A few weeks ago, Mayor Vera Katz announced she will retire her position at city hall in 2004. The long-anticipated news made quick headlines, but was soon eclipsed by stories about the lack of candidates jumping into the mayoral ring. Currently, only councilmember Jim Francesconi has announced his candidacy. U.S. Congressman and bow-tie wearer Earl Blumenauer has also murmured interest, but has made no formal announcement.

Both have decent backgrounds in local politics, but neither has what Portland needs right now. Over the past decade local government has increasingly drifted away from the city's needs. Against the wishes of residents--and with no public input--city council voted last year to cap Mt. Tabor's reservoirs and, for the sake of a few downtown businesses, approved a sit-lie ordinance that has been used to harass the homeless as well as protesters.

The most recent slap in the face was city council endorsing $100 million for the South Waterfront District development project which features high-rises affordable to only the city's wealthiest six percent. Not very thoughtful, considering Portland's unemployment rate and failing school system.

Or, consider last fall when Francesconi voted against a popular anti-war resolution. In interviews, he explained his mind was made up months before the council vote, and before hearing overwhelming public testimony. We already have aloof leadership at the White House. Why replicate it in Portland?

That's why I, Phil Busse, am announcing my candidacy for mayor. I want to serve. I want to listen. I want to be the people's bitch! And here are just a few of the planks in my platform:

The mayor's current salary far exceeds her worth. That's why I promise to use my paycheck to give away $100 every day of my term (including weekends) to a needy person or cause. These mini-mayoral rebates won't solve the city's problems--but it can buy a week's worth of groceries for a family or take the budget sting away from a non-profit.

City council needs to repeal the sit-lie ban and reduce juvenile crime through inventive programs that address kids' underlying issues.

And city council needs to provide incentives and tax breaks for small businesses, clean up the Willamette River, and bend over backwards to assist public school teachers and administrators.

I am excited to serve and please you, Portland. And, if a more worthwhile candidate enters this race--one more concerned about his or her community than career--I will gladly step out of the way. Until then, feel free to contact me with issues and concerns, and please, please make me your bitch (aka "Mayor"). PHIL BUSSE

phil.busse@portlandmercury.com