Carol Lay
Nearly six months have gone by since former mayor Vera Katz abandoned her tenure as mayor and city council member Jim Francesconi left office. Now, as Mayor Tom Potter settles in, the boyishly ambitious council member Sam Adams takes charge of projects, and the other three veteran council members feel out their new freedoms (with Katz away), there's been a new personality emerging for the city council.

Certainly, anyone who has attended recent council meetings has noticed a kinder, gentler, and more relaxed mood. The councilors openly joke with each other and freely ask questions. There is debate, but it is respectful and thoughtful--not just bickering, as it was with the previous council. But what might be most certain is that no one would accuse the current city council of swift and definitive action.

It took months for the city council to even schedule a vote about whether or not to reauthorize the city's role in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. (Even then, once the vote was scheduled, Mayor Potter withdrew his support for his own resolution--postponing the vote for another three weeks.) And consider the current shitstorm over Portland Development Commission (see "Pride Before the Fall," this page); in this case, the council members' efforts in dealing with PDC have been about as effective as Keystone Cops chasing a greased pig.

And, true to form, last Wednesday city council inched even closer to finally giving final approval to the Voter Owned Elections plan. But they didn't quite finalize the plan, which aims to give council and mayoral candidates public financing for campaigns ($150,000 for council candidates in the primary, $200,000 for mayoral hopefuls).

In April, Mayor Potter and three council members had voiced their support for the Voter Owned Elections public hearing, a public discussion that had been delayed at least once before. The final vote on the resolution had been scheduled for last week, but last-minute tinkering from council member Dan Saltzman postponed it until this week.

On Wednesday, the council determined that the plan to give public financing to candidates will stand as a pilot project for three election cycles and then, in 2010, be referred to voters.