IF YOU FOLLOWED the various subplots and soap operas at Portland City Hall in recent days, you'd be forgiven for asking a simple, if seemingly irrational question: Is Commissioner Dan Saltzman reconsidering his political future and running for mayor?
He's not, a source close to the commissioner told me, noting the ludicrously late date I was making my inquiry—January 17, 2012. But that same source said that the question was also somewhat understandable. Because Saltzman, described by another city source as the most "quietly audacious" elected official in Portland, has been conspicuously public.
Take last Wednesday, January 11. At city council, Saltzman raised the ire of the city's bicycle/pedestrian advocates when he dared to suggest saving money by putting Sunday Parkways on "hiatus," even though it's a relatively inexpensive way to spread the joy of cycling to people who might not otherwise try it.
It made for a sexy broadside for Saltzman's favorite foil, Mayor Sam Adams, who was listening to the meeting via phone. And, more importantly, it reeked of the kind of anti-"weird" populism that's increasingly been infusing this year's mayoral race. True, Saltzman eventually backed down, saying he might accept merely paring the event back. Not that it mattered—the political knife had been inserted, and then twisted.
Then, that afternoon, Saltzman struck again. He had his staff hustle on a last-minute resolution decrying a recent report in the Oregonian that Portland cops were qualifying for a fitness premium merely by having their blood tested. Before long, TV cameras were filing into his office while Saltzman, as seen through his office window at city hall, was placidly working the phone and fitting his fiscal-responsibility cap with another feather.
For good measure, Portland Police Association boss Daryl Turner managed to keep the story alive another day by issuing what amounted to a labor fatwa against Saltzman.
Did it matter that Saltzman's resolution is non-binding? Or that no other commissioners signed on to the effort? Not really.
Meanwhile, sources inside city hall are gearing up for Saltzman's next big splash. During an upcoming January 24 work session on fire bureau staffing, Saltzman is expected to annoy Randy Leonard by pointing to a report that calls for purchasing SUVs to send out on medical calls instead of fire engines—but then not hiring any new workers to drive those shiny new SUVs.
So why all this sudden visibility if Saltzman isn't planning on parlaying it? Saltzman personally gave an answer even simpler than the question about his mayoral hopes: "Everything's a coincidence; it's just things that have made me mad." And making others mad in turn, I'm told, is one of Saltzman's favorite things about politics.