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On Portland's "Commissioner" form of government


Excellent editorial in the July BEE; very interesting and informative. It explains a lot of things that have been bothering me about Portland for several years now. Particularly the last two years. I don't usually read the newspaper, and when I do it's usually scanning. This issue I read from beginning to end. Keep 'em coming. And I'll keep reading. Richard Robinson via e-mail

Editor, For a preface: My wife and I have been living in Portland since 1991. Prior to that we lived in Tucson, Arizona, where I was president of our neighborhood association. We lived in a neighborhood close to the Universal of Arizona and its new hospital. We were dealing with traffic issues and cut-through traffic, and I worked with our local council person to solve this problem.

I know that the Portland Mayor and the Counselors are working hard to solve the many troubles in Portland: Homelessness, the numbers of person killed by guns, speeding on streets and pedestrian deaths, racial injustice – plus a lack of affordable housing, and zoning issues, to say nothing of the potholes plaguing the streets of this city. Until 2010 we felt Portland was the best city on the West Coast.

The Commissioner form of city government may have been working here 40 years ago – but it is an unsuccessful way of providing services to the city now. For many years most Commissioners have come from a narrow part of downtown and S.W. Portland. Plus, my experience here tells me that every city bureau knows that its commissioner will be replaced in 2, 3, or 4 years, and for the most part they ignore their [current] Commissioner. To add another issue, Commissioners are elected citywide, and none represent a specific portion of the city.

We are the only big city in the country using this system of government, and there is no doubt that this system is failing its city and citizens. . . We need to change our system to that of a Mayor selected by all citizens, Council Members selected by citizens each city district, and a City Manager to oversee all of the city bureaus. That will allow the Mayor and Council to focus on developing budgets, and policy changes. This type of reform will not cause immediate improvements, but it will show improvement over time.

For such city districts, it seems obvious that S.W. Portland, S.E. Portland, South Portland, N.E. Portland, N.W. Portland, and North Portland will work as council districts for members of the Council. That way, citizens will know who to talk to on the Council about their specific district issues.

Joel fields

via e-mail

Imperiled oaks along McLoughlin

Editor, Regarding the oak trees along Mcloughlin [between Bybee Boulevard and Nehalem], it is not surprising that a limb broke on one of these magnificent trees. The City of Portland Parks and Recreation are derelict in their care of the trees. The tall and broad spreading trees that create such a wonderful corridor of green and shade need maintenance. The branches need to be laced out, meaning that weight and "sail" needs to be removed, without changing the overall dimensions of the trees. More important, the maintenance road on Parks property either needs to be abandoned, or formalized with construction that eliminates soils compaction. Anyone with the least knowledge of tree care knows that compaction upon tree roots will harm trees, and the maintenance road running over the roots of the entire line of trees is hardened, rutted, and harming the trees.  ODOT who "owns" Mcloughlin Boulevard [State Highway 99E] would be happy to see the trees removed, as dropping limbs are a risk they would rather not be concerned with.  Parks should do the right thing and conduct maintenance on the trees, remove the maintenance track, and preserve the beautiful row of trees which is a living landmark in our city.


Bob Marshall via e-mail

"Vision Zero" campaign not working

Editor, The "Vision Zero" [Portland traffic safety] concept at its core is a good idea, but has been a waste of money and time in Portland due to a number of factors. The first is putting City Commissioners in charge of a project they know nothing about. Chloe Eudaly was overseeing the implementation of Vision Zero and from my point of view, [she] had no idea how to institute a traffic safety program. That was proven by the statistics. A Traffic Safety Program is built on three tenets: 1) Education – This is more than putting up posters that say "Twenty is Plenty", or some other catchphrase. This should include a PR campaign that covers TV, print, and broadcast commercials and interviews. It should also reach into the high schools, where the newest drivers are being trained. 2) Engineering – What about taking speed surveys along high crash locations to see where, when and what actual speeds are to address the most prevalent cause of crashes head on? Both the past director of Vision Zero and its current leader, Joanne Hardesty, believe lowering speed limits and a few roundabouts will suffice. 3: Enforcement – No viable Traffic Safety Program can be successful without enforcement. But Portland City Hall takes the stance that our law enforcement is inherently racist in enforcing traffic laws, due to a high incidence of people of color being stopped. This can be overcome by targeted enforcement: Go by stats and location, not by skin color. This [seems to me to be] just part of City Commissioners' anti-police rhetoric. Portland Police Officers are leaving in large numbers due [to such things as] politicians enacting traffic laws, [and then deciding which] will be enforced and which won't. That's called "Selective Enforcement", and it's been found illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Until we get more officers, and until anti-police politicians are removed from office, the citizens of Portland should just accept the fact that this city is a Mad Max movie, and should drive and walk and bicycle accordingly. It's time to do away with the Commission form of government. The citizens of Portland deserve better. William J Wolfe

via e-mail

Risks of street dining?


I want to push back against the recent Letter to the Editor referring to the risk of street-side dining and how it was reinforced by the distracted driver who rammed into a dining area. The list of places a person can be at risk of injury or death when a driver is distracted or suffering a medical emergency is too long to list in any one place, but I will highlight a couple. Biking on the road and walking down a sidewalk – or sitting on the couch in the front living room of your house, as a picture in that same paper has shown is possible ("Car Slams Into Westmoreland Home"). Should we stop biking on roads, or sidewalks for that matter? Or walking down a street? No we should not. The problem is not where we allow people, it is 3000-6000 lb. vehicles. Once again the conversation is framed in the wrong direction. Instead of making places less interesting for people so at to protect them, we should make places more hostile to automobiles so they stop using our public land, i.e. our subsidized roads. In addition, we must stop defying all social norms in accommodation of the car manufacturer's profits. . . We must stop calling incidents with cars "accidents" and call them what they are, "reckless negligence incidents", and the consequence for such incidents should be immediate and permanent suspension of driving privileges. Let us not undo the best change to public land use, in the 12 years I have lived here, be derailed because of negligence of a driver – or we will never get good policy again. In my social circle of people ranging in age from 25-45 there is universal love for the outdoor street dining. Let's not go back to free storage for 5000 lb. metal cages. Tim DuBois


Incident at a bus stop: Thanks for the help


I am 70, and a smallish white-haired woman who is not particularly nervous around the folks you might see in the city, but I do like to keep my eyes open. On Tuesday, July 13, at about 8 a.m., I had delivered my car to my mechanic and walked to the nearby bus stop to catch the #19 bus home. I must have just missed it, as several #12s and #20s came and went. The electronic sign at the stop indicated the #19 to arrive later and later, so I figured there was some issue. While I was waiting, I people-watched. There were a couple of runners, a man carrying a large bag that clanked of empty cans, another passenger who got on an arriving bus, and a man and woman walking through the neighborhood. The woman followed the man, often with uncoordinated movements and tilting her head strongly side to side. Her mouth moved as if she were talking, but no words came out; the man appeared not to notice. He stopped, at one point, across the street from the bus stop, and carefully examined an empty wrapper; then he and the woman walked east to the next house and walked up the steps as if he lived there – then they came down the steps and turned west and then walked across to the bus stop where I was, alone, waiting for a delayed bus. I put the bus shelter between myself and them, but when I turned, the woman was next to me. I walked in a different direction, but she followed closely, pressing against me and waving her head side to side in a wide arc. One of her eyes was way out of alignment with the other, and I wondered if she had a brain injury. . . She continued to advance, and I backed away and put my hand up, and said "please stop". I was trying to keep an eye on her and locate the man, but I didn't see him. The next thing I knew, a bus had pulled up, and a young man purposefully walked out and put himself between me and the woman. He had one side of his body next to me and the other next to her – I suspect, to be less confrontational to her. He kept backing me away from the woman, and she kept advancing. . . The young man asked if I was okay, and I said I was, and that I was waiting for the #19 bus. He said, "Maybe you'd better get on this one." I replied, "Good idea." And we both got on the bus, me fumbling with my HOP card. I found a seat, and the young man continued to stand by me – I think, to make sure that I was okay. I realized I was shaking, and my heart was pounding. I thanked him – but when I turned toward him again, he was gone. I don't know if he went to sit, or if he left the bus. Another male passenger asked if I was okay and I said I was, that the woman didn't hurt me – she just scared me. Other passengers offered words of comfort. I hadn't thought to ask the young man his name, and I wish I had. I am so grateful for his "rescue". [I eventually did transfer to the #19 bus and got home. . .] Since this happened, I have told friends about it, and they have all told me of other times on the bus when the driver and passengers have been kind and caring, too. After the awful events on one MAX train a few years ago, I'm glad that people are still willing to intervene when there's potential trouble – and I'm very glad no one got hurt! To that young man who protected and advised me, and to the others who I think may also have intervened: Thank you very much! Lee Melchoir via e-mail

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.

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