By David Krogh
As one of the by-products of Portland’s Commission form of government, City Council members (each of whom are referred to as “Commissioner”) are assigned to oversee city bureaus. No other large cities in the US currently do this.
Here in Portland, the Mayor is charged with assigning bureau oversight and does so after elections or when changes are otherwise deemed to be necessary.
Considering that many elected City Council members don’t have the background or experience in the management or oversight of multi-million-dollar specialized city departments (including the areas of police, fire, public works, etc.), this is not an easy task.
The Mayor responded to The Southeast Examiner on this issue by stating “multiple factors go into assigning bureaus, including balancing workloads and responsibilities” which “also leverages commissioners’ talents and skills to ensure all commissioners are working collaboratively and with urgency toward a more just, resilient future.”
Each bureau still has its own internal management hierarchy to lend support to the assigned Commissioner, and the Commissioners in turn have their own support staffs.
Because the recent November elections resulted in substantial changes to City Council, Mayor Ted Wheeler has re-assigned bureau oversights to include the three new members of the Council: Dan Ryan, Carmen Rubio and Mingus Mapps.
As he has in the past, Mayor Wheeler has assigned himself the heaviest load of bureaus to oversee.
Bureaus he will oversee include the City Budget Office, the Office of Management and Finance, the Office of Government Relations, the Office of the City Attorney, the Portland Police Bureau, Prosper Portland, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Office of Violence Prevention.
Jo Ann Hardesty, the one pre-existing Commissioner, is assigned to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Fire & Rescue and the Office of Community and Civic Life.
Hardesty formerly oversaw the Fire Bureau, and the two additional bureaus she has now been assigned were previously overseen by former Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who was defeated by newcomer Mingus Mapps.
Commissioner Mapps is assigned to the Portland Water Bureau, the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Bureau of Emergency Communications.
Commissioner Carmen Rubio is assigned to Portland Parks & Recreation, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Office of Community Technology.
Commissioner Dan Ryan (elected in a special election to fill the remainder of Nick Fish’s term) is assigned to the Portland Housing Bureau, the Bureau of Development Services and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Although Mayor Wheeler considers bureau assignment requests from Commissioners, he does not necessarily grant these as with Commissioners Hardesty request for Police Oversight and Mapps’ request to oversee Community and Civic Life.
“I’m very excited to dive into my two new bureaus,” said Hardesty. “During my campaign for City Council, I worked very closely with transportation advocates and now I have an opportunity to revisit those relationships to develop a new vision for PBOT.
“Despite not being the Police Commissioner, I’ve never been a Commissioner that works in silos, so my ability to bring change to the Portland Police Bureau will continue. I look forward to continued conversations with the Mayor and my colleagues around rethinking community safety.”
“Yes, I did want Civic Life and I was disappointed that I did not get it, Mapps said. “The Mayor did not elaborate on his decision making in our meeting. I will continue to advocate for neighborhoods, coalitions and business associations as they are an important part of our civic ecosystem.
“I have talked to Commissioner Hardesty about that bureau and I am hopeful that under her leadership Civic Life will address internal issues and hit the reset button with neighborhoods and coalitions.”
He added that upgrading Portland’s infrastructure is a major concern to be addressed.
City Council emails:
Mayor Ted Wheeler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo Ann Hardesty: email@example.com
Dan Ryan: CommissionerRyanOffice@portlandoregon.gov
Carmen Rubio: Comm.Rubio@portlandoregon.gov
Mingus Mapps: MappsOffice@portlandoregon.gov
All emails are reviewed by each Commissioner’s Staff. Each City Council member has staff identified for contact purposes to provide assistance, constituent services or community engagement. If a citizen or group needs to speak or meet with the Mayor or a Commissioner, contact the appropriate staff person listed.
All the council offices have websites with their mission and projects identified. Many questions can be answered by visiting the websites.