Politics as usual, despite efforts to the contrary
I was about to leave home for work on Wednesday morning, when I received a phone call from my friend and colleague Commissioner Nick Fish. He asked if I'd seen Anna Griffin's column in The Oregonian. I peruse their web site each morning while drinking my coffee, but I hadn't read that article. So Nick read me a line from the column:
"Fritz and Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish all let Adams know they were embarrassed and willing to form a three-vote majority to overrule him if he couldn't quickly craft a deal all five members of the City Council supported."
I said a word nobody whose mother raised them right should ever say (sorry, Mum). When you work really, really hard to communicate and work with your colleagues in an adult, professional, and collaborative manner, and then someone asserts in the newspaper that you did exactly the opposite, it's more than a little annoying. Perhaps I was supposed to feel grateful that I was assigned a here-I-come-to-save-the-day role in the narrative. But that's not what happened.
I did meet with Mayor Adams, after receiving the memo from County Chair Jeff Cogen I'd requested to clarify his perspective. Sam told me what he was doing. I told him I respected his leadership role in negotiating for the City, and that Nick and I recognized with him the need get to agreement soon with the full support of the Council. Dan Saltzman was out of the country, and I didn't talk about this issue With Randy Leonard.
I talked on the phone with County Chair Jeff Cogen when he called me, and urged him to focus on the shared goal of getting the bridge deal done. I talked with Commissioner Deborah Kafoury on the phone, too. I stated to both Jeff and Deborah that I was confident the Mayor would reach agreement with the County without the rest of the Council's intervention.
On September 28, I met with Oregonian reporter Brad Schmidt. In answer to his question about the Sellwood Bridge, I told him I expected all Council members to support an agreement negotiated by the Mayor, and that at no time did I threaten the Mayor to find a solution, or else three of us would propose one. I said this Council works hard to avoid the "getting to three votes" mentality, and instead tries to define proposals all five of us can support. "Really?", said Brad in a disbelieving tone. "Really.", I said firmly. It's the truth.
Mayor Adams gathered leaders from Multnomah County, Clackamas County, TriMet, and the federal government, and together they reached agreement. As hoped for, there was unanimous support from both the City Council and County Commission.
That's what happened, from my perspective.
Based on the sentence Nick had read to me over the phone, I laced my speech at Council supporting the Resolution on the Intergovernmental Agreement for the bridge, with comments referencing "some" journalists' tendency to fabricate stories. A little while later, I received a phone call from Anna Griffin. She admonished me for making public statements before having the "professional courtesy" to read the full article. I thought, but did not say, that it was fortunate for her that I had not read the entire article before the Council session. If I had seen the whole story, including the unjustified conclusion based on the untrue allegations, I would have been even more angry. It is clear The Oregonian's editors and writers don't like Mayor Adams. That is no excuse for making up stories that aren't true, or believing unfounded allegations by people with other political agendas, without checking with those most directly involved. At no time before publishing the column did Ms. Griffin contact me or my staff.
Ms. Griffin maintains that she has credible sources, and The Oregonian stands by her story. My meetings with the Mayor were between the two of us and our executive staff. Her version of the conversations between Mayor Adams and me is at best based on hearsay. Speculation, which in fact is inaccurate. What was alleged is not what I did.
Someone in City Hall apparently wants to aid The Oregonian in their relentless emnity towards Mayor Adams, and is willing to make up information to give to Anna Griffin to pursue that end. That is very sad.
I feel honored to serve the people of Portland in working to make Portland a better place for all. There are so many good people inside City Hall and within governments at all levels, striving to serve citizens and the long term public good. Many of us work very hard to promote open, collaborative, constructive ways of getting things done.
The political games of both some journalists and some political insiders are profoundly depressing.
But poverty, and homelessness, and untreated mental illness, and a host of other problems faced by Portlanders, are real issues. My staff and I will continue to focus on helping Portlanders solve urgent challenges, rather than engaging in politics as usual.