Say the word “Portland” and people think of baristas, bikers, and brunch-guzzling hipsters. But now, I hope you’ll also remember the Rose City for its generous, almost masochistic public comment period.
Rest assured: there was nooooo shortage of comments.
“Vic Remmers is holding my life hostage. The ransom is $700,000,” a woman exhaled, dramatically over-pronouncing everything like a “Shakespeare in the Park” performer. “My dream house…it is going to be demolished. And Vic Remmers said he would replace it with 12 condos. I’m terrified–terrified!”
There was applause from the gallery when she breathlessly finished. “If you have a minute, you can stop in my office and talk to Camille,” Mayor Charlie Hales informed her, casually tossing Camille under the bus.
The council turned to a routine bill about automobile accident investigations and, fortunately for us, was obligated to open up the floor.
“We would like to know if these investigations would include a chief of police shooting his friend, and the mayor covering it up for a month,” the yellow-shirted man tethered to an oxygen tank wheezed.
“We’ll have that conversation some other time,” Mayor Hales warned.
“I’m SURE you don’t want to talk about this, mayor!” gasped the man. “You covered up the shooting over a month where the chief of police lied!”
Hizzoner seethed. “You can testify, but I’m not going to be cross-examined.”
“You should be arrested! You should resign, sir!” roared the man, before wheeling his oxygen tank away.
The next commenter read at length from his beefy packet of papers. “If I can just take a minute to go off topic a bit, we’re in a leadership vacuum. What’s lacking is leadership, due to everyone’s voice being heard,” he complained through a mouth-hole that allowed HIS voice to be heard.
“We just spent 10 minutes on a rant that has nothing to do with this issue,” Commissioner Nick Fish snapped afterward. “I think it’s disrespectful to the people that are actually ahead in the queue.” Subtext: CAN WE GET THROUGH THIS ALREADY?
The final controversial issue was that the Washington Park Reservoir needs to be rebuilt for various reasons–not the least of which is that it isn’t earthquake proof. You would think people would sympathize, buuuuuuttttt…
“This is an offensive bullying tactic by our lame-duck mayor and our unethical, offensive commissioners on behalf of their crony contractors,” a woman barked at the council. They stared bleary-eyed back at her. If there is a purgatory, this comes pretty close to it.
Trying to close on a happy note, Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced: “I want to call to your attention that John Zoller is retiring–”
“What?!” Zoller blurted off camera.
“Am I correct on that?” the bewildered commissioner asked. Then, apologizing for the misinformation, “I’m getting very tired. We’ve been here for three and a half hours!”
Gee, I wonder why.
Final thoughts: Trust me, I left out a lot. Including the guy who goes only by “Lightning” and the man in a pink ballcap who commented so many times that I lost count. I give this meeting 4 out of 5 muscle relaxers.