WHEN MAKING PROMISES, it's hard to be any more succinct than Mayor Charlie Hales managed last month, when he emailed Dike Dame—the bulldog developer helping lead a consortium of Pearl District businesses and neighbors against the proposed relocation of homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too.
"I will not facilitate or assist moving the Right 2 Dream Too camp/community to any other location while you are working in good faith toward a solution over the next 60 days," Hales wrote to Dame on October 24, just before heading on a long trip to China.
"I will not authorize its relocation to any city property under my authority during this time, including any property owned by the Portland Development Commission," read the mayor's missive, also copied to Patricia Gardner of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association and Tiffany Sweitzer of Hoyt Street Properties.
That email, obtained by the Mercury and posted on Blogtown last Friday, November 1, is a big deal. To move to the Pearl, R2DToo needs help from the Portland Development Commission and the city's budget office, both overseen by Hales.
But it shouldn't be terribly surprising.
Hales has long been chummy with Dame and his partner, Homer Williams. Both have given the mayor big bucks. And though Hales had blessed Commissioner Amanda Fritz's initial plan for R2DToo—moving it to a city lot beneath a Broadway Bridge off-ramp, as part of a hard-fought legal settlement—the chastened mayor eagerly embraced the developers' demand he scrap that plan in favor of their own.
Rather, the email dramatically confirms a shift that had been playing out quietly, behind the scenes:
Hales is now the dominant political player in the tussle over R2DToo—baldly nudging Fritz aside and personally soothing the concerns of the business interests who have his ear.
Hales had already promised to give the Pearl group 60 days to work out something, going over Fritz's head and forcing her to reopen talks with R2DToo on the legal settlement. (That issue, by the way, had not been solved as of press time. One reason? The Pearl group wanted to tie their help to a formal promise that R2DToo give up on the Pearl.)
Further, in part to appease Dame's famed tenacity, one of Hales' policy directors, Josh Alpert, has been scheduling twice-daily calls with the developer for the past few weeks. Those appointments show up in calendars I obtained in a public records request.
Fritz, shockingly, has not been enjoying that same ease of communication. She saw Hales' email after he sent it, not before.
"This came out of left field," she told me at first.
Then, the next day, she emailed a stronger statement. It was billed as a clarification of my blog post about the email. It read, however, as a statement of will. And a reminder.
"The Pearl site is still alive," Fritz wrote. "The only way Right 2 Dream Too does not move... is if they are offered and agree to a deal that changes that agreement. Or, if Mayor Hales breaks the City's previous promise."