|Fritz claims accomplishments in seeking re-election
The Mid-county Memo
However, they have one hurdle that aspirants do not. They cannot credibly run on promises of what they would do if given the chance. They HAVE been given the chance, and they need to run on their record.
So it is with Commissioner Amanda Fritz near the end of her first term. A Willamette Week portrait gave her credit for diligence: having by far the best attendance record on Council, clearly indicating that she has done her homework, and personally answering all her own e-mails. However, the piece said, in terms of the budgets and employees of the bureaus in her portfolio, Mayor Sam Adams has given her the lightest load of any Council member. What has she done other than cast sole dissenting votes? the article asked.
Fritz is considered vulnerable for other reasons. She was the only non-incumbent to win election under the Voter Owned Election procedure, whereby candidates who collected and documented 1,000 contributions of $5 each from eligible voters received $150,000 in City funds to run their campaigns. Fritz would say that because she was elected in this way she was beholden to none, accountable to all. She said then she could not conceive of running a conventional campaign with conventional fundraising, since she found this practice soul-destroying. Yet, it would appear, she has no other option, since voters rescinded Voter Owned Elections in 2010.
Fritz says she is seeking private donations from individuals up to a maximum of $50 each, and can run a viable campaign if she receives 3,000 such donations. She will accept donations only from people, not from groups or corporations. I will continue to refuse large donations from wealthy people who regularly do business with the City.
With regard to accomplishments, Fritz told the Memo, I don't get to make major policy changes. I make the most of what I can do in my portfolio, and I've tried to cut through jurisdictional silos. She does not subscribe to the principle - as stated by former mayor Neil Goldschmidt with regard to the Council majority needed to take action - the secret to getting things done in Portland city government is learning to count to three. Fritz says that taking this too literally doesn't necessarily get you to a good outcome. I try to do things in a collaborative manner. For instance, she says, she recently worked with commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman on revisions to Mayor Sam Adams' proposed budget, and then I brought it to Sam and said, 'What do you think of this?' I didn't say, 'We're going to do this because we have three votes.' She offers some other specifics.
For one, Fritz says, I saved the taxpayers of Portland $500 million. She did so, she says, when she convinced Council to utilize a $200 million ultra violet light water treatment system for the Bull Run Reservoir rather than a $700 million filtration system selected by the commissioner in charge, Randy Leonard, who originally treated the matter as an executive decision to be made by him alone. Ultimately, Fritz says, Leonard voted for the new system.
Fritz says she voted against sewer bill increases in 2009 and 2010 because not enough was known about the financing needs. She introduced a new computer system for 911 Emergency Communications that was installed on time and under budget, unlike some new computer systems. Together with Commissioner Nick Fish, she weighed in on the new Citywide Tree Ordinance, making it tougher by requiring replacement of all trees over 12 inches in diameter cut on developed single-family home plots. (In the original staff recommendations, the minimum size for mandatory replacement was 20 inches.) She created the Office of Equity as a way to not just talk about equity but do something about it.
One collaborative vote did not win her many friends in the Lents neighborhood: she joined the Council majority in voting to approve a food waste recycling facility by the Recology Company, seen by many as dumping an undesirable use into a poor part of town. That was one of my hardest votes, Fritz says. I have to vote based on code regulations, not what is the best policy, and Recology's facility met the letter of the code. Before this, I sided with the mayor and Commissioner Fish to delay the vote to look at our options. We added some significantly better conditions of approval. We kept the neighborhoods in the conversation. She points out that, together with the Lents Neighborhood Association, she opposed the siting of a baseball stadium in Lents Park.
East Portland issues
Mid-Multnomah County lacks many of the basic features, such as standard paved streets, sidewalks and parks that other parts of town take for granted. How would Fritz add these features at a time when the City is hard-put financially to maintain the services and facilities it already has?
The acknowledged blueprint for change is the East Portland Action Plan. I can't take credit for the Plan, but I have adopted it, and made sure that funding for action items stayed through the budget process, Fritz says. Among other things, she takes credit for funding East Portland Action Plan program advocate Lore Wintergreen's position - at annual salary of nearly $80,000 - and providing other funds for local initiatives through the Neighborhood Small Grants Program. It often takes 20 years after you get a plan to actually get improvements, she says. I want people to see that our money is being invested there. Moreover, she says, she started working with community activists such as Bonny McKnight 15 years ago, as a community activist, because her southwest neighborhood shares the experience of east Portland in lacking streets and sidewalks. She visited the area regularly because her parents-in-law live at CherryWood Village retirement community. She notes that this year's Spirit of Portland Awards ceremony was held at the East Portland Community Center.
The Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area faces a conundrum. Experts such as consultants from Parametrix have said that this area, especially the Prunedale district, needs better infrastructure to attract development. However, urban renewal funds to provide these facilities are not there because there has been little development and an accompanying increase in property values. How would Fritz deal with this situation?
We should borrow to build the infrastructure first, she says. That's how it was done in the South Waterfront. She says she is encouraged by the progress toward a new Gateway Park, which will be a revitalizing force. Although a park master plan is in place, there is no funding in sight to build the park.
I'm intrigued by the Education District concept - there's a nexus there with Adventist (Medical Center) and a potential cluster for targeted industry investment.
An issue in Gateway and other urban renewal districts is the use of funds by politicians to support pet projects that often have a tenuous connection to the district's core mission. In the Gateway Regional Center URA, $1 million from the first year's budget was used to fund the Children's Receiving Center. Despite it being a worthy social service facility, its presence at 102nd Avenue and East Burnside Street had no clear connection to the district's mission, and meant that a potential prime piece of real estate would have limited activity and pay no taxes.
What is Fritz's take on such practices?
Fritz is familiar with the Children's Receiving Center, mentioning it before the Memo did. However, with regard to the use of designated pots of money for other uses, she says, I would have to look at it on a case by case basis.
One thing that Gateway, and much of east Portland, lacks is a system of through streets. City planners have devised a master plan that calls for dedicating land for new streets as large parcels of land are developed. However, some property owners have objected that this is burdensome, and may retard development. How does Fritz see the issue?
This is something we struggled mightily with during the [revision of the] Subdivision Code, and didn't solve, she says. We need to revisit it, and it would be good to do it before there's wholesale redevelopment.
For many years, public schools in Portland meant the Portland School District. The city now includes five other districts, including Parkrose and David Douglas, yet city officials often seem unaware of their presence. How would Fritz deal with these other districts?
Fritz said that she had been instrumental in securing $20,000 for a new soccer field for Parkrose High School. As for David Douglas, she noted that she had recently received the Gateway Area Business Association's Citizen of the Year award, and that school district representatives had participated in the selection. This means the superintendents know me, and know that I work for them, she said. I want people to see that their (tax) money is invested in their neighborhood.
At a recent candidate's forum sponsored by GABA, when the topic of infrastructure and lack of sidewalks in Mid-county was raised, Fritz crowed about how she intervened at the special request of board chair Annette Mattson to get a sidewalk built near David Douglas High School.
Fritz's claim to have saved $500 million by her intervention in the city's water treatment mention was examined by the Oregonian's Politifact feature; it found the claim slightly exaggerated, but rated it mostly true. Some see as a questionable expenditure -at over $1 million dollars and counting - the Office of Equity for a vague, undefined purpose and another example of the city's feckless navel gazing. At this point, as they say, the jury is still out.
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