The only real skill you need to be a successful city commissioner here in Portland is the ability to count to three. Under our commission form of government, that's how many votes it takes, out of five, to make even the stupidest idea a reality. And it appears that City Commissioner Randy Leonard—whatever else you may have to say about him—can count to three.
I've written here before about the lunacy of using taxpayer dollars to support Major League Soccer. It seems to me that Leonard likes the idea of bargaining with a millionaire, and he certainly likes the idea of having a major erection named after him at some point, if only in his imagination—Randy Park?
Meanwhile Merritt "I Live in Lake Oswego" Paulson gets to benefit from $11.9 million in city bonds, while only paying $8 million in cash (presumably a fraction of his trust fund) up front. He'll fork over another $11.1 million in pre-paid rent, but that hardly counts as a risk on his part—unless of course the league goes bankrupt as quickly as we're all expecting.
Paulson seems maddeningly entitled, but then, his father Hank is probably related to Satan. Still, even Beelzebub needs an enabler, and in this case I would ask voters to consider just who has enabled this deal to go forward. It's not Leonard—heck, he could suggest painting city hall maroon and people would dismiss the idea. It's not Mayor Sam Adams, either, who has been a solid backer of the idea ever since the Beau Breedlove scandal broke, because it made him look like he was doing something.
The enabler of this deal, that crucial third vote, is commissioner number three, Dan Saltzman, whose own uncle, Hal Saltzman, begged him to reconsider the idea in council three weeks ago. Uncle Saltzman actually played two seasons for the now-displaced Portland Beavers baseball team in 1948 and 1949. He told his nephew in council: "Soccer isn't worth it. If you don't believe me, go out and ask Portlanders. Ninety-nine out of 100 will tell you this is not worth it."
Well, the deal didn't go to voters—pish, democracy. But Saltzman himself is about to. And the commissioner posted on the Timbers message board this week, asking Timbers fans to come to the upcoming Candidate Olympiad for his seat, organized by this paper and the Bus Project, on Thursday, January 28, at Backspace (115 NW 5th) starting at 7 pm.
"It would be great to see some friendly faces and those green-and-white scarves," he wrote.
See you there.