Our Opinion: Fish proven competent for council
If staying out of the headlines is one measure of success for public officials, then city Commissioner Nick Fish has proven his competence by guiding a water bureau that formerly had been the center of heated controversy to a much quieter and less newsworthy place.
Along the way, Fish has shown his ability to navigate complex issues and has been a consistent voice of reason on the City Council.
If re-elected to a third term in office, Fish would become the longest-serving current member of the council (following Dan Saltzman's departure). His experience and institutional knowledge are valuable assets for the city, which is why we are endorsing him for re-election in the May 15 primary.
Fish's main opponent in this election is Julia DeGraw, an organizer for environmental and social-justice causes. DeGraw has emphasized one of our own pet issues — the need to reform Portland's dysfunctional form of city government. While we agree with DeGraw that Portland would be better served without commissioner-led bureaus and at-large elections, we don't believe the City Council is the best forum to debate a change to the City Charter, nor are voters ready to make such a change in the near term.
In the meantime, it's important for commissioners to have the ability to oversee bureaus and to understand how to work within a flawed structure. DeGraw would be the ideal candidate for the next City Charter review commission, but Fish is better prepared for the council job as it exists today.
In his years on the council, Fish has taken on several tough assignments. He had housing as part of his portfolio during his first term in office, and he helped the city and county better define their respective roles in combating homelessness. He helped launch a reconstituted Portland Housing Bureau in 2009, and he worked to prioritize the needs of homeless families, veterans and older Portlanders.
His interest in housing has continued, but in more recent years he has moved to other bureau assignments. Fish took over the water and sewer bureaus at a time when they were being roundly criticized — and taken to court — over expenditures not directly related to the delivery of service.
During Fish's tenure, those bureaus have regained much of the trust they lost. They have wisely focused on basic services, long-term planning and trying to keep rates from rising too quickly.
The Portland City Council deals with a vast number of concerns on a weekly basis, and Fish — an attorney by training — is nothing if not thorough in his research and analytical in his decisions. Those are qualities worth retaining for another term.
Many political observers wondered whether Fish, who last summer announced that he has cancer, would have the desire or energy to seek re-election. He says he still has passion for the job, and we have noticed no decrease in Fish's work ethic or effectiveness while he has been undergoing treatment.
In addition to DeGraw, two other candidates filed for this position, but they didn't submit statements for the Voters' Pamphlet and they haven't mounted campaigns with the same seriousness as Fish or DeGraw.
Portland voters should re-elect Nick Fish for Council Position 2.