Interview #6: Portland, OR Commissioner Amanda Fritz

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.

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Portland, OR Commissioner Amanda Fritz

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.


Follow Commissioner Amanda Fritz on Twitter: @AmandaFritzRN

#23: Portland, OR 5/25/16

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.

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Vic Remmers may be bad, but this video quality is GOOD!

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.

(I normally don’t do background research on what I hear at council meetings. But it turns out, this routine crazy person actually DID have a point.)

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WELP, THAT WAS UNCOMFORTABLE.

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.

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We could protect the reservoir from earthquakes and landslides…or listen to the angry lady.

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.