Perhaps it's the weather, or perhaps it's the fact that two-fifths of the city commissioners are now nearly halfway through their rookie term, but city council sessions have gotten awful testy lately.
For two weeks in a row, tempers have flared, largely over whether Commissioner Dan Saltzman has engaged in enough "process" over his proposals. First, there was the dustup over a foster care/elderly facility in North Portland, for which his colleagues, Sam Adams and Randy Leonard, derided Saltzman.
Then, last week, it was a lot like a rerun. Saltzman's parks bureau was presenting a report on the upgrades it needs to make to maintenance facilities. Around the same time, though, word was spreading that the parks bureau had entered into an agreement with Warner Pacific College—a Christian school—to potentially sell off the bureau's main maintenance facility at Mt. Tabor. Saltzman claims the bureau entered into the agreement without consulting his office and, besides, the report didn't actually say anything about selling off the Mt. Tabor land.
Of course, neither of those explanations kept the Mt. Tabor brouhaha from totally dominating the parks report—nor did they keep Leonard from utterly lambasting Saltzman in public.
The outcome: Saltzman agreed to bring the report back in a week (on Wednesday, November 8) with an amendment that specifically says that the city will not, under any circumstances, consider selling the Mt. Tabor land without full public vetting.
Perhaps, though, you're thinking that the details of these proposals could be hammered out before city council sessions. After all, the commissioners have their offices all on the same floor (except for the mayor, who has a fancy-pants office on the floor above—one of the few perks of being Portland's mayor).
Enter Bob Durston, who, until two weeks ago, was Erik Sten's chief of staff. Now, he's working out of the government relations office in a newly created position designed to increase communication and collaboration between the offices. For now, that means making sure that all of the chiefs of staff are communicating.
It's a noble effort—one designed to improve city government's image. But it's one to which I must object in the most strident terms. If city leaders start getting along, I'm outta work. You know what the job market's like for unemployed alternative newspaper writers? It's only slightly better than the market for disgraced former publicly funded city council candidates.
Speaking of! Didja hear that Emilie Boyles has been tracked down? She's now a news anchor at a small station in Glendive, Montana. Her message to Portland, paraphrased: "Stop calling my boss!"