Mayor takes development services bureau to speed up construction permits, splits utility bureaus between two commissioners.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - Mayor Ted WheelerMayor Ted Wheeler reassigned Portland bureaus to himself and the other members of the City Council on Thursday.

Assigning bureaus is perhaps the greatest power the mayor has under the city's almost unique form of government, where every member of the council can introduce legislation but also oversees individual bureaus.

"Portland is transitioning from a big city with a small city feel to a truly global city, and we're confronted with all the opportunities and difficulties that come with it," Wheeler said in a prepared statement. "These bureau assignments link the daily management of the city with a vision for the future of Portland as an equitable, sustainable, and economically vibrant city."

The changes occurred as the council is preparing for a period of transition. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the longest serving member of the council, did not run for reelection. He will be replaced by either activist Jo Ann Hardesty or Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, after the Nov. 6 general election.

Among the most significant changes, Wheeler reassigned the Bureau of Development Servces from Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to himself. The development services bureau issues building permits in cooperation with other construction-related bureaus and enforces building codes. Wheeler kept the Portland Housing Bureau, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Prosper Portland (the former Portland Development Commission). His office announced he will convene regular meetings of their staffs to speed up the permit issuing process, especially for housing projects.

With this move, Wheeler is tryimg to solve a problem that has so far defied repeated efforts to solve it — speeding the city's cimbersome permit processing and inspection system. Although construction work almost completely stopped during the Great Recession, it is now at an unprecedented lpace and bureau officials admit they are struggling to keep up with the demand, even though bureau employment is also at record levels.

The bureau has 364 employees today compared to 147 in 2010. But it still has 78 vacant position, even though it hired 77 new employees so far this year. The workload has exceeded the hirings, however. In 2011, the Residential Inspections Division had an average of 325 inspection requests a day. Today, the staff is completing approximately 425 requested inspections a day.

Wheeler also split the city's utility bureaus, reassigning the Portland Water Bureau from Commissioner Nick Fish to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, while allowing Fish to retain the Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city sewer system and stormwater management system. The water bureau bill residents and businesses for both services.

In addition, Wheeler transfered the Portland Bureau of Transportation from Commissioner Dan Saltzman to Eudaly. A search is underway for a new director for the transportation bureau. Eudaly previous replaced the director of the development services bureau and the Office Community & Civic Life (formerly the Office of Neighborhood Involvement), which she retained.

And Wheeler transferred Portland Parks & Recreation from Fritz to Fish. A search is underway for a new parks director.

Wheeler kept the Portland Police Bureau, which has traditionally been overseen by the mayor with only a few exceptions.

In making the assignments, Wheeler said he asked the commissioners to work with him to achieve the following goals:

• Fostering cross bureau collaboration on related issues to avoid redundant or unnecessary expenses (where multiple bureaus are dealing with similar or the same issues).

• Decrease the time and hassle of permitting projects, particularly new housing, and transform the cityscape to reflect our status as a global destination.

• Provide equitable access to transportation options, especially in East Portland.

• Maintain our commitment to preserving our roads, parks, and other civic infrastructure.

• Protect our natural areas, maintain stewardship over the environment, and increase public access to the Willamette River.

• Improve the city's preparedness, emergency response and post-disaster resilience.

Here is a complete list of the assignments announced Thursday:

Mayor Ted Wheeler

• Portland Police Bureau

• Portland Housing Bureau

• Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

• Prosper Portland

• Bureau of Development Services

• City Budget Office

• City Attorney

• Government Relations

• Office of Management & Finance

• Office of Community Technology

Liaison Responsibilities

• Travel Portland

• Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization - Policy Committee (with Commissioner Saltzman)

• Home Forward

• A Home For Everyone (with Commissioner Eudaly)

• Visitor Development Fund Board (VDF Board)

• Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (with Commissioner Saltzman)

• Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission

• Portland Community Media

• Human Rights Commission (with Commissioner Fritz)

• League of Oregon Cities (with Commissioner Fritz)

• Portland Children's Levy (with Commissioner Saltzman)

• Royal Rosarians

• Portland Commission on Disability (with Commissioner Fritz)

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly

• Office Community & Civic Life

• Portland Bureau of Transportation

Liaison Responsibilities

• A Home for Everyone (with Mayor Wheeler)

• Regional Arts & Culture Council

• Portland'5 Centers for the Arts

• Public Involvement Advisory Committee

• New Portlanders Policy Council

• Metro Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)

• Multnomah County Animal Control

• Multnomah Youth Commission

• Portland Streetcar, Inc.

• Portland Mall Management, Inc.

• Portland Aerial Tram Board

• Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT)

Commissioner Nick Fish

• Bureau of Environmental Services

• Portland Parks & Recreation

Liaison Responsibilities

• Office of Film & Video

• Venture Portland

• Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission (MERC)

• Elders in Action

• Portland Utility Board (PUB)

• Portland Parks Foundation

• Portland Parks Board

• Pioneer Courthouse Square

Commissioner Amanda Fritz

• Portland Water Bureau

• Bureau of Hydroelectric Power

• Office of Equity and Human Rights

Liaison Responsibilities

• League of Oregon Cities (with Mayor Wheeler)

• Metro Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)

• Fair & Moral Claims Committee

• Portland Utility Board (PUB)

• Human Rights Commission (with Mayor Wheeler)

• Visitor Development Fund Board (VDF Board)

• Rose Festival Foundation

• Portland Commission on Disability (with Mayor Wheeler)

Oversight Responsibilities

• Open & Accountable Elections program

Commissioner Dan Saltzman

• Portland Fire & Rescue

• Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

• Bureau of Emergency Communications

• Fire & Police Disability & Retirement

Oversight Responsibilities

• Portland Children's Levy (with Mayor Wheeler)

• The Gateway Center

Liaison Responsibilities

• BOEC User Board

• Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (with Mayor Wheeler)

• Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization - Policy Committee (with Mayor Wheeler)

• Fair & Moral Claims Committee

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