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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MTV Cribs With New Commissioner Nick Fish...

Posted by Matt Davis on Tue, Jun 10, 2008 at 1:37 PM

Amy's out of town this week, so it took me precisely 28 hours to decide to muscle in on her city-hall patch and get down there. Actually, I sort of had to go down there, because for all my big talk about "offending your sources," it was sort of necessary to smoke the peace pipe with Commissioner Nick Fish, who was sworn in this morning. [Amy, if you're reading in Minnesota, I promise my motivations were pure! I was joking about the muscling-in! I swear...]

Fish and I had a fairly frank exchange during the Mercury's endorsement interviews, about the downtown rent-a-cops. Now, however, he's the city's commissioner of public works, which means he's going to be working on homeless and housing issues. And rent-a-cops or none, I'm going to want to be covering those...

So I thought I'd start things off on the right foot by asking Fish, who was sworn in this morning, about all the stuff on the walls in his office. MTV Cribs, except...with his office. Because it's amazing what you can find out about a person from the stuff they choose to put up on their walls...and it turns out, you know, Nick Fish is pretty big potatoes.
commissionerfish.jpg
FISH: First day in his office today...

On the wall behind him? That's the gavel used to impeach Nixon, given to Fish's father, 13-term U.S Rep Hamilton Fish Jr, by House Judiciary Committee chair Peter Rodino in the summer of 1974. THE GAVEL USED TO IMPEACH NIXON. That's right. Fish's dad served on the committee. Meanwhile I have a whiteboard on the wall of my office. More Nick-Fish-Naks after the jump.

"It's a day of some anxiety, but it's nice to get this done," said Fish, when I asked him how it felt to be sitting in Erik Sten's office at last. "It's been a long haul, and that was the first time I've had an opportunity to speak in front of my new colleagues. They've made this transition very comfortable for me."

"There's a good vibe in this building at the moment," he continued. "Two of the three races were decided decisively, and I think you could say I received a mandate to get on with the work."

Next Nick-Fish-Nak, a cartoon by Oregonian cartoonist Jack Ohman, on the occasion of Rosa Parks' death. She's sitting at the front of the bus, and the driver's saying "I think this is your stop." Fish thinks it's Ohman's best cartoon. But then, he's a civil rights lawyer. He would.
ohmancartoon.jpg
Fish's mother was Canadian, and there's a poster from the Baie St.Paul arts camp in Quebec, where his family would stop on the way to spend summers up there.
baiestpaul.jpg
When Fish lived in New York, he won the Rudy Bruner Award in 1997 for a groundbreaking supportive housing project in Times Square. "At the time," Fish said, "supportive housing projects were still very controversial. We broke the trend."
rudybruneraward.jpg
A painting by Vancouver-based painter Fred Maurice. It's of a building in the Pearl District. Recognize it? "His work was still affordable when we bought it," Fish joked.
Fredmaurice.jpg
Congressman Barney Frank's House Rules Manual, from when Fish used to work for him...
houserulesmanual.jpg
Fish's great grandfather was the last Democratic mayor of Brooklyn. He got this unassuming donkey for his trouble...
donkey.jpg
Fish's father was the principle house author of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990s. He got this award...
americanswithdisabilities.jpg
Fish's grandfather, Hamilton Fish, was one of the stars of the Warren Beatty movie Reds. He knew Communist journalist John Reed and anarchist Emma Goldman. I've circled him faintly on the poster, towards the top right. "I think this film is one of the best things Warren Beatty ever did," Fish said.
redsposter.jpg
Fish's daughter was baptized at St.Mark's church in the Bowery. When Fish lived there he was president of the Landmark Fund that for ten years preserved the district for the arts. He was given this photo of the church reflected in a window.
bowerychurch.jpg
And here's a New York Times Magazine cover, showing Fish's father in the line-up for Nixon's impeachment. "It was an extraordinary collection of people," Fish said. Just like Portland city council.
impeachmentcommittee.jpg
Cripes. Those are some pretty intimidating walls, Commissioner. Congratulations on your election. And remember: No pressure...but we expect you to do as much with Portland as your family has already done for this country. If not more.

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