THIS ISN'T just Mayor Sam Adams' last city budget. It's Randy Leonard's, too.
And maybe that's why—in the days since Adams released his magically not terrible budget plan—Leonard has been especially gabby about all the backroom discussions that typically mark the month of May in Portland City Hall.
City hall insiders have taken note. After Leonard dished last week that an unidentified colleague had asked him to join a three-vote bloc that would rearrange the mayor's plan ["Looking Behind the Curtain," News, May 10], a handful of people let me know that either I'd gotten it wrong or that Leonard was reveling in some exaggerated political drama.
Leonard wasn't talking about secret budget machinations, they insisted. No, he was referring to a different secret plan: an insurgent bid (led by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, multiple sources say) to extract certain financial considerations from Portland Public Schools in exchange for the $5 million bailout Adams promised in his budget plan.
Did I really get that wrong? When I called Leonard on Monday, May 14, to ask, he told me that, no, I'd captured exactly what he meant. He was talking about plans to revisit the school bailout and the mayor's budget.
Then he went into further detail about both.
On the school bailout, Leonard said the plan was to redo the deal so Portland Public Schools would have to give over acres of land in exchange for the cash. Leonard says he generally liked the idea, and even coveted a site near Washington High School, but that the behind-the-back nature of the talks turned him off.
Then Leonard said—explicitly—that the commissioner who asked him to join a "gang of three" (in that commissioner's words) on the school bailout also had approached him about tweaking the budget. And while he didn't mention Saltzman by name, saying only "he" and "the commissioner," Leonard also made the target of his remarks undeniably clear.
Because those "tweaks"? They would have involved finding cash for one of Saltzman's cherished projects: rapid-response SUVs that help the fire bureau avoid sending its big fire trucks out on minor medical calls.
Saltzman's office didn't comment. And while it's not uncommon for commissioners to have those conversations, including with the mayor, another city source told me that the horse-trading this year has actually been more harmonious than in the past.
Leonard, meanwhile, says he's just ecstatic that Adams found a way not to close any fire stations—"shockingly good news"—and that, maybe, any wrangling is more about personality conflicts than budget priorities.
"Others," he says, "have their own issues with Sam."