City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Randy Leonard had a contretemps at last Wednesday's city council session. Fritz had asked council to delay voting on an ordinance Leonard had proposed until she could ask a few more questions about it.
"I fear we're developing into a pattern," said Leonard, testily. "These questions are good questions, but they should be asked before the hearing... I make a strident effort... to avoid consuming the time of my colleagues when I have questions in advance that could be answered before the hearing."
Leonard said Fritz's questions were starting to look like "a delaying tactic," but Fritz said she'd only had four days to look through the information. "And let me tell you I get the information the same time you do," Leonard shot back. "And I have yet to ask the council in seven years to hold something over, because I ask the questions in advance."
I describe the exchange as a contretemps, because it maintained an air of civility absent from what I would otherwise describe as a straightforward beef, set-to, or slanging match. But only just. And Leonard and Fritz do seem to be taking the gloves off a bit when it comes to their vastly differing approaches to city government. He: too fast. She: too slow.
Fritz also had an editorial in the Oregonian on May 4 asking why the city is focusing on "sports facilities and iconic signs," two of Leonard's pet projects, at a time when the country is facing "the most challenging economic and environmental conditions of our lifetimes." Fritz urged Portland to "refocus," which read to me like a moderately more civilized "eff you" aimed in Leonard's general direction. Like I say it's just a contretemps, at this stage, but one to watch.
When I asked Leonard and Fritz if they were still going to be able to work together with such obvious tension in the air, Leonard wrote in an email that I was "making much ado about nothing," perhaps referencing Shakespeare's play that takes civil discourse as a theme.
Fritz concurred. "Commissioner Leonard and I have a long history of disagreeing passionately on one issue, then being able to work collaboratively pushing hard together on the next," she wrote.
"Your readers would be better served if you cover the news," Fritz continued. "Rather than trying to create drama where none exists."
I think Fritz is suggesting I, too, "refocus," and one is tempted to offer her similar advice... with civility, of course.