I'M ALL DONE with this column after this week. Maybe you remember reading that or hearing it. But probably not—you've all got busy lives. It's just that by the time this thing sees print, I'll be three mornings into my new job covering state politics for the Oregonian.
It's a bittersweet parting.
I've been unfathomably lucky to cover cops, politics, and city hall for what's arguably Portland's most human news organ—and undoubtedly the city's most beloved.(Even some of you fluoride haters still read us in spite of yourselves. I know it because some of you tell me.)
That's because the Mercury holds a precious spot in Portland's journalistic pantheon. Between the insufferable smugness of Willamette Week (maybe dial it back?) and the stately seriousness of the O (someone's gotta do it!), Mercury writers can say things other reporters only wish they could.
Which is what I'm about to do. While I can.
• Amanda Fritz ought to run for mayor. Yeah, yeah... I know. She doesn't want the job. It's a lot of pomp and circumstance and handshakes and foreign trips to smooch big-business boots. And whoever wins gets the most thankless job in city hall: running the police bureau.
That said, no other commissioner's been as effective when it comes to advancing a heartfelt agenda over the past two-plus years, and she deserves to talk about it all.
Sick time? Fritz. A parks bond? Fritz. A humane deal for Right 2 Dream Too? Fritz. Fending off attempts to pass a regressive street fee? Fritz. Carving out surplus money for infrastructure fixes? Fritz again. Also? No other commissioner's quite as beloved. Amanda's still very much of the people. And it shows.
• We're more likely to see Nick Fish run. But he probably won't. The fact that it's even discussed is still a problem.
Fish worked hard to set himself up as Mayor Charlie Hales' floor leader back in 2013. Hales apparently wasn't interested. It's been downhill ever since. Knowledgeable gossips in and around city hall talk about how Fish was cornering union leaders last year and presenting himself as their best bet, certain Hales wouldn't run again. Coincidentally, around that time, Hales started looking a bit less adrift.
Others have since downplayed Fish's interest, suggesting it was trumped up by Hales' advisers to prod him into fighting shape. And frankly, it's hard not to see both men looking over their shoulders at House Speaker Tina Kotek or State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. (Sorry, Mike Reese!)
• Charlie Hales is mayor, not emperor. Hales' first step toward re-election has been circling the wagons, calling his developer friends for giant donations meant to scare away rivals. It's a sign he knows he's vulnerable in the aftermath of the street fee debacle.
It's his own fault. Hales might be far less vulnerable if he'd spent more time working with his colleagues, collecting favors and endorsements that would have come in handy over the past year. He might even have a street fee ordinance to show for it. Instead, Hales has run a transactional, imperial mayoralty—too willing to stop after finagling three votes instead of fighting to five.
His heart's usually in the right place, notably on police issues. Just not his bedside manner. And if he's ousted, some of his colleagues won't be that sorry.