With Democrats taking over the federal and state legislatures, the time could be ripe for progressive cities like Portland to finally get what they want from larger governments. First, though, they need to figure out exactly what that is.

On Tuesday, December 5, city council and the city's government relations office sat down for what was billed as a "work session to finalize city council's legislative agenda." But when it came down to it, the session showed that city council and the city's lobbyists had more to iron out.

On the federal level, much of the discussion centered on how much money to ask for to fund projects—Government Relations Director Dan Bates pointed out that even though Democrats control Congress, many of them were elected on "fiscally responsible" platforms. Still, that didn't stop funds for a "river taxi" from making it to the "top-priority list."

The project had the commissioners —except for Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams, who was absent for much of the session— scratching their heads. "I'm not really hearing that there's a champion on city council for the river taxi," Commissioner Erik Sten said, adding that the item should probably be pulled from the top list.

On the state level, the city appears to be playing cautious—none of the office's recommendations were exactly barnburners. For example, one of the five "initiatives" the city will introduce in Salem has to do with increasing penalties for people who assault parking enforcement officers—and maybe park rangers, if Commissioner Dan Saltzman gets his way.

There's also a list of items the city will support, short of drafting a bill and then introducing it. For instance, the city will support any effort to expand the production and use of biofuels in the state, and oppose any attempt to preempt the city's own biodiesel standard. The city will also support the Housing Alliance's legislative agenda for more affordable housing.

But, strangely, there isn't a mention of civil unions or anti-discrimination measures for gays and lesbians anywhere in the draft report. That report, though, is likely to undergo several changes before the legislative session starts.

Saltzman weirdly blasted Bates for not including more in the statewide list that focused on rural areas of the Metro region. And Bates got an earful from Adams—once he showed up—on transportation issues.

With nothing finalized, the council will set up yet another work session before January, in order to actually figure out what it wants from the state government.