GIVE CHARLIE HALES a chance, which I did this month, and he'll talk your ear off.

In our relatively short chat, the mayoral candidate managed to applaud the Eastside streetcar expansion, demand more cash for parks, talk about embracing East Portland, and call for leveraging city muscle on behalf of schoolchildren.

For voters, that's a good thing. Hales—a former city commissioner and now a streetcar/smart-growth evangelist—is thoughtful and clearly understands the headwinds, but also opportunities, that face Portland. When he's not talking about where he lived (Washington) vs. where he voted (Oregon) after remarrying a few years ago, he'll help elevate the tone of the mayoral race.

But as for actually getting elected? All that context might be a bad thing.

That's because much of it will sound familiar to any Portlander who's even glanced at city hall in recent years. It's a lot of what the incumbent Sam Adams, has been saying. (Doing, some might argue, is another matter.)

And that points to one of Hales' central challenges as he works to convince Portlanders, come next May, that he's the seasoned, experienced political candidate (and not Adams) they should champion over formidable outsider Eileen Brady, a New Seasons co-founder.

Hales already touts his business experience. But now, to his credit, he appears to have found another area where he thinks he can stand apart: police oversight.

During our chat, just days after a cop shot a man with live rounds mistakenly loaded into a beanbag gun, Hales came out swinging at Portland police, even as he sidestepped questions about whether he'd replace Chief Mike Reese. First, he said a common justification issued after police shootings—that a suspect wasn't following commands—wasn't good enough.

"That's not sufficient grounds, in my mind, for use of force"—including Tasers and beanbag shotguns, said Hales, who took pains not to question incidents when officers said their lives were in danger.

Then he said he'd find ways to put more officers on the streets, literally—walking and biking around neighborhoods like St. Johns and North Williams.

"I know enough to be concerned," he said, calling it "one of my motivations to run."

How well that strategy pays off remains to be seen. While some advocates complain Adams hasn't been as forceful as hoped, others point to a clear shift under his (and Reese's) watch. They apologized after the ammo mixup. They also broke with tradition and fired the officer who shot Aaron Campbell last year.

Adams isn't a lock. But he's no pushover. And Hales knows that, too. Slightly botching Monty Python, Hales said this of his rival: "He's not dead yet."