Next Up at City Council, 12/24/08

  • Posted on: 21 December 2008
  • By: Amanda Fritz

I am writing this sitting at my computer at home, with the window cracked open to let in a little cold, fresh air. Listening to the willow tree rustling, because it's covered with ice and the wind blowing through the branches sounds like splintering glass. Looking out, I see my car parked in the street, where it's sat for the last week. Right under the willow tree.

"If that tree falls because of the weight of the ice, my car is squished flatter than Mr. Bill", I think to myself.

"Oh well, what will be, will be", is my next thought. That car is not going anywhere anytime soon, unless I take the brake off - in which case it will be at the bottom of the hill within a minute, and who knows where it would land. What will be, will be.

A relatively short Portland City Council Agenda this week. The docket begins with four people thanking Mayor Potter, under Citizen Communications. There is no City Council meeting on New Year's Eve, so this is Tom Potter's last session. I'm glad citizens are showing up to honor his investments in social capital, as well as in neighborhoods. Mayor Potter's work with visionPDX and Community Connect has greatly broadened our citizen engagement system, which will help both the Portland Plan under Mayor Adams, and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and Office of Human Relations that I will lead. Significant work has also been done by staff and citizens in Bureau Innovation Projects, which if built upon will give all the 2009 Council members a firm foundation for the bureau improvement plans Mayor-elect Adams is calling for. Thank you, Mayor Tom Potter, for all your service to Portland and people in our community.

I note with interest and amusement that my attention is already drawn to the items on the Agenda from the bureaus, offices, and programs I will be leading. For instance, this Ordinance extending contracts for health insurance for employees.

*1797 Authorize and amend contracts to extend the health and welfare contracts administered by the Bureau of Human Resources, Benefits and Wellness Office (Previous Agenda 1759; amend Contracts)

When I saw "Wellness Program" on my list of assignments from Mayor-elect Adams, I thought, "That makes sense, I'm a nurse. And that's nice, a relatively easy addition to my portfolio". Not so. Obviously, providing health care to employees and their families is a huge part of the City's budget. And even the Wellness Program as a subsection of the benefits package, seeking to encourage employees to engage in routine screenings and preventative health practices like exercise and smoking-cessession, has challenges. It hasn't been in effect long enough to have compiled data proving its worth, and may be at risk as the bureaus prepare budget cut proposals. But we know from numerous studies that preventative care is hugely cost-effective, so I will be advocating for continuation and improvement of this program.

I'm also still interested in work being done by other Commissioners and bureaus, of course. Here's a good one from Commissioner Randy Leonard:

*1804 Authorize a grant agreement with Portland Community College for the Evening Trades Apprenticeship Preparation to establish a pilot project to create access to a pool of work ready applicants in the City construction and other related positions (Ordinance)

I heard over and over during my campaign that one of the best ways to support businesses both large and small, is to make sure the City has a well-educated and trained workforce. In round numbers, 20% of our working people make minimum wage, and 5% are unemployed (statistics obviously changing daily in these challenging times). It's in all of our interests to help working people be qualified for better paying jobs, for their own self-sufficiency and also to increase the amount of discretionary spending that supports local retail, arts, and entertainment businesses. Plus, this grant helps support PCC. I am very impressed with all the programs PCC is offering, including on evenings and weekends, to retrain workers for better jobs.

Finally, an issue which in Congress might be considered a Christmas Tree item:

1793 Designate Portland Cream as the Official City of Portland Doughnut (Resolution)

Really? Isn't the essence of doughnut (or donut) eating that everyone has their own favorite? And what is Portland Cream, anyway? I checked the Resolution. It's a product of Voodoo Doughnuts, which is certainly a fine small business whose owners do many civic-minded actions in Portland. And the doughnut itself is "a raised doughnut filled with crème and covered in chocolate with two eyes". Turns out I've actually eaten one of these, when a kind volunteer brought Voodoo Doughnuts into our campaign office. I ate half of a Portland Cream, to be exact. Very rich. That makes it true to the Portland spirit, for sure - most good doughnuts don't get shared.

When I go to the City's site for Official Symbols, I nod when I get to the Great Blue Heron for Official Bird (I knew that, studied up for those trivia challenges during the campaign), and I'm interested to see that Portland has Roses as the de facto Official Flower rather than it ever having been adopted by Resolution. This item on the Agenda before I take office means citizens and the current Council will decide whether an Official Doughnut belongs in that list.

There are other important issues on the Agenda this week, so check it out for yourself. My brain is full to overflowing with everything I need to get done before January 2nd, so I'm not giving any assurance I caught everything of note on this week's list. No meeting Wednesday afternoon, and of course not on Thursday since it's a holiday. No meetings next week, either.

So, this being the last City Council meeting of the year, it may also be the last time I post Next Up on this blog. If I can get it ready in time, with the help of City staff, Next Up will be moving to my Commissioner's site on PortlandOnline. I'll post a link here.


I love Voodoo Doughnuts as much as the next person, but it smacks of glad-handing to be endorsing the things as a "the official" Portland flavor, doesn't it? Can't we just promise a government bailout for Voodoo if/when their union contract starts to cut into their bottom line?