THE CITY BACKED DOWN this week in its efforts to hold a closed "retreat" meeting of the mayor's racial profiling committee.
On May 19, the Mercury emailed the mayor's Public Safety Policy Director Maria Rubio asking for a copy of the agenda for the June 10 and 11 "retreat" slated for the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel, and confirmation that the meeting would be open to the public. On May 21, Rubio responded: "We don't have an agenda yet. The meeting will be a closed planning retreat."
The Mercury responded, asking Rubio which part of Oregon's open-meetings law the mayor's office was using to make the decision to close the meeting. Rubio did not respond to this inquiry.
On May 29, the Mercury's attorney, Jessica Goldman, wrote a formal letter to City Attorney Linda Meng and the committee's co-chairs, Jo Ann Bowman of Oregon Action and Police Chief Rosie Sizer, asking them to justify the decision to close the meeting under the law.
On Monday morning, June 2, Meng responded: "Although we had thought there was a basis for considering the upcoming meeting of the Racial Profiling Committee to be outside of the requirements of the Public Meetings Law, I have concluded that law likely applies to the meeting and I have so advised my client."
Meng added that if less than half the committee's members showed up, the meeting could be exempt from public meetings requirements because it wouldn't have a quorum. Rubio told Goldman she doesn't yet know if a quorum plans to show up. There is still no agenda for the retreat.
Recently four of the nine members of the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), the city's Independent Police Review division, had a meeting to discuss the CRC's future. With just less than a quorum of members, the meeting was not open to the public ["Behind Closed Doors," News, April 24], which drew scorn from police oversight group Portland Copwatch.
The racial profiling committee, which has been meeting since last January and has yet to formulate a cohesive plan to stop racial profiling, has struggled with the presence of the media—i.e., the Mercury—at its meetings from the beginning.
"As a member of the public I expect all meetings to be open to the public as well," says co-chair Bowman. "However, based on the one conversation the committee has had on race, this conversation is hard enough for white people to participate in. I imagine fear of a quote in the media will make it even harder."
The mayor's office did not respond to an opportunity to comment on this story.
"This was billed as a planning retreat," says committee member Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch. "But I raised the question as to how much of the 12 hours over two days was going to be planning, and how much was going to be discussing the issue of racial profiling."
Handelman says if the meetings are to discuss the public's business, they should be open to the public.
"It's not the media that's causing problems in the committee," Handelman continues. "It's the police, who are failing to understand the power dynamic between police and members of the community."