After watching the Portland city council meeting, I, like many of you, was confused. Hungry. Thirsty. So after I ordered a pizza and poured a glass of Merlot, I called up local Commissioner Amanda Fritz to get the Bridgetown scoop.
We talked about public commenters, regret, and looking good for the cameras.
Q: Despite your thick Portland accent, you grew up somewhere else, right?
A: I was born and raised in England.
Q: Have you ever seen council city meetings over there?
A: No, I’ve watched Parliament but not city councils.
Q: Is Parliament similar to the Portland city council?
A: Not really. There’s no citizen testimony–it’s just all politicians pontificating.
Q: Let’s pretend it’s one hour before the council meeting. What are you doing to get in the zone?
A: We get the agenda the week before. So Friday afternoon and Monday and Tuesday my staff are looking at every single issue that’s going to be coming up. When I get to work at about nine on Wednesday, most of the time I’m just remembering to put my no-shine powder on because of the HDTV, getting my tea, getting breakfast.
Q: Portland’s meetings can be brutal. How do you stay focused?
A: For me, it’s not hard because you’ve got dozens of eyes watching you either in the audience or on television. It’s really important that you recognize you’re onstage. Being onstage constantly for three or four hours knowing that thousands of people may be watching at home is exhausting.
Q: I never thought about it that way! Do you have any training as a stage actor?
A: [Laughs] Only what I did in high school.
Q: Say I’m coming in to testify for three minutes. What do I need to do to impress you?
A: What you should’ve done is send in your comments beforehand.
Q: So…don’t come in? That’s your advice?
A: No, do both! There are very few people who could persuade you in three minutes to completely change your mind. Then it’s basically the rules of advertising: tell them, tell them what you told them, and tell them again. And then get other people to testify.
Q: Is there anything you’ve regretted saying during a city council meeting that has stuck with you?
A: I always go home thinking, “gosh, I should have said this instead of that.” Very rarely do you believe that you’ve completely nailed a speech or a performance. So there’s always that “I could have done this better.”
Q: Portland’s HDTV is really amazing. Were you nervous at first that you would have to spend more time in hair and makeup?
A: Well, my hair doesn’t behave anyway, but it was Laural Porter–who is a TV reporter–it was she who festooned me with powder and explained about the “HD shine.” Ever since then, I’ve been dutifully putting my HD powder on before meetings. I’ve noticed that I don’t shine and the boys do. Either nobody’s told them about the powder or else they think it’s not a manly thing to do.
Q: Have you ever nudged one of them and whispered, “Commissioner, you’re shining right now.”
A: We had a commissioner who had a very bald head which would shine rampantly. I may have mentioned it to him but I don’t think he ever took me up on it.
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