Chief Mike Reese: Occupy Portland City Hall?
  • Spencer Burton
  • Chief Mike Reese: Occupy Portland City Hall?
When Police Chief Mike Reese telephoned labor officials last week and asked to be included in the Northwest Oregon Labor Council forum for mayoral and city council candidates, no one had overdosed yet at Occupy Portland, police hadn't arrested a suspected arsonist hiding in the camp, and Mayor Sam Adams was talking tougher but not ready to call the whole thing off.

Then came this weekend's camp eviction. And suddenly Reese—technically still just thinking about becoming a mayoral candidate—found he was too busy being police chief to introduce himself as a candidate and stand alongside his presumed rivals, Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady, and Jefferson Smith. He called the AFL-CIO to tell them that, maybe, you know, he should focus on the job he's got right now.

But never fear. Reese wasn't so busy—after also finding time to register his campaign account on Friday—that he didn't have time to (have someone?) draft an extremely long statement that he submitted to the forum instead. Part of that letter was read aloud before the debate, to the amusement of his rivals (Smith asked if he could have a statement read aloud, too).

The Mercury has obtained a copy of the full statement, below the cut. It includes what wasn't read aloud last night: the barest skeleton of Reese's platform.

Turns out, he likes a lot of the same things labor likes—living-wage jobs, the Columbia River Crossing over Interstate 5, a new Port of Portland terminal on West Hayden Island, and not tinkering with cops' and firefighters' pensions. Less telegraphed are things some other constituents might like: Fewer hurdles for businesses and further consolidation of city bureaus.

He also ties up his political ambitions and police background with a tidy little bow, in a way that actually makes sense.

As someone who works in public safety, I’ve seen first-hand the personal toll and damages caused by unemployment, under-performing schools and a lack of resources in our social service systems. There is a strong connection between the criminal justice system and a lack of education, opportunity and healthy communities.


Thank you for allowing me to provide a written statement in lieu of appearing at your candidate forum. I am very sorry that I cannot be with you tonight. The past few days have been incredibly eventful for the City of Portland, the Police Bureau and the many people who have participated peacefully in Occupy Portland. The next few days pose additional public safety challenges as we strive to keep the peace in Portland. As Chief of Police, my energy and effort during this historic time must be focused on guiding the men and women of the Police Bureau as they keep our community safe while protecting the rights of citizens to engage in free speech.

As you move forward in your endorsement process, I would be happy to meet with your executive boards, attend future meetings or engage in other ways with your memberships to talk about the issues that impact our city and the working families of Portland.

I would like you to know a little about me. I have lived in Portland nearly my entire life and graduated from Roosevelt High School and Portland State University. I learned the value of a strong work ethic from my mother as she struggled to provide for my brothers and me on a telephone operator’s salary. My mother was a member of the Communication Workers of America and felt supported by her union. Later, as a young man, I worked a variety of construction jobs while I attempted to play music professionally. I have a strong and personal appreciation of the importance of the union movement and its vital role in the lives and future of working people here and across the nation.

I also believe strongly that as we look to create jobs we need to make sure that our policies as a city — and a nation — should encourage the creation of good jobs that can support a family, have decent benefits and that give young people a sense of hope and opportunity. It is not enough to say we want to improve the economy: we must be committed to improving economic OPPORTUNITY for every Portlander.

After graduating from PSU, I worked for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland as a counselor, program director and club director. In 1989, I began a career in public safety as a deputy sheriff for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. I served on the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff’s Association when the City of Portland completed its last large annexation, and was transferred to the Portland Police Bureau in 1994.

I have served in progressively challenging leadership assignments at the Portland Police Bureau. I've worked in North Precinct as a sergeant and as a lieutenant, as a captain of the Drugs and Vice Division, and as a commander at Central and East Precinct. Durining [sic] my time as a command officer, I also served on the Executive Board of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association. I was appointed the Chief of Police in May 2010 and have successfully led the Bureau as we regained community trust, developed budgets that maintained public safety in spite of depleted resources, and championed innovative strategies to meet the new challenges in public safety surrounding mental health issues, homelessness and drug addiction.

As someone who works in public safety, I’ve seen first-hand the personal toll and damages caused by unemployment, under-performing schools and a lack of resources in our social service systems. There is a strong connection between the criminal justice system and a lack of education, opportunity and healthy communities.

Currently, too many people are unemployed. Our first priority as a city has to be getting women and men back to work in living wage jobs. The City needs to create a climate where small businesses can thrive, where our current manufacturing businesses feel supported, and we encourage growth in emerging industries. The City can build alignment between all of the Bureaus so that businesses can have more certainty as they develop or expand. We can agree on key initiatives that provide for a clear stable path forward.

Another priority is helping our schools become high-performing institutions where kids graduate on time, well prepared for college, trade schools or employment. While it’s true that the City doesn’t operate our public school system, we can assist by leveraging City resources to provide the type of support necessary to keep kids engaged and in school.

My third priority is to ensure that the City is focused on essential services as we experience another year of budget cuts due to a decline in revenue and an increase in the rate of inflation. We have to look for operating efficiencies such as consolidating Bureaus, auditing internal expenses for materials and services, and opportunities to share resources. I believe these changes must also take into account that the our City employees are one of Portland’s greatest assets and these changes should be undertaken with the participation and input of the frontline workers who know the city best.

I know you would like to hear my position on key issues impacting working men and women. Here are three highlights:

Columbia River Crossing — It’s imperative that the CRC be developed so that we improve freight mobility, lower traffic congestion, and protect key infrastructure along this important I-5 corridor. As an added benefit, the jobs created by this project pay well and will support families as the economy rebuilds. While there are significant financing issues that need to be addressed, the CRC is critical to the overall economic health of the region. We need to move forward and work closely with our federal delegation to secure the funding necessary to do so.

West Hayden Island — The plan by the Port of Portland to develop this area should proceed as planned under Option A that includes 300 acres for riverfront businesses and 500 acres for wildlife habitat. This is an excellent example of finding the correct balance between preserving land for industry and protecting the environment, while maintaining the principles underlining the Urban Growth Boundary.

FPD&R reform — Our firefighters and police officers face unmatched dangers in Portland from exposure to cancer causing chemicals, job related illnesses and injuries unique to working in a major metropolitan city. Our current disability system recognizes the presumptive risks our public safety professionals face while protecting the public from potential abuses. While there are always ways to improve the accountability and efficacy of the system, we need to preserve the basic structure that protects our front line public safety workers.

I know that there are many other issues to address, and I look forward to the opportunity to talk with all of you in greater detail. For the moment, I hope this helps as you contemplate making candidate endorsements for the Mayor of the City of Portland. The next four years will be critical to the health of our community. We need strong, experienced leadership to move us forward in a positive direction. I believe that I can offer that leadership for Portland, and especially for the working families of our community.


Mike Reese