Commissioner Leonard blasts City charter reform in Gateway talk

Of all the topics he covered, Commissioner Randy Leonard spoke out most strongly against proposed changes in how the City of Portland is run. Read this: After all, you’ll be voting on it in May‚

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard is welcomed to the podium of the Gateway Area Business Association by GABA president, Alan Sanchez.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Members of the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) meet in March to network, hear plans of the upcoming May Fun-O-Rama events, and listen to Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard’s address.

“I appreciate so much about the Gateway area,” Leonard began. “The Golf-O-Rama, Fun-O-Rama Parade, and Community Fair show the great community spirit alive here in this area. And, I’m glad to see that that Mike Taylor, Parkrose School District Superintendent, has been chosen to serve as Grand Marshall.”

He noted that Gateway-area businesses have been associated, in one form or another, since “two years before I was born.”

Leonard’s take on education
“Portland Public Schools has had financial problems; the City has stepped up, donating millions of dollars to help them bridge their gap,” said Leonard. “This is good; but I remind the City Council that there are five [school] districts in Portland, and all are important.

“I’ve been a ‘burr under the saddle’ to make sure all of our districts get the same funding, per capita. Our [outer East Portland] districts are models, in many ways, of how schools should function. I know, because I’ve worked with both Parkrose and David Douglas boards.”

Commissioner Leonard says he’s been a “burr under the saddle” to make sure outer East Portland schools and programs are funded.

Says he represents outer East Portland
GABA’s immediate past president, David Panichello, asked Leonard what the City Counselor thought was his biggest accomplishment.

“Before I got on the City Council, there was no discussion of issues east of 82nd Avenue. Our prior mayor was not happy with me asking for public assistance for East Portland programs. I’ve worked with Lents Urban Renewal. But, I grew up in East Portland; I graduated from Grant High School. I’m proud to advocate for outer East Portland.”

Leonard said his biggest challenge is “getting two additional votes” to pass issues in City Council. “I’ve worked on issues for working-class people. Worked on the towing industry, for example, helping to change regulations. We’ve capped the amount tow companies can charge you‚ and made it possible to pay by credit card.”

The commissioner also voiced his support for the East Portland Community Center swimming pool. “It’s always a challenge getting enough votes for east Portland projects, an area most folks downtown never see.”

Against changes in Portland’s City Charter
“Even if you like the proposed changes, you’d have to be offended on how it ended up on the ballot,” Leonard expressed, as he turned to this timely topic.

Leonard said that a special charter review commission met for 18 months before making specific recommendations. “Then, in one‚ just one‚ single  hearing, the City Council passed a measure to be put on the [May, 2007] ballot with no public input. No‚ public‚ input. Sten and I voted against it. I thought we should have had public input, and that it should be talked about. This measure represents a MAJOR change in how Portland is managed.”

Leonard gives examples of why he’s opposed to the measure to change the City’s Charter that will appear on the May ballot.

Leonard’s take on Charter changes
All of the City’s bureaus are currently administered by City Counselors.

Under the revised Charter, Leonard explained, all bureaus would be directly under the mayor’s control. Indirectly, a new city executive‚ a Chief Administrator Officer‚ would run the city on a day to day basis.

Leonard gave this example; he’s currently in charge of the bureau that issues permits. “Every day we get calls from people with the Bureau of Permits. I don’t just pass legislation, or talk about how the bureau should operate. The staff of that bureau works for me. I can call and get things ‘unstuck’. That [process] will all be lost.”

He gave an example how, when a destitute resident’s water service was cut off, he intervened with the Water Bureau‚ another bureau in his portfolio, to have it turned back on. “I told my people, ‘I want you to go to her house and cut the seal and turn it back on’.”

Another example Leonard gave was regarding an effort for Portland Parks Bureau to “sell Mt. Tabor land to Warner Pacific College. We got a document signed by the Parks Bureau that showed it would be sold on November 6th, even after months of denial. We stopped it. Now, four of five on the Council must agree to sell City property. Under the revised charter, the mayor, alone, can decide to sell public parks land. He [Mayor Tom Potter] defended this, saying it would make it ‘more efficient’.

“We have a strong tie to our parks. Think of Leach Gardens, donated to the city‚ it could be sold, with a stroke of the Mayor’s pen.”

Future of City Council
GABA board member Jon Turino asked what role the City Counselors would play under the proposed new system.

“We [City Counselors] would be relegated to City budgeting. But, all of the budget bureau staff works directly for the mayor. This means all of our questions would be answered by the mayor’s office. We wouldn’t even have our own budget people. The mayor suggests this is a check and balance. There would be no check and balance. Now, we frequently ask questions of one another, regarding our bureau’s budgets.”

In closing, Leonard promised to keep working for outer East Portland residents. “I’m as close as your telephone, or computer e-mail.”

Meet GABA members on April 12
You are welcome to come hear Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman speak at the April 12 Gateway Area Business Association general meeting, at JJ North’s Buffet, located on NE Halsey St. at NE 106th Ave. Networking starts at 11:30 a.m.; reservations are NOT required. For more information, go to

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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