Hall Monitor 

Groundbreaker, Lovetaker

City Commissioner Nick Fish has stolen my hard-bitten political columnist's heart. If I had a womb, I would want Fish to fill it with his little political babies. Nearly two years ago nobody would have been more surprised than me to hear that I would want Fish to metaphorically impregnate me. Here's why.

Back in 2008, Fish ran against former City Commissioner Erik Sten's chief of staff, Jim Middaugh, after Sten had prematurely left his council seat halfway through his term. We endorsed Middaugh because he firmly opposed the city's controversial sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances, whereas Fish sat firmly on the fence during endorsement interviews. Middaugh was also publicly financed, and didn't take a campaign donation from the Portland Business Alliance (PBA)—unlike his opponent.

Meanwhile Fish, a New York transplant from a political family, appeared altogether more interested in his own political ambition than in serving the homeless Portlanders that Sten had championed with so much enthusiasm for 11 years. Since taking office, however, Fish has defied the PBA and abolished the city's sit-lie ordinance. He now says he also wants to overturn the anti-camping law, and is looking to establish more fairness for Section 8 housing tenants. Better yet, last Friday, November 20, he led a groundbreaking ceremony on the city's new Resource Access Center for the homeless, opposite Union Station. It will provide shelter space for 90 people and housing for 130 more.

"This is one of the toughest projects that has ever been attempted," said Mayor Sam Adams at the groundbreaking. "The person who brought this project home was newly elected, he was new to the job, he came in to budget cuts, and not only had some very difficult bureaus to manage, but an unrelated lawsuit that mangled up and delayed this project."

Sten may have been praised for his positions on homeless issues—but the dude didn't get the Resource Access Center done. In fact, some of his tinkering with taking downtown urban renewal funding for a school district out in East Portland ultimately led to a lawsuit that's taken Fish's legal expertise to unravel. Nobody made a Voodoo "Groundbreaker" Doughnut to commemorate anything Sten ever did, either. So let's give credit where it's due.

Also, I wish I had a womb so that Fish could fill it with his little political babies. I already mentioned that? Well, I stand by my remarks. When you're ready, commissioner, I'm all yours.

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