"Nigel Jaquiss, Nick Budnick, Jim Mayer—those are the checks and balances," said City Commissioner Randy Leonard last week, name-checking reporters from the Willamette Week, Tribune, and Oregonian as he was announcing a compromise proposal to limit consolidation of the city's permitting process under his Bureau of Development Services (BDS).
Budnick left the Tribune months ago. Nevertheless, I count not being mentioned in his place as a pointed win for the Mercury, since we were the paper that broke the news about opposition to Leonard's permit consolidation plan two weeks ago while other papers focused on Leonard's distraction—I'm sorry—idea, to condemn the Made in Oregon sign. (OUCH! Just pulled a muscle patting myself on the back.)
Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams had wanted to consolidate up to 45 permitting staff under BDS with the stated aim of speeding up the permitting process, but we spoke to several unnamed sources who said the move amounted to a "power grab" by Leonard.
People were worried that if Leonard essentially had control of the permitting process, he'd be able to bully through permits for pet projects like soccer stadiums. Leonard, on the other hand, has argued consistently that if he were to try to bully his permitting staff, a whistle-blowing phone call to local media would result. It was an argument he repeated last Thursday night, April 16, while in the same breath backing down from the alleged power grab altogether.
Under a compromise proposed by City Commissioner Nick Fish, the 45 staff members will be "co-located" in the same building, but ultimately they will not all report to or be "consolidated" under Commissioner Leonard. Instead, they will all report back to their respective separate bureaus and ultimately to separate city commissioners, thereby effectively nixing any ability for Leonard to push developments through the permitting process. Alleged power grab foiled!
The compromise represents a major climb down for Leonard and also Adams, who was gung-ho for Leonard's consolidation idea when he spoke to the Mercury two weeks ago. Never mind. Fish's compromise represents cost savings of around $350,000 to taxpayers compared with Leonard's original idea, and will be reassessed in a year for signs of progress. "We heard loud and clear that a number of people were concerned about the reassignment," Commissioner Leonard said.
All I can say is thank God for checks and balances.