July 08, 2004

(Updated) City Hall Gloves Come Off In Mayoral Campaign

Mayor Katz Bluntly Slams Francesconi Police Proposal

Note: This post has been updated. Any and all updates appear at the end of the original post.

It's not necessarily a state secret what various members of the City Council think of various candidates for local office. But to our recollection anyway, this possibly is the most blatant and public sparring since the current Mayoral campaign began. Certainly it must rank way up there.

In a statement just released (pdf), Mayor Katz responds to the news of a City Council resolution regarding the Portland Police Bureau being proposed by Commissioner Jim Francesconi:

This type of stunt is election-year politics at its worst. Since Commissioner Francesconi is not the police commissioner, he has no apparent legal standing to bring forward such a resolution. It is unprecedented for a commissioner to try and use a City Council resolution to micro-manage a City bureau not in their charge. Beyond that, this is insulting to myself and to Chief Foxworth, who is already working hard and making progress on the issues outlined in this resolution. I suggest Commissioner Francesconi pay greater attention to managing those bureaus that are in his portfolio, such as the Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT), where there are key issues awaiting resolution.

This was the first we'd heard of the resolution, but thanks to a quick email to Michael Harrison of Francesconi's office and his equally-quick reply, we've got both the resolution itself (pdf) and Francesconi's statement (pdf) about it.

"We need to re-build trust between police officers and the community and provide better training for officers so that dangerous situations are de-escalated," Francesconi says in his statement, adding that the resolution will guide the Bureau "in improving diversity, training and labor management."

According to the statement, the resolution would require: an apprenticeship training program similar to one at the Fire Bureau; diversity on the Bureau's new "use of force" review board; more training for officers regarding dangerous situations; and an action plan to end racial profiling. The resolution is co-sponsored by Commissioner Randy Leonard, who called its provisions "expectations" not "goals." It includes provisions for estabishing a labor management committee for the Bureau, something Leonard has urged in the past.

As for the politics of the resolution, we admit to having mixed feelings. On the one hand, we don't particularly have any inherent issue with the premise that one commissioner should be able to propose policy for bureaus under the purview of another commissioner. We may have a "mini-Mayor" commission form of government, but since a commission government requires members of the City Council to be generalists, we see nothing wrong with making such proposals.

On the other hand, it's very difficult to separate the proposal of the resolution at this particular moment from the fact of the Mayoral campaign.

Even if we grant the idea that commissioners can "meddle" with each others bureaus, Francesconi has been on the Council for many years now -- years during which these issues have festered all along. They may be good proposals, regardless of which of them might or might not already be underway at the Police Bureau, but if they are good proposals now, they were also good proposals during each of the last eight years.

Leadership isn't something one demonstrates only when one seeks a higher office, but something one engages in from Day One simply because it's the right thing to do.

We should say also that at least the introduction of this resolution will keep the debate over Police Bureau policies in the public eye. That particular effect is not to be dismissed. But at the same time, that debate should never have been allowed to leave the public eye, and members of the City Council should have been proactive about it even when it wasn't an election year.

So, we call some fouls all around: One on Francesconi for not finding these issues important enough to be proactive about them until he was running for Mayor, and one on the Mayor for thinking that no one commissioner has the right to propose policy for the bureaus not under their control.

July 08, 2004

Update

In her statement, the Mayor says: "Since Commissioner Francesconi is not the police commissioner, he has no apparent legal standing to bring forward such a resolution. It is unprecedented for a commissioner to try and use a City Council resolution to micro-manage a City bureau not in their charge."

Other students of the City Charter are invited to do some digging and see what they think of the Mayor's position. For our part, we offer into "evidence" Section 2-302, Assignment and Authority of Commissioners:

At the first regular meeting after the election of any Council member, the Mayor shall designate one member to be Commissioner In Charge of each department, who shall thereafter be designated as Commissioner of such department, which designation may be changed and a transfer of Commissioners from one department to another be made, whenever it appears that the public service will be benefitted thereby. Such assignment shall be made by the Mayor by order which shall be filed and preserved as an ordinance. The Commissioner In Charge of each department shall have the supervision and control of all the affairs and property which belong to that department, subject to the provisions of this Charter and to such regulation as may be prescribed by the Council.

Our initial and cursory reading suggests to us that the last sentence there -- "The Commissioner In Charge of each department shall have the supervision and control of all the affairs and property which belong to that department, subject to the provisions of this Charter and to such regulation as may be prescribed by the Council." -- would give any commissioner the authority to introduce legislation regarding any bureau. If the Council can regulate the ways in which any given commissioner controls their bureaus, presumably that means any member of the Council can propose such regulation.

July 08, 2004

Update

Digging around elsewhere it just gets curioser. Turning to the City Code, we found nothing in Chapter 3.02 Council Organization and Procedure or Chapter 3.06 Departments, Bureaus and Divisions Generally which supports the Mayor's contention.

But then we found ourselves looking at Chapter 3.20 Bureau of Police, which includes 3.20.020 Council to Organize and Make Rules and Regulations. Unfortunately, the entirety of this reads as follows:

(Repealed by Ordinance No. 167733, effective Jun. 1, 1994.)

Potentially, this is where the Mayor rests her case that Francesconi has no authority to propose a resolution regarding the Police Bureau for the Council to consider. But the very fact that this bit was repealed confuses us, since it would seem that the Charter takes precedence over the Code, and as we reported above, the Charter appears to indicate in general that:

The Commissioner In Charge of each department shall have the supervision and control of all the affairs and property which belong to that department, subject to the provisions of this Charter and to such regulation as may be prescribed by the Council.

The presence of that element of the Charter, one would think, might trump the previously-mentioned Code item. On the other hand, it could be argued that since the Council adopted an ordinance which repealed 3.20.020 Council to Organize and Make Rules and Regulations, that in itself was "regulation as may be prescribed by the Council." In other words, the Council may have regulated itself right out of the authority to make rules and regulations for the Police Bureau.

Which seems a bit of an odd idea. So there must be something still left to discover that we haven't yet found. In which case: More later.

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Trackbacks (2)

  1. It's not your department? They are all your departments on 09 Jul 2004

    The night desk at Portland Communique reports that the gloves are off at City Hall, with the Mayor attacking Commissioner Francesconi for daring to propose an ordinance relating to one of the city bureaus assigned to the Mayor, in this

  2. It's not your department? They are all your departments on 09 Jul 2004

    The night desk at Portland Communique reports that the gloves are off at City Hall, with the Mayor attacking Commissioner Francesconi for daring to propose an ordinance relating to one of the city bureaus assigned to the Mayor, in this