The Portland police and fire disability story just gets weirder and weirder. If you haven't been following this drama, you're missing a true tale that's stranger than science fiction.
The saga begins a few months back when Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who's up for re-election with a skinny portfolio to show, points out a few obvious and serious problems with the police and fire retirement and disability benefit plans. So the City Council puts together a blue-ribbon panel to study the problems and get back to us all after the holidays. O.k., great. Much needed attention to a troubled, and financially troubling, aspect of our city government.
But this creature won't go back to sleep. The Oregonian sends out Maximum Maxine to rake the muck surrounding the pension and disability pots. In the process, she and ex-firefighter union chief Randy Leonard, now a city commissioner of course, get into a hissy match about something, and next thing you know she's writing about Randy allegedly getting a little liquored up and allegedly roughing up his ex 20 years ago.
No sooner does that bizarre subplot die down than Commissioner Erik Sten, throwing haymakers as he struggles to get back up off the political ropes, comes up with a rush-rush mini-reform program for disability that he wants to slap onto the November ballot.
Within a day, the Sten plan is pronounced deader than Don Mazziotti's expense account, the story being that his colleagues on the Council think it's best to let the blue-ribbon panel do its work. Saltzman watchers note that the Stenmeister appears to be trying to steal some of Danny Big Pipe's thunder on the issue.
But just as Godzilla retreats, Mothra attacks! Are you ready for this? Unless I'm seeing things, Fireman Randy's got yet another proposal, and he's going to ask the council to put it up for a quick vote this November! Read all about it over at BlueOregon, where the Randster himself just blogged about it in the wee small hours.
Probably the wackiest part of the latest Leonardism is this gem:
[T]his may sound somewhat cynical so please forgive me, I have been a party to or an observer of countless task forces within the city for nearly 3 decades. Many of these task forces degenerate into conflict and, therefore, end up not producing any meaningful work products. In fact, the last two Fire and Police Disability and Pension task forces worked for months, made recommendations to reduce the cost of the fund and.... nothing happened.
Ooooo, that's going to ruffle some feathers. Big time.
I'm all for cleaning things up as quickly as possible, but if the good commish thinks that passing this modest package is going to make the larger issues (particularly pension) go away for the voters, I think he's making an uncharacteristic mistake.
Anyway, put on your 3-D glasses and enjoy the show.