It's that time again: Mayor Ted Wheeler has redistributed (some of) the city's bureaus among his fellow city commissioners. It's one of the few responsibilities that sets Wheeler apart from the rest of city council, thanks to our city's "weak mayor" form of government. It's also a patently bizarre tradition, but now's not the time for that debate. Here's the list of new assignments.
Two of Wheeler's biggest changes: Assigning himself the Bureau of Development Services (BDS), which was originally in Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's portfolio, and moving the Office of Equity and Human Rights from his office to Comissioner Amanda Fritz.
Wheeler already raised eyebrows in 2017 when he didn't assign the Housing Bureau to incoming commissioner Eudaly, whose election campaign was rooted in fair housing and tenant's rights. But Eudaly has been able to flex her housing muscle through BDS, the bureau that issues building permits and enforces building codes.
Not any longer. In a press release announcing the reassignments, Wheeler spokesperson Sophia June explained that the mayor has assigned all "major planning bureaus" to himself in hopes of streamlining development projects.
Eudaly has been newly assigned to the Portland Bureau of Transportation—which is currently under outgoing Comissioner Dan Saltzman's watch. Eudaly will continue to oversee the Office of Community and Civic Life (formally Office of Neighborhood Involvement).
Wheeler's decision to shed the Office of Equity and Human Rights will likely disappoint community equity advocates—especially those who believe the mayor's office holds the most power. But the decision to hand the bureau over to Fritz makes sense, based on history alone. According to Office of Equity spokesperson Jeff Selby, Fritz was the original commissioner to suggest to then-Mayor Sam Adams that the office exist in the first place. Since Adams created the office in 2011, Fritz has been a vocal advocate of the office's work.
"She has offered unwavering support of our office since its inception," says Selby.
A few less-notable assignments: Portland Parks and Recreation reassigned from Fritz to Comissioner Nick Fish, Portland Water Bureau moved from Fish to Fritz. Fritz will also be in charge of the Bureau of Hydroelectric Power which I didn't know existed and now I am very interested in.
Wheeler handed all "non-police public safety bureaus" to Saltzman, and noted that his replacement will be expected to take on those assignments in January.
“These bureau assignments link the daily management of the city with a vision for the future of Portland as an equitable, sustainable, and economically vibrant city,” Wheeler said in the press release. The new assignments will take effect on September 4.