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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 2, 2005 7:02 PM. The previous post in this blog was And welcome to it. The next post in this blog is Y not. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, January 2, 2005

Staff infection

Just when the holiday spirit was getting me all soft and fuzzy, I pick up the papers and they start the old cynicism flowing again. This time it was the stories about the staff selections by one of the new members of the Portland City Council, Commissioner Sam Adams.

Right off the bat I gave out a hoot as I read this quote from Adams: "I’m a City Hall insider, so I was looking for outsiders that will bring a fresh perspective."

Wow, did you hear that, voters? Sam Adams says he's a City Hall insider! Funny, I don't remember him ever admitting that during the campaign. They sure sing a different tune on Christmas than they did on Halloween, eh?

The names of Adams's appointees are meaningless to me, but I was impressed by the number of staffers that he gets to bring to City Hall with him. Here's an excerpt from the official staff announcement:

Adams’ paid staff will be: Jane Ames, Staff Representative (part-time); Jesse Beason, Staff Representative; Mary Jo Markle, Staff Fellow (paid intern); David Gonzalez, Office Manager; Warren Jimenez, Staff Representative; Maria Lim, Receptionist; Tom Miller, Chief of Staff; Maria Thi Mai, Staff Representative; and, Terry Richardson, Labor Liaison (part-time). "Staff Representatives" hold the office’s senior policy positions.
That's the full-time equivalent of 8 new people coming onto the payroll, plus Adams. You've got to wonder what that costs the taxpayers in salaries and benefits -- $400,000 a year?

I suppose all the personnel can be explained by the complex tasks that the commissioners must handle as they actively manage their respective city bureaus. But what do all these newcomers know about running city departments? Probably precious little.

I know the city charter has its defenders, but I believe they're becoming fewer and fewer, and I'm certainly not one of them. Instead of 8 political appointees times 5 commissioners (and I assume the mayor gets more), I'd rather see 2 or 3 political appointees each, and 25 or 30 permanent civil servants who might actually get a chance to learn something about police training, utility billing, reservoir security, prevention of bureaucratic corruption, creative economic development, and many other topics.

On a loosely related note, I was fairly surprised to read in this week's Willamette Week that Commissioner Erik Sten "helped mastermind Sam Adams' stunning reversal of the asswhuppin' he received in the May primary to defeat heavily favored opponent Nick Fish for an open City Council seat." This after all those weeks that the Stenmeister claimed that he was remaining neutral in the race. Things that make you go, "Hmmmm..."

Comments (11)

It's funny the attention a turn of phrase can bring. While I don't offhand recall Adams ever using the phrase "City Hall insider" during the campaign, he did frequently refer to things he had done while he was at City Hall.

So, on the one hand, he didn't pretend he wasn't there for as long as he was. On the other hand (unless I missed an occurance), he never outright used the phrase itself until after the election.

*shrug*

Yes, it was always so mysterious. His campaign literature always said "Sam did this, Sam did that," never once mentioning that his achievements were all part of his running the ship for one certain highly unpopular someone.

24 or 30 permanent civil servants

Um, Jack, actually we got several thousand of 'em who work in the various bureaus. The whole point of having elected officials running things is to ensure that the people who oversee those permanent staff are at-least-a-little responsive to the whims of the voters.

If you replaced the political appointees (whose job it is to serve the politicians, and thus the voters) with civil servants, there would be even fewer ways that the electeds could whip the bureaucrats into shape.

I know that the general public hates politicians, but I'm pretty sure they hate faceless bureaucrats even more. Who do you want running things? An untouchable bureaucracy accountable to no one, or politicians who sometimes act stupidly and sometimes act smartly but who are nonetheless accountable to voters every four years?

In any case, wherever the Bogdanski for City Council campaign committee is gearing up, I'll be there. :)

the electeds could whip the bureaucrats into shape.

Bwaahahahahaha! That's never going to happen, even with 100 political appointees. So we might as well have that many more professionals around to run things. Playing Musical Bureaus with five Survivor winners isn't the ticket.

Why doesn't Portland do what every other big city in the country does, which certainly isn't the goofy setup we have here now? It isn't as though we're getting great results with the current system.

BTW, Kari, don't hold your breath on my City Council run. You'll have to hire yourself out to someone else with a pot o'Clean Money to play with. 8c)

Oh well, more of the same with Mr Adams. I think the lobbying for bureaus is going to be fascinating.

I know it is off-topic, but on the Clean Money (which I disagree with), if someone accepts it is he limited to $5K + 200K in the primary and then $250K in the finals?

If someone did not want to accept the "clean" money can he take as much as he wants otherwise (like Fransceconi's $1M) from anyone (within existing statutes of course)?

Steve,
Anyone can opt out of the clean money scheme, but of course they will be immediately branded as "corrupt" and "bought" by business.

It's no surprise to see the staff that both Adams and Potter have hired. I'm only disappointed to see that so many of them have worked for other elected officials before. You'd think that for all the "outsider" and "diversity" language that both men are touting, they'd do better than just recycling the same old people from other campaigns again and again.

As an applicant, maybe I have a grudge to bear. But really, how about going out on a REAL limb and hiring some new blood with new ideas. Maybe from the private sector? Or other non-profits? Show some originality for goodness sake. It's a shame, really.

And I agree with Jack's comments about hiring more civil servants. Less turnover, more knowledge. A city manager and a mayor/council is a good way to go.

I still want Nick Fish deeply involved in Portland politics. He would have been so much stonger than what we got.

Jack said, Why doesn't Portland do what every other big city in the country does, which certainly isn't the goofy setup we have here now?

Oh yeah, I agree - the commissioner model is a silly one. I'm all in favor of a strong mayor, with a larger council (say, 11 members) that does just legislative stuff. We could even elect them by district.

I'm just arguing that if you eliminate all political oversight from the city bureaus, you'll wind up with just more management akin to PDC and SAIF. And I know you don't want that, Jack.

At least the politicians gotta face the voters once in a while.

I still want Nick Fish deeply involved in Portland politics. He would have been so much stonger than what we got.

Tell him to start a blog.

Oh yeah, I agree - the commissioner model is a silly one. I'm all in favor of a strong mayor, with a larger council (say, 11 members) that does just legislative stuff. We could even elect them by district.

Unfortunately, you'll probably get your wish.

On the question of politician-control-of-bureaucrats, see Randy Leonard's comment over at Communique


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