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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 20, 2005 3:29 AM. The previous post in this blog was Bad, sick, horrible thoughts of the day. The next post in this blog is When to say when. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Would you like his voice mail?

Tom Potter sure isn't wasting any time getting on the politician junket train. The new Portland mayor hasn't been sworn in for three weeks yet, and already he's been back to some sort of mayors' convention in the nation's capital. And soon he and his spouse will be heading off for one of those famous "sister city" goodwill trips, this one revolving around the annual snow festival in Sapporo, Japan. Banzai!

And there will be around 50 other Oregonians with him, no doubt some of them additional public employees.

I get a kick out of the sister city excursions, a well established boondoggly tradition. Fireman Randy allegedly stated during his first City Council campaign that he wouldn't go on them, but he sure changed his plan once he was elected, and it was off to China he went. Exactly what these visits do for Portland, it's hard to tell. I remember when a bunch of bureaucrats from around the state headed over to Bologna, Italy a while back on some vital government mission or other. I'm still waiting to see the dividends on that one.

Not too many things are made within the Portland city limits any more for our international friends to buy. I guess we want them to get stuff rolling through our port in one direction or the other.

Who's paying for our politicians to see the world? If it's the local taxpayers here at home, you wonder whether we can afford it. And if it's someone else, does it look like they're buying our leaders' votes? Is there a conflict of interest lurking in there somewhere?

What's really intriguing about all the Potter travel is that most of us expected this to be a key time in his six-month program to revolutionize city government by taking over all the bureaus and instilling a new accountability. Many wondered whether he was taking on too much responsibility by seizing control of all the city agencies. How could he alone manage what it usually takes five commissioners to operate?

I guess the answer is, by remote control.

Whereas his predecessor was a workaholic detail person in the Jimmy Carter tradition, seemingly managing the daily soup selection in the City Hall cafeteria, Potter appears so far to be much more the Ronald Reagan big-picture type. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. And I'm still hopeful that the Potter administration will be an improvement over what we've witnessed over most of the last decade.

But if he and his spouse start driving around Arizona in an R.V. over spring break, I'm going to start worrying.

Comments (9)

Hey, look on the positive side, they are not in town messing up things when they go a-junketing. Besides Mr Leonard has Mr Kovatch to run everything for him.

I like the idea of our local politicians visiting their counterparts on the other side of the pacific, to collaborate on a personal level. How much they spend and when they go reveals the nature of their visit. For example, a 7-day visit to Sapporo should cost less than $5,000, for nice hotel, etc., when it is not the snow festival at least, but I suspect the taxpayers' bill will be more. Also, if the true nature of the visit is business-building, doesn't it make more sense to go sometime less hectic than the snow festival, when there aren't so many competing distractions, so they can pack their days with more personal meetings? Finally, our local government should show that they actually made some business connections, or reimburse the city.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I saw the movie "The Aviator" the other night. During his Senate grilling, the Howard Hughes character asked the Maine Senator why he had gone to Peru at taxpayer expense. The senator replied that he was opening up trade opportunities. "They buy a lot of lobster down there, do they?" was Hughes' response. As far as mayor Potter being a Jimmy Carter or a Ronald Reagan, let's wait to see if a bowl of jelly beans materializes.

Just to be clear, my trip to Taiwan last year was not paid for by taxpayer dollars but rather the non profit that supports the sister city program. Those funds are generated privately.

I also went to Las Vegas (twice) since being on the Council and participated in Portland's booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center talking with prospective businesses who would be interested in locating in Portland.

Those trips (3 days each trip) were paid for by the Portland Business Alliance.

I have taken no taxpayer paid trips since being on the council.

Randy, I don't begrudge you the trips. But I assume you didn't use vacation time, so it wasn't a complete freebie for the taxpayers. And I'm not sure how much we want you to have fond memories of those Vegas nights on Kim Kimbrough's nickel. 8c)

If you've never manned a booth at a trade show then you may not appreciate what I'm about to say, but Randy definitely paid for his trips to Vegas.

I also can't tell you how much more impact it has for a member of the city council to meet prospective businesses and tell them how much the City of Portland wants them to come here than for a paid eco devo staff person to deliver that same message.

Thank you, Jack.

Jack knows; he's been both an elected official and an "eco devo" staffer. (I recall "eco devo," one of the great bands of the '80s.)

I don't think there'll be too much booth-sitting in Sapporo, however. Nor was there much in Bologna.

Not every trip is a junket; for that matter, a trip that doesn't produce immediate results can still be productive. As a result of a series of trips led by Governor Atiyeh and Mayor Ivancie, Oregon attracted Nippon Electric Corporation (NEC) to Hillsboro in 1984. The first few trips were unproductive in that no immediate business resulted, but they laid the groundwork for the results of the winter 1984 trip, which caused NEC to agree to come to Oregon.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Would you like his voice mail?:

» Jack Talks About Economic Development, PDX Style. from
I would argue that the less action by Tom, or anyone in Portland's government on so-called Economic Development, the better. Local Economic Development philosophies have been a pet peeve of mine for twenty years. The shuffling of intrastate dollars, a... [Read More]

» For Some Bloggers, all Politics is Local from Personal Democracy Forum

Maura Keaney is a local blogger who made a difference. In early 2005, she used her weblog to rally opposition to a Virginia bill that would have required women to report fetal deaths – legislation worded so bro

[Read More]

» For Some Bloggers, all Politics is Local from Personal Democracy Forum

Maura Keaney is a local blogger who made a difference. In early 2005, she used her weblog to rally opposition to a Virginia bill that would have required women to report fetal deaths – legislation worded so bro

[Read More]

» For Some Bloggers, all Politics is Local from Personal Democracy Forum

Maura Keaney is a local blogger who made a difference. In early 2005, she used her weblog to rally opposition to a Virginia bill that would have required women to report fetal deaths – legislation worded so bro

[Read More]

» For Some Bloggers, all Politics is Local from Personal Democracy Forum

Maura Keaney is a local blogger who made a difference. In early 2005, she used her weblog to rally opposition to a Virginia bill that would have required women to report fetal deaths – legislation worded so bro

[Read More]


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