Portland bureau shakeup catches Amanda Fritz off-guard

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/07/charlie_hales_bureau_shakeup_c.html

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced Wednesday that he’s reshuffling oversight of two city bureaus, a move that apparently blindsided Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Fritz lost control of the Bureau of Development Services, an assignment she’s held since June 2013. The bureau has been plagued by low morale, shifting policy directives and an off-track paperless permitting system projected to be years late and over budget.

Hales’ decision is expected to add to an already frosty relationship between the mayor and Fritz.

Before Hales’ public announcement, The Oregonian/OregonLive spoke with Fritz about a potential City Hall shakeup. Asked about the possibility of losing the Bureau of Development Services, Fritz said she had no indication it would happen.

“That would be unfortunate,” she said during a 2 p.m. interview, adding that bureau leadership and her policy staff have worked hard to “address issues that need to be addressed.”

At 4 p.m., Hales sent out a statement announcing the shakeup. Commissioner Dan Saltzman has now been assigned oversight of the Bureau of Development Services, which he led from 2011 to early 2013.

As part of the reshuffling, Hales moved the Office of Neighborhood Involvement from his portfolio back to Fritz, who oversaw the office from 2009 through early 2013. The changes will go into effect July 15.

“The changes I’m making match the interests, skills and experience of their new commissioners-in-charge,” Hales said in a statement.

Fritz, before Hales’ announcement, said the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is “always on my wish list.” But Fritz said losing the Bureau of Development Services and replacing it with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement would leave her with a lighter workload than she’d like.

Hales said the moves “reinforce the alignment” of similar responsibilities. Fritz already oversees Portland Parks & Recreation, and Saltzman leads the Portland Housing Bureau, which helps pay for affordable housing projects.

Portland is the only large U.S. city with a commission form of government, in which the mayor and commissioners serve as legislators and individually oversee bureaus. One of the mayor’s key responsibilities is divvying out assignments.

Hales and Fritz haven’t always seen eye to eye.

In 2013, Fritz initially voted against Hales’ budget, giving a lengthy speech that picked apart spending decisions. She has privately complained that the mayor often cancels scheduled meetings. And earlier this year, Fritz said she was “disgusted” by downtown planning efforts championed, in part, by Hales.

For her part, Fritz has proved an unreliable swing vote on one of the city’s most controversial topics – a proposed street fee. Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick spent months trying to win over Fritz, but she ultimately wouldn’t vote in favor.

Problems on the City Council reached seemingly unprecedented levels this year, when Hales and the four commissioners met with a mediator to sort out differences in private.

Fritz did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Hales’ announcement.

Hales and Fritz are up for re-election in 2016.

— Brad Schmidt

bschmidt@oregonian.com

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