SW Portlanders torn on mayor's pepper spray incident in Hillsdale
Southwest Portland residents are talking about the Jan. 24 confrontation between Ted Wheeler and Cary Cadonau at the Hillsdale McMenamins — and most of them seem to support the mayor's decision to pepper spray the lawyer and former Alpenrose Dairy heir.
At least that's the upshot from a whopping 350 comments on the hyper-local Nextdoor.com blog after Hayhurst neighborhood resident Connie Crabtree posted an Oregonian story about incident three days later. The story detailed how Cadonau followed Wheeler from the restaurant where he had been dining with former Mayor Sam Adams and berated him about not wearing a mask while the two were meeting.
According to audio of the confrontation recorded by Adams, Cadonau was not wearing a mask when he approached within a few feet of Wheeler. That prompted the mayor to warn Cadonau he would be pepper sprayed if he did not step back. When Cadonau continued, Wheeler kept his word, prompting Cadonau to say he did not believe Wheeler would do it.
Crabtree made it clear she opposed what Wheeler had done.
"What is Wheeler thinking? I'm a past supporter of his, but this is a dealbreaker for me," Crabtree posted.
Bridlemile neighborhood resident John Elsener agreed with her.
"The problem is if we all go around pepper spraying our neighbors for being obnoxious, or god forbid standing too close, this will escalate quickly. Be a man, just walk away," Elsener posted.
Most of those who took a side supported Wheeler, however.
"If someone gets a foot from my face, belligerent, yelling obscenities, mask or no mask I would mace them (not that I carry it) but good for him," Ashcreek neighborhood resident Adam Reed posted in response to the article.
"Wheeler was probably thinking he didn't want to die from covid because a rude, out of control person wanted to shout in his face. If I had pepper spray in my hand and someone behaved that way I'd use the pepper spray too," Bridlemile neighbor Linda Lane posted.
"If someone came to discuss matters with me, in a parking lot, without a mask, and not socially distancing themselves...I would absolutely blast them in the face with pepper spray if they refused to back up," Westwood neighborhood resident Alexandra Lara posted.
A few of the responders did not take sides but thanked Wheeler for frequenting the Hillsdale McMenamins, or wondered why he did not have a police escort, especially considerinng that he had been assaulted at a Northwest Portland restaurant earlier in the month. The Portland Police Bureau announced a short time later that Wheeler would be assigned escorts a few days later, and that the other members of the City Council would be offered additional police protections, too.
Cadonau, who was on the losing side of his family's decision to sell the Alpenrose Dairy in 2019, did not say anything publicly after the story first broke on Jan. 25. He issued a lengthy apology on Jan. 27, however, saying, "I am remorseful for my decision to confront Mayor Wheeler on Sunday, Jan. 24, and I am sorry that he felt the need to use pepper spray." Wheeler accepted the apology the next day and said he considers the matter closed.
Surprisingly, one place where Southwest Portland residents are not talking about the Jan. 24 incident is at the Hillsdale McMenamins. Manager Scott Mitchell said none of the staff witnessed it and he hasn't heard any customers bring it up.
The incident is the second newsworthy confrontation involving a Portland mayor to take place at a Southwest Portland restaurant. The first — and arguably more significant — took place on April 7, 1987, at the Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village. That was with then-Mayor Bud Clark met with Jim Davis, his newly-appointed police chief, and fired him after the two disagreed over the police bureau's upcoming budget.
As Clark recalled in an April 2019 story in the Southwest Community Connection, Davis was also upset with the fiscal office's analysis of his budget request and was demanding all their paperwork. Clark did not believe Davis was entitled to it.
He said, 'Mr. Mayor, read my lips, I want those files delivered to the Justice Center,'" Clark told the paper. "I said, 'Jim, read my lips, you're no longer the chief of police. So, I fired him right there."
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