They hear you -- they just lie to you
When folks like us scream about the crazy spending priorities of local government in Portlandia and vicinity, most of the neighborhood politicians and bureaucrats act as though they're not paying attention. Their attitude is that we critics are in such a small minority that we're not even worth acknowledging. But when election time rolls around, the pols always have a sound bite or two that makes it crystal clear that they've been listening. And now they're ready to tell us what we want to hear, at least for the moment.
Take the current TV ads by Charlie Hales, candidate for Portland mayor. He tries to come off as a guy dedicated to core public services. He fixed the potholes; he'll look out for your water and sewer bill, "delivering the basics no matter what neighborhood you live in." Meanwhile, the recent mailer from Dave Hunt, running for Clackamas County chair, proclaims: "Stop borrowing money and mortgaging our future."
Of course, there's more than a little hypocrisy here. Hales and Hunt bear significant responsibility for the twisted, spendthrift agendas that dominate our local scene. While on the City Council for roughly a decade before quitting, Hales (along with Vera Katz and Sam Adams) set Portland off on its current path of bottomless developer welfare and budget-busting projects such as the city's inane streetcar lines. (Hales then left and made a nice living touting streetcars to unsuspecting cities around the country and the world.) All the while, the council ignored the crippling pension liabilities that will trash basic services for many decades to come, if they don't bankrupt the city outright.
In the legislature, where he's more or less being shunned these days, Hunt has championed many questionable outlays of public money, most notably borrowing $250 million against future lottery collections to build the misguided Milwaukie MAX line. And there's no doubt he'll be pushing "urban renewal," density infill, and other debt-fueled Blumenauerisms on Clackamas if he wins the county chair.
The false lines that these guys are currently delivering from beneath their makeup are reminiscent of 2004, when Admiral Randy Leonard bragged in his campaign ads that he had "stood up to Pearl District developers." Once he was safely re-elected, his posture vis-a-vis the developer crowd turned out to be quite a bit different from standing up. Then there was his city council colleague Jim Francesconi, who tried to sell a message of "we need to get back to basics" in his heavily bankrolled mayoral campaign against Tom Potter. The voters were smart enough to ask, "Hey Jim, haven't you been on the City Council for the last six years?" And that was the end of him.
We can only hope that the voters will be just as perceptive this time around. It's a shame when deceitful politicians get away with using the voters' own outrage against them.