In a race that's seen key groups sitting out of the endorsement game, Ted Wheeler is taking one of his newfound supporters to task.

Wheeler this afternoon joined a chorus of people questioning a billboard paid for by the Portland Business Alliance, which endorsed Wheeler for mayor earlier this month. It's part of the "Real Change, Not Spare Change" campaign the PBA dredged up again last year, and shows a person holding a cardboard sign that says "Your spare change funds my addictions."

The sign's led to outcry in recent days, because it paints anyone asking for change as an addict. An online petition demanding the billboards be scotched has nearly 900 supporters.

Among them, at least in spirit, is Wheeler, who lumps the PBA-funded billboard with another controversial billboard posted by the Portland Police Association (PPA) last year (more on that mayhem here). Here's what the candidate's campaign posted to Facebook:


The PPA, Portland's rank-and-file police union, recently tapped Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey as its choice for mayor, and Wheeler's made the police billboard an issue before. But in calling out spare change billboard, Wheeler's taking issue with his his own business backers on their messaging blitz.

He's also seeing eye-to-eye with Mayor Charlie Hales. Since electing not to run for re-election last year—a decision spurred in part by business leaders actively seeking opponents to run against him—Hales has engaged in a fairly public dispute with the PBA around the homelessness issues that have dominated this year's mayoral race (and civic discourse in general). The organization's persistent "Portland can do better" mantra clearly rubs the mayor the wrong way.

Just this morning, while allocating an emergency fund of $2.75 million toward homeless services, Hales couldn't resist taking a shot at the group.

"We have a local business group that’s spending their money on billboards saying 'We can do better,'" Hales said. "Well we can do better but it costs money."

Here's what the PBA's Lynnae Berg told the Oregonian when it asked about the sign:

"[The billboard] is a way to remind people that we are a larger community and we want to be responsible with our money... We're just asking people to think about, 'Where is my money going and is it going to the highest purpose possible?'"

In fact, according to the PBA's own data, it's most likely going toward buying a meal. Berg knows that perfectly well. We talked about it last year, before the Mercury reported that the PBA conducted a paid survey of Portland panhandlers that suggested nearly 80 percent bought food with the money they received—by far the most prevalent purchase. A lot of people also bought cigarettes, which is of course an addiction, but not one of those being strongly hinted at in the billboard.

Less than a third of respondents to the PBA's survey said they used panhandling for drugs. A little over a third used it to buy alcohol. You'd think that's something the organization that bothered to pay for the study would want to highlight. Instead: billboard.