Portland's newest city commissioner, Nick Fish, is still in the blissful honeymoon phase. Stacks of files and paperwork haven't overrun his office yet, and his walls are still relatively bare, displaying only carefully chosen items like the gavel used in impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon. (The gavel belonged to his father, US Representative Hamilton Fish Jr., who sat on the committee that headed up the impeachment.) He bubbles with excitement about his new gig, saying things like, "It's all good," and "I pinch myself on a regular basis."
Fish has been on the job for just under a week as of this writing: He took the oath of office on Tuesday, June 10, so he could participate in the week's business at city hall.
But Friday, June 13, was the real swearing in for Fish. This reporter was out of town, but Fish was happy to relive the event. Former Governor Barbara Roberts spoke about "Roberts' Rules," her tips on leadership (Fish's outbox held a thank-you note for Roberts on Monday afternoon). Tamala Newsome, the principal of Rosa Parks Elementary, where Fish was sworn in by attorney general candidate John Kroger, told an anecdote about the new commissioner: He had been showing Newsome his city hall ID, which lets him enter through the secured 5th Avenue door, and he asked her to guess who gave it to him. Mayor Potter, she guessed? Nope, he told her—"The people of Portland." (See what I mean about the honeymoon phase? Fish swoons over his constituents.)
It's not all pinching and thank-you cards, however. Fish says he's had "six to eight" substantive meetings every day so far, as he gets up to speed on his bureaus and hot city issues (like the reemerging effort to rename a street for César E. Chávez, and the city council's vote on the Columbia River Crossing project).
As he learns about the fire bureau, he headed out to the training facility in Northeast Portland. There, he was mildly hazed, and offered the chance to steer the back end of a fire truck—a task that entails steering counter-intuitively (or turning the back wheels left when you want the truck to turn right). Fish jokes that he was "an abject failure" at the project.
He's also had a chance to vote, weighing in on a resolution from post-election bosom buddies Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Sam Adams: The two asked the council to support the Multnomah Youth Commission's idea to provide free TriMet passes to all public high school students in Portland. (All five council members voted yes, and TriMet will take the idea under consideration.)
But Fish hasn't proposed legislation of his own, yet. He's called for a poverty summit in the fall (Potter will assist with that project), and he's working on an October council presentation that lays out the housing landscape, a "soup to nuts symposium" on "where we spend the money, and who the players are." And we should see some staff hiring decisions and then policy proposals out of his office soon.