Dan Saltzman says there's a perception that SW Portland is an affluent area
Dan Saltzman first mentioned retirement in the summer of 2017. He told a reporter he would leave the City Council in 2022 if he was re-elected in 2018. Three months later he made the announcement that caught many people by surprise: Forget about 2022, he would retire in 2018.
The 65-year-old, five-term City Commissioner and longtime Hillsdale resident has left City Hall. But not before granting a series of so-called "exit interviews". He spoke with the SW Community Connection in his less-than-bustling City Hall office on one of his last days as Commissioner. Jo Ann Hardesty was elected in November to replace Saltzman on the Council.
Saltzman still lives in the same house ("up above A Boy hardware") that he has lived in since before he got elected Commissioner the first time in 1998. He started out renting it but now owns it. In that first Council election he defeated his then-colleague on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Tanya Collier by 11,000 votes. He never had to face a November election again. He won his Council seat four more times by defeating all comers in the May Primary by enough of a margin to be able to ignore a General Election.
But was his re-election to a sixth term in 2018 a sure thing? We'll never know.
Questions for Saltzman focused on SW Portland in his interview with the SW Connection.
IMPRESSIONS THAT PEOPLE FROM OTHER PARTS OF PORTLAND HAVE OF SW PORTLAND
"Most people elsewhere in the city regard Southwest Portland as a very affluent neighborhood. Oh yeah. They do. They think of the West Hills when they think of SW Portland. There are a lot of immigrant refugees and a lot of affordable housing in Southwest, but they think of the West Hills.
I have yet to find anybody who doesn't really know their neighborhoods well who knows where Hillsdale is. When I tell them I live in the Hillsdale neighborhood they kind of give a slight nod and say 'Oh yeah, Hillsdale. People just have no idea where Hillsdale is. But they know where Multnomah Village is."
CHANGES IN HIS NEIGHBORHOOD SINCE 1990
"The neighborhood has changed a lot. At the local level a lot of great things are going in. Like sidewalks since I've lived there. Not on the street I live but on Terwilliger Boulevard. There's now a Starbucks on Terwilliger and Barbur where there used to be a strip mall. I like having a Starbucks I can walk to. There are a lot more restaurants in Hillsdale and Multnomah Village.
THINKING OF MOVING?
"Actually I've been thinking about that the last few days. Just thinking that in the long run there's going to be a day when I can't drive any more. Barbur Boulevard is nearby and I'm walking distance from Burlingame Fred Meyer. In 2027 I hope there will be light rail right down the street from me. So I'm thinking I can live in this house a long time. It's a great location."
WHAT DOES THE HILLSDALE NEIGHBORHOOD NEED?
"More restaurant choices And a New Seasons. I'd love a New Seasons where the A Boy store is on Barbur. I've actually pitched that to New Seasons in the past. They would love to do it too. But the family that owns A Boy is not there yet. They're not going anywhere."
FAVORITE NEARBY RESTAURANTS?
"Chez Jose (Terwilliger and Taylors Ferry), Gigi's (Hillsdale),Original House of Pancakes (Barbur and SW 24th) and City Thai for take out (Hillsdale)."
WILL A SW MAX LINE REALLY BE BUILT DOWN BARBUR BOULEVARD?
"Hopefully. I was on the steering committee and we know the route but the funding still has to be put to the voters. They were going to go to the ballot in 2018 but decided to wait. Voters will have to approve something in 2020. Federal funds will be needed to cover 50% of the cost.
"Everybody who seems to be in the know on these things - Metro and Tri Met folks - haven't given any indication that the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) isn't doing business. There are more cities now than ever that compete for light rail funding.
"Higher density along a light rail line makes a lot of sense. Tri Met's doing a lot to make sure that affordable housing already there (in the SW corridor) remains there and that any new housing that's built is affordable. Based on what we've seen with the other lines in Portland, light rail has nothing but a positive impact.
"I think it's pretty solid.
"I started pitching a light rail line in SW to Tri Met 15 years ago, telling them it's our turn. It's been at least 15 years. I think there were solid cases for building the other lines. I just wanted to make sure SW Portland got its day. We seem to be on the verge of that now.
"But I do think it will be a tough sell to voters because they're going to think what I just told you about, that SW is more affluent and we don't need it. That will factor into some voter's decision for sure. There's a perception that in SW Portland we're very affluent."
ON MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS COMING TO CAPITOL HIGHWAY SOUTH FROM MULTNOMAH VILLAGE
"The City is going to get the contractor now and get the work done. It took a long, long time. It took a lot of patience. One significant reason it's happening now is the need for surface water management.
That's the single biggest cost item. (The Bureau of Environmental Services will provide $10.5 million to the project to upgrade Capitol Highway and rebuild much of the nearby sewer system.) The fact that PBOT, the sewer and the water departments were all there when we signed off on this is a remarkable sign that we are one city."
TO SW RESIDENTS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED HIS 4 REELECTION CAMPAIGNS
"SW Portland has been my electoral base of support for 25 years and I very much appreciate that."
LONGTIME CHIEF OF STAFF ON WORDS USED TO DESCIBE HIS BOSS
During Dan Saltzman's five four-year terms as City Commissioner staff turnover was rare.
Brendan Finn, who lives in the Multnomah neighborhood, started with Saltzman's office as an intern in 1999. Within months he was Saltzman's liaison to the Bureau of Environmental Services. He became Policy Director in 2003 and in 2005 he was appointed Chief of Staff.
With Saltzman retiring, Finn took a position as Governor Kate Brown's Transportation Policy Advisor with responsibility for overseeing ODOT.
He responded by e mail to the question: What did you think when you would read these words characterizing your boss: "notoriously, stubbornly laconic", "terse", "concise", "cerebral", "measured" and "aloof"?
One of the special aspects of Dan's leadership as Commissioner is how he listened to people, learning from them, and then leading. When he spoke publicly it reflected that process which gave his words meaning and influence. If it was regarding one of his priorities, he did communicate in a manner that was focused with conviction. Investing and protecting children, helping victims of domestic violence or calling out a misuse of taxpayer dollars, yes, Dan was willing to be stubborn and maybe ruffle a few feathers if it was in the best interest of Portland. He put political considerations to the side and let his principals guide him, this made him unique and was one of the many reasons I was proud to work for him.
What is missing from that list of words "funny" what most Portlanders do not know about Dan is that he has a fabulous sense of humor.