MAYOR CHARLIE HALES sort of scoffed in late January, when I asked about an incoming ordinance borne of his missteps.
For months, Commissioner Nick Fish had been saying he planned to float a new law that would compel the city's campaign consultants to report their work on behalf of Portland's elected officials.
That promised legislation was partly spurred by Hales. Fish says he was inspired by a private meeting the mayor and Commissioner Steve Novick held with prominent consultant Mark Wiener and representatives from Uber in late 2014. The meeting, first reported by Willamette Week, helped broker a peace between the two officials and the ride-share behemoth, setting the stage for a divided council vote that allowed Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the city.
It also took place in a window of time between Wiener helping Hales and Novick win office and his taking on Uber as a lobbying client. News of the meeting "sent shockwaves" through city hall, Fish said earlier this year, and prompted Auditor Mary Hull Caballero to issue fines to Uber, and warnings to Hales and Novick.
Yet Hales, as I say, was dismissive when I asked about a potential new law in January, saying: "Oh, is that still breathing?"
It was, and is, though the legislation Fish unveiled last week [PDF] isn't quite what we'd been told to expect.
In an ordinance scheduled to go before council April 13, Fish is proposing a mandatory public registry for any political consultants who work for elected city officials, or candidates who eventually become elected city officials.
In partnership with Hull Caballero's office, Fish says he's modeling the new law on more stringent regulations in San Francisco, and bringing campaign consultants onto the same level as lobbyists, who already disclose activities to the auditor's office.
Fish's office first contemplated a broader law that would forbid campaign consultants from lobbying former clients for a number of years, but worried it could raise free speech issues, and would be costly to enforce.
"If you let the public know who is attempting to influence public policy, then the public can decide" what's proper, he told me. "That's why sunshine is the most important piece."
It's not typically too difficult to figure out who candidates have hired as campaign muscle. It's often right on their campaign finance statements.
This election, for example, records show Novick has paid tens of thousands to two entities, ProspectPDX and Blaine Palmer Consulting. Commissioner Amanda Fritz, also running for re-election, has paid thousands to campaign manager Terri Preeg Riggsby.
But Fish says his legislation gets at activity that might skirt campaign finance reporting—if, say, a consultant doesn't ask for pay, or takes pay only at the end of many months of work. If in place in late 2014, he says the law would have required Wiener to report consulting work with Hales around the time of the Uber meeting.
Fish is also insistent this isn't about vilifying his colleagues, no matter where the impetus came from. And he's sure there will be life—and breath—in the idea for years to come.
"I don't think there's going to be a lot of drama," he says. "I'd be surprised if we don't see a 5-0 vote."