says. "We will be advocating for more local control. We'll take the heat. Give us the tools to do our job and do it differently in Portland. Portland may be joined with Prineville in school funding, but we're very different places. We want that authority."
Update 1:02 PM: Dan Saltzman left early to catch a plane, which Hales said was "too bad," since someone just asked about domestic violence prevention, one of Saltzman's passions. Hales says the police bureau, despite cuts, should keep its family and domestic violence unit, calling it "significant."
Update 1 PM: Someone reminds Hales that "it's very easy to talk about the social contract." Hales invokes "equity" and mentioned how the parks bureau spends its money and Nick Fish's efforts to get a parks measure to fund parks in East Portland. "We will pass that parks measure"—though that measure is dead. Hales also thanked Adams for starting to map the city's spending.
Update 12:58 PM: Hales gets asked about Measure 11—mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles and others. Hales says Novick has been on point in working with other jurisdictions on reducing prison sentences in exchange for front-end services funding. He says there's a need and demand for modifying it. "We can make M11 more cost effective without directly overturning it."
Update 12:55 PM: Hales answers a question about the costs of doing business in Portland and how we need to pay attention to water rates and permitting red tape. (Though his colleagues didn't like his office being too helpful, without consulting them, to the developer of the no-parking apartments on Division. And, oh man, is he bullish on South Waterfront. "Take that Dallas. Take that Balitmore."
Update 12:52 PM: The first question, though it was difficult to tell, was about West Hayden Island. Hales says he normally likes land use first and then transportation. He says it's better to figure out the Columbia River Crossing and then wait to "determine what to do about West Hayden Island."
"I think we'll know that in the next 30 days."
"I don't think it's responsible to take a shot at West Hayden Island until we know about the CRC."
Update 12:48 PM: Short speech. He's done. He got in a line about our mercurial weather and the beauty of the place. And said he's lucky and privileged. Now come questions.
Update 12:47 PM: We're getting our first glimpse at Hales' priorities: Reconfiguring the Portland Development Commission. Attacking the "epidemic of panhandling and homelessness" on our streets. Building sidewalks and roads in East Portland. Cleaning up our river, "not just spending money planning how we will." This section also touched on the young entrepreneur economy he wants to build, after a gathering of designers, and he used it to nod to our near-miss with Nike. "The next Nike was in that room... and they're not leaving Portland.
Update 12:44 PM: And now a reference to a "barn-raising style" of collaboration between governments.
Update 12:44 PM: Back to the house metaphor. And the Old Testament. Next year we hope to pass inspection and "get our house in order."
Update 12:43 PM: Hales says gun violence is very local, punctuated by the Clackamas Town Center shooting. But he's focused on the shooting death of a teen out on NE Killingsworth. "It's unacceptable." He's announcing Portland won a national grant for black male achievement. "It's a win for the whole community."
Update 12:41 PM: More substantial applause for another one of Hales' goals: Lobbying for increased gun control in Salem. He gave a shout out to State Senator Ginny Burdick for her gun bills and for the Multnomah County Commission and its approval, yesterday, of some tighter gun laws. "Do what you can with what you have where you are," Hales says.
Update 12:40 PM: Hales told the story of this year's two police shootings, Merle Hatch and Santiago Cisneros. He called them "terrible events" but said they're terrible for the cops, too. "They need to know that the city and the council have their backs, and we do." But! "We expect to see important changes ensuring they practice peacekeeping and deescalation." Hales says the bureau isn't waiting to start in on changes in force policies, mental health, and training as mandated by the Department of Justice. "So far, so good, chief," he said to Chief Mike Reese. "Thank you."
Update 12:37 PM: Police are the roof of the house, protecting us. "But we shouldn't feel the need to be protected from the police. Our police officers sign the social contract, too." People of color should trust the police, he says, and not "be surprised that the officer they call upon for help actually looks like them."
Update 12:34 PM: Hales says parents kept telling him they worried about the city's and community's commitment to schools. That's why lobbying for a robust education budget was the city's top legislative priority in Salem. He's also telling the anecdote he told us in our profile about 50 mayors coming together to stump for schools. Hales asks: "When's the last time" that happened? "We're not done, but there's a budget proposal on the table in this Legislature that will hold the line on school funding."
Update 12:32 PM: Hales' budget plan is in its final draft. "Don't let a good crisis go to waste," he says in describing one of the five principles underpinning his work. He also picked up the "board of directors" mantra, referencing the work of council budget subcommittees that came up with innovative budget ideas. And he says he's done with the "nonsense" of having bureau budgets pay for city commissioner's staffers via murky agreements.
Update 12:29 PM: "Why did I want to be mayor?" "And why am I up here with a smile?" Hales asks those after logging the reasons for our $21.5 million budget. "We will balance our budget in a human and responsible way because that's what's written down in the social contract." He says that social contract essentially encompasses everything and everyone ever and that it's like the foundation of the house he built. It's also filled with words like "equity" and "livability."
Update 12:27 PM: Hales starts on the budget by lamenting the slim state of the city's operating contingency fund: "$65,000 in the coffee can on April Fool's Day. Yeah, April Fool's Day on us." He's using his lectern to illustrate it.
Update 12:26 PM: He's telling a parable about rebuilding an old stone house in his Virginia boyhood. In city government, "we clear rubble." "I know how to build for tomorrow and do heavy lifting," he says. He then pooh-poohed the Space Needle and Arch in St. Louis and said Portland build's better things, like the Rose Garden and transit.
Update 12:22 PM: Hales is thanking county commissioners, including Chairman Jeff Cogen, and state representatives and public schools officials. The four city commissioners he calls his "board of directors" were directed to stand up, too. And Hales called out, in a good way, the work of the city hall reporter I'm sitting next to, the O's Ryan Kost, who profiled Hales' chief of staff, Gail Shibley, over the weekend. To big applause.
Hales started, though, with a thanks to "Sam," as in Sam Adams, his predecessor who's now running City Club.
Update 12:19 PM: Hales brought his toolbelt.
Update 12:16 PM: No, Hales hasn't started talking yet. But City Club has. And the audio is cavernous. I feel like I'm at Altamont, from the history books.
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