CITY COMMISSIONER Randy Leonard proposed last Thursday, March 18, to delay a vote on his police reform measures by two weeks ["The Spank Heard 'Round Portland," News, March 18], and City Commissioner Nick Fish complimented Leonard on his "act of statesmanship."
But Fish's "statesmanship" remark rang a little hollow, because Leonard really had no choice but to delay the vote, thanks to a behind-the-scenes effort by City Commissioner Amanda Fritz to ensure a thorough "public process."
Citing concerns that her human relations committee wouldn't have a chance to assess the measures, Fritz suggested on her blog that she might delay a vote on Leonard's police reforms until mid-April. And she went and got the support of City Commissioners Fish and Dan Saltzman for such a delay—effectively outnumbering Leonard on council, forcing him to capitulate.
In the end, Fritz agreed to convene an emergency meeting of the human relations committee if Leonard would agree to delay the vote by two weeks, and council let him propose the idea of a delay to save face.
"We need to be united as we go forward, and I'm willing to support having it voted on two weeks from now," Leonard said. "Because in the long run I think that will be better for the community."
It's not that I disagree about unity or that ideas should receive a thorough public airing before council moves them forward. It's just that last Wednesday, March 17, council voted to divert $20 million from the city's sewer budget into a "green streets" fund for bioswales on bike boulevards—and Fritz said it was a wonderful idea. The next day, the Portland Utility Review Board rejected a seven percent increase in sewer rates for Portlanders, saying they couldn't raise the rates in light of council's decision to divert $20 million from sewers to bikes.
Meanwhile, I watched the Portland chapter leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, A.L. "Skip" Osborne, crying on the council rostrum last Thursday afternoon, asking Fritz why she couldn't just vote the police reform measures through already.
"This is a long-standing issue in our community," said another black leader, Reverend W.G. Hardy Jr. "It's been going on since long before you came into office, and we are here today to weigh in, in overwhelming numbers."
Wrong place to weigh in, guys—you've got to do it in a committee convened by Commissioner Fritz.