June 22, 2005

(Updated) A Momentary Return To Talk Bureau Assignments

Don't Look For Us To Be Back Until The End Of The Week

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

You think this hiatus is tough on you? Try looking at the list of things we won't be covering this week (yes, we're not just away from the writing, we're away from the work that goes into the writing as well) and consciously avoiding getting into any of it, even just a little.

One such avoided event was this afternoon's announcement of Mayor Tom Potter's assigning of bureaus to members of City Council. To underscore our deliberate absence (and to calm the withdrawal symptoms of going cold turkey here), we are returning just long enough to drop a post about the new bureau portfolios, after which we will go back to watching Fight Club.

For once, The Oregonian issued some breaking news via the OregonLive website, after Potter made the announcement.

But now, over on the Mayor's website, the assignments have been posted, along with Potter's statement from today's news conference. In it, he details the basis of some of the changes he's made.

  • "[S]trategic, long-range planning and capital spending needs" of Water, Environmental Services, Transportation and Parks (the City's "infrastructure" bureaus) will be placed "under the guidance of the entire City Council" even though the bureaus themselves have been assigned to individual Commissioners.
  • "Bureau of Licenses [will] be folded into a new Revenue Bureau to be housed in the Office of Management and Finance."
  • "Bureau of Development Services will become the Bureau of Permitting, which will consolidate many of our City’s development permitting functions into a single bureau."
  • Bureau directors for Water, Transportation, and Emergency Management have been removed from their positions.

As for the actual bureau assignments (pdf), The Oregonian said: "While Adams and Leonard got the headache bureaus, Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Erik Sten both received almost everything they wanted."

While that's accurate, it's a little more nuanced than this, and much of what Leonard and Adams wanted they also managed to get, as you can see from our May item on what each Commissioner hoped to see in their portfolios.

As expected, Potter is holding into the Bureau of Planning, the Police Bureau, and PDC. In addition, he indeed keeps ONI (although the list refers to it by its original name, the Office of Neighborhood Associations -- either an error or a signal of the bureau's planned reformation), and also takes the City Attorney, Emergency Management, Government Relations, International Relations, and Management and Finance.

Adams has been given the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Office of Transportation, the latter of which he wanted "because of its impact on both jobs and neighborhoods". Adams also wanted his office to be the liaison to the Regional Arts & Culture Council, an assignment he received. In addition, Adams had wanted to become the liaison to small and neighborhood businesses and to higher education -- requests seemingly granted by his liaison assignments to the Association of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations and as "Higher Education Advocate."

Leonard received Water (hey, someone had to get it), Hydroelectirc Power, Emergency Communications, and the Bureau of Development Services. Recall the Potter said the latter would be transformed into the Bureau of Permitting in order to "consolidate many of our City’s development permitting functions into a single bureau". This is directly consistent with what Leonard, back in May, told us he wanted.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman was given responsibility for Parks & Recreation, Sustainable Development, Cable, and the Children's Investment Fund -- indeed matching what his chief of staff, back in May, told us the Commissioner would want in his portfolio.

Finally, Commissioner Erik Sten holds on to Fire and the Bureau of Housing and Community Development, in addtion to remaining the City's lead regarding a purchase of PGE. Except for liaison responsibiltiy for RACC (which was given to Adams), these assigments also line up with what Sten's expressed preferences.

In other words, while it's true that certain "headache" bureaus ended up in one place or another, the bulk of the assignments appear to correspond to the responsibilities each Commissioner was seeking.

In addition to all of the specific bureau assignments, Potter's office will continue to coordinate the implementation of the twenty recommendations out of his Bureau Innovation Project, in consultation with the Commissioners assigned to oversee the impacted bureaus.

June 22nd, 2005 Update

They've republished (pdf) the bureau assignments document, leaving the original link empty now. We haven't compared the two, except to notice that the "Office of Neighborhood Associations" reference we mentioned above now is changed to "Office of Neighborhood Involvement".

June 22nd, 2005 Update

A couple of addendums, now that we notice other local coverage is up and running. First, KGW reports on the announcement, describing it as an attempt to "move the city away from its commission form of government". While Potter has expressed support for ditching the commission form, we would argue that today's assignments is more akin to making the commission form work differently -- another move which, along with Potter's budget process, could serve to defend commission government from changes, no matter what the intention.

Second, KGW says that Potter's control over all City bureaus was an "unsual move", which is not strictly accurate. While keeping them for as long as he did was unusual, and using the opportunity to launch his Bureau Innovation Project was unusual, Mayor Katz routinely took the bureaus into her office during the budget process, so the premise was not unprecedented.

Third, KGW also aired a report on television, thereby answering this anonymous comment on PDX Media Insider (scroll down to 1:52 PM): "Will this make tonights broadcasts, or will it be 'too hard to explain' because it's not really a picture story."

Meanwhile, an OPB News report has a strange comment from Commissioner Saltzman:

Even though it's not my bureau, I may have an opinion about it, and I want to express that opinion at the right time, as opposed to being presented a fete accompli by the commissioner in charge, and more or less out of politeness a sense that you have to go along, so this I think, allows more give and take at the council level.

It's an odd thing for him to say that these assignments give him the chance to express opinions about other bureaus, since it was Saltzman himself who introduced an ordinance last year permitting commissioners to propose legislation regarding bureaus they don't control.

So, he and the other Council members have had this authority for the past eleven months, thanks to Saltzman's own proposal in July of 2004. Maybe he forgot?

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Comments (2)

  1. Jeff on 23 Jun 2005

    I'm still digesting this and have no substantive comments to make. I do have one insubstantive one: fete accompli?

  2. Jessica on 26 Jun 2005

    I don't understand why he fired the 3 bureau administrators. Where is this explained? We are left to assume that Water's problems were because of the guy who has only been in that position the past couple of years? What about the other two? With little explanation, this must leave a lot of people there wondering if they are next in line.

Trackbacks (2)

  1. Fireman Randy for Mayor! on 22 Jun 2005

    A while back on the Nick Fish Sunday sunrise talk show, the host half-kiddingly asked Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard what he would do if he was assigned the troubled Water Bureau by Mayor Tom Potter. Said Randy: "Then I'll have...

  2. 'Oregonian' New Focus On Commission Government on 23 Jun 2005

    Now that Mayor Potter has exercised his authority to assign City bureaus, the local media has begun to stir regarding Portland's form of government.