Portland's newest city commissioner, Amanda Fritz, was the first to leap to Mayor Sam Adams' defense during the Breedlove scandal, telling a packed press conference on January 20 that in her experience as a psychiatric nurse, she's seen plenty of people do extraordinary things, and forgiven them. This seems like a pretty long limb for any newly elected politician to walk out on—especially with 30 journalists and nine TV cameras in the room.
But no good deed goes unpunished, and—by way of thanking Fritz for her staunch support throughout the scandal—Adams' office is proposing to cut the budget for Fritz's Office of Human Relations by 46 percent, the largest proposed cut to any city bureau. Ouch! It seems Adams is adopting a new fiscal approach of "you scratch my back, I'll break yours."
Fritz announced the proposed cut to the office—which will be finalized in May after negotiations—at a meeting of its human relations committee on Wednesday, February 4. The volunteer committee has been meeting since last November, and is supported by four full-time employees, funded with $400,000 of council money set aside last year by former Mayor Tom Potter. Trouble is, $219,000 of that money was one-time funding from the city's general fund, which now faces a $7.1 million shortfall this year (and who knows about next year?)—so the writing is on the wall.
"I will be asking my colleagues on the council to affirm that they believe issues such as civil rights are important even in tough economic times," says Fritz. "I expect all my colleagues to make the difficult budget choices facing us based on objective assessment, not imaginary 'paybacks.'"
Adams' spokesman, Roy Kaufmann, did not return a call seeking comment by press time, although Adams himself did push the committee to "establish a baseline" for its work at a meeting last December, something it has struggled with ever since. For example, at last week's meeting, Office of Human Relations Director María Lisa Johnson suggested hiring an external consultant to write a strategic plan for the group.
At the same time, Fritz is now under pressure from her supporters. Her former deputy campaign manager in the 2008 primary, Jasun Wurster, now the spokesman for RecallSamAdams.com, called on Fritz last weekend to bring a vote of confidence in Adams before the council.
"The people I worked with on her campaign, and those who've supported Amanda are very confused," Wurster says. "Because they believe that one of the most important parts of city government is for citizens to use council sessions to testify on their feelings about government."
Fritz declined comment, but talk about going out on a limb. Anyone hear a cracking sound?