Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler predicts that a new leader in the Oval Office will turn down the volume knob after months of street protests that rocked the city.
Wheeler spoke to reporters mid-day on Wednesday, Nov. 4, with the results of the national election still unknown but trending toward Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden against Republican incumbent President Donald Trump.
"I think that will create a different environment nationally and I hope a return to civility and inclusivity," Wheeler said. "That will definitely, I think, take some of the heat off from what we've seen around the types of activities that cause people to go to the streets in the first place."
The first Portland mayor to win a second term since the reelection of Vera Katz in 2004, Wheeler was all smiles during a 1 p.m. virtual press briefing held for a change at City Hall, not the mayor's apartment.
Asked to describe his mood heading into a second term, Wheeler said he was "energized."
"I have really enjoyed the last couple of months in particular," he said. "I've enjoyed getting out into the community as much as I could do so safely, given the COVID restrictions."
It was undoubtedly a positive spin on what has been, by all accounts, a brutal year of economic uncertainty, pandemic shutdowns, political clashes and what Wheeler called a tough but necessary racial reckoning.
Asked by reporters about his mood going into his second term, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler responds:— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) November 4, 2020
"I'm energized. I have really enjoyed the last couple of months in particular." pic.twitter.com/Wx2d2gWmLT
Ballot box returns show Wheeler nabbed just 46% of the vote on Election Night — less than the 49% he received during the primary — and would have perhaps lost if not for a strong third-party challenge by Teressa Raiford, who ran to the left of Wheeler and official run-off challenger Sarah Iannarone.
Iannarone lost with 40% of the vote on Nov. 3, and another 13% of the electorate wrote in another person's name, though OPB reports that Multnomah County election officials do not itemize write-in votes unless they top official candidate tallies.
Wheeler rejected the notion that he lacks a mandate to govern.
"The way an election still works in America, as of this morning, is whoever gets the most votes wins," said Wheeler. "The public supports the vision of this administration."
Wheeler said he believes the public supports his pandemic policy of aid for families and small businesses, agrees with his call to quickly and humanely move people off the streets and overwhelmingly supports the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform, though he said there is some disagreement on the specifics.
"I don't know anyone in this community who supports violence," Wheeler added, with a caveat: "We would be foolish to claim that we have some monopoly on the truth."
Wheeler said he is only somewhat acquainted with Commissioner-elect Mingus Mapps, who trumped outgoing Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, but added that he knows Commissioner-elect Carmen Rubio "very well."
"I know she and I will work together extremely well," Wheeler said.
Wheeler has the power to assign control of city bureaus to any council member, and shuffle the deck at will, but offered no clues as to who will get what. The mayor said he is pleased with the passage of new beefed-up Independent Community Oversight board for the police bureau, but cautioned it will take at least 18 to 24 months to implement, and asked investigators for the current Independent Police Review board not to seek new jobs in the interim.
He said the task of the next slate of leaders at City Hall will be to "undo the damage" of the last four years.
"If our values are what our lawn signs say, then why are our central city neighborhoods still so predominately white? Why are BIPOC Portlanders not thriving?" Wheeler asked, using an acronym for Black, Indigenous and people of color. "Why are we so resistant to basic zoning changes that open our neighborhoods to Portland's growing population of people of color?"
Follow me on Twitter
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.