George Pfromm II
Almost a month ago, Portland was stunned after the city council voted down a proposed antiwar resolution that thousands of residents had supported. And even though Council member Jim Francesconi privately wrote a letter to President Bush objecting to unilateral military action, he curiously voted against the resolution saying that city council had no role in international politics.

A week after the vote, the Mercury broke a story about the Portland Business Alliance's grip on city politics. The Alliance had lobbied fiercely against the antiwar resolution, sending an impassioned memo to council members while allegedly putting on the squeeze behind closed doors.

Francesconi, whose "no" vote suspiciously echoed the Alliance memo, is considering a bid for mayor next summer. The Alliance is one of the largest and most powerful contributors to local politicians. To shed more light on Francesconi's controversial decision and his relationship with the Alliance, the Mercury requested an interview. But Francesconi's office denied that request, saying they would be happy to talk with us about other issues--but not his vote on the antiwar resolution. Below is the exchange between news editor Phil Busse and Michael Harrison, a top member of Francesconi's staff.

From: Phil Busse

Sent: Thurs, February 06, 11:51 AM

Michael: I have listed the questions below. I hope you agree this is an opportunity to open our paper up as a forum for Jim to explain what has been a controversial decision. I plan to run the article as a straight Q&A.

•When should a city commissioner vote against what his constituents want?

•Part of your explanation for voting against the proposed antiwar resolution is that you think it overextends the role of commissioners. Where do you draw this line?

•How do you explain that you are leading a cause for a sister city in Italy? That seems like an international issue. Why is that issue okay for city council while the antiwar resolution is not?

•What role did the Business Alliance play in your decision?

•[Council member] Erik Sten has complained that the Alliance does not have clear enough boundaries and limitations. Do you think they are too intermingled with city politics?

From: Harrison, Michael (Francesconi)

Date: Mon, Feb 10, 8:35 AM

Hi Phil: While Jim didn't have time to respond to your questions on Friday, I did show them to him. He is interested in responding--if I can find time on his schedule we'll have him talk with you later in the week.

From: Harrison, Michael (Francesconi)

Date: Tue, Feb 11, 3:45 PM

Hi Phil, Sorry for the change in plans, but Jim has decided to respectfully decline the offer for the Q&A.

From: Phil Busse

Sent: Wed, Feb 12, 2:39 PM

Michael, I really would like Jim to reconsider. Our readers are beginning to think that Jim is not willing to stand up for his decisions and to provide adequate explanation for them. I really hope Jim will reconsider and provide a thoughtful discourse. Or, if not, to provide a more specific reason why he is not willing to talk about his decisions.

From: Harrison, Michael (Francesconi)

Date: Wed, Feb 12, 4:36 PM

Jim was happy to answer your questions, then he read your recent article. Jim feels you made up your mind without speaking with him, so there is little point in having the conversation.

From: Phil Busse

Sent: Wed, February 12, 5:08 PM

Michael: Thanks for your response. I don't want to belabor the point (really, I just want the interview), but this is not really an issue about my mind being made up or not. Like I said before, I want to run this as a straight Q&A, meaning we will print the questions as you have already seen them, with Jim's answers. I will not have any other voice in the article besides those questions. If Jim was unhappy with the story about the Alliance, this is an opportunity for Jim to counter whatever misperceptions he believes we published.

As always, I hope that Jim take this opportunity to put the answers in his own words.

From: Harrison, Michael (Francesconi)

Date: Wed, February 12, 5:

26 PM

Jim appreciated the opportunity, but after reading the article he concluded that the Mercury probably isn't the forum where his perspective on the resolution will be taken seriously. Jim's only made that conclusion once before, with Lars Larson.

HEY READERS: Perhaps you'll have better luck than us (or Lars Larson) in making Francesconi explain why he voted against an antiwar resolution. Email your questions to "", or phone his office, 823-3008.