IT'S A GOOD THING we've got those big new recycling bins: The onslaught of election year campaign literature has begun.
City council candidates Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis have spent thousands of public-financing dollars on flyers that have fluttered into mailboxes across the city.
Both candidates stick largely with pledges and platitudes, and both candidates—thanks to the current economic climate—promise to be fiscally responsible. While it may be impossible to determine the veracity of some claims, there are a few items in Lewis and Fritz's lit than can be fact checked.
Lewis' latest ad, a green four-pager, touts his "experience and a dedication to public service," alongside photos of him with his family, talking to a small business owner in North Portland, and working with a music student at Ethos, his nonprofit. He cites his role at Ethos as "proven experience" with fiscal responsibility: "Ten years later, Ethos serves over 2,000 deserving children, has 78 employees, and a budget of nearly a million dollars." Elsewhere on the flyer, he says Ethos "has more employees than three-quarters of all the city's bureaus."
Lewis' figure counts plenty of part-time workers, some of whom only work a few hours per week. But Ethos does not use contract labor, Lewis says, and all 78 are employees. The 13 full-timers get free health care, and others get pro-rated health care. As for his comparison to city bureaus? By our count—checking the number of "authorized positions" in each bureau's budget—15 of 25 city bureaus have less than 78 full- and part-time staffers. It's not quite three-quarters, but it is a strong majority.
Fritz's mailers are in muted shades of blue and green, and feature plans for "safer neighborhoods" and for "a strong local economy." In one, Fritz is shown talking to a firefighter, and in another, she's standing in front of a street that's been dug up for repairs. She cites her experience on the Portland Planning Commission and her neighborhood volunteer work.
On the fact front, Fritz pledges to "toughen review standards for city contracts," which she says can currently go 25 percent over budget before the city council reviews them. This is true for most contracts. However, "not a huge amount" of city contracts trigger this review, says Baer, the city's Director of Procurement. A study of 18 months' worth of contracts spanning 2004-2005 found that 19 percent of professional service contracts went to council for re-approval.
Another note on Fritz's literature: She had to amend one of her endorsement listings to make it accurate. Older literature that Fritz is still handing out says the Multnomah County Democratic and Republican parties endorse her. The Democratic Party, however, endorsed both Fritz and Lewis, and requires that it be noted as a "co-endorsement." Fritz has put a sticker on the flyer to patch it up, correctly notes it on one newer piece, and deftly says that she's "endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans" on a third, without mentioning the party.