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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Ruiz Questions, Part Two: "It was just these canned questions...it just felt like window dressing. I just didn't get a sense that I was part of a real interview, like there was no integrity to it."

Posted by Matt Davis on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Just so we're completely transparent, here, an Adams staffer just gave this reporter a cup of tea:
3620/1232482038-cupoftea.jpg
Tea: Notice it's "passion" variety...

I'm still in the lobby of Adams' office. No sign of the big man, yet, but plenty of activity. Staffers are moving back and forth behind the glass wall in the lobby, like rabbits in traps, frantically trying to gnaw their own legs off before the trappers come.

Meanwhile, I've tracked down another person who applied for former Mercury news editor Amy Ruiz's new $55,000 a year job as sustainability adviser to the mayor. The person had six years experience in planning and sustainability when they applied for the job late last year.

"The position asked for at least two years' experience in urban planning," they say, "and a masters degree was preferred, or at least a bachelor's degree."

Ruiz had no experience in urban planning, or a masters degree. Adams' Senior Policy Director Lisa Libby was the only person conducting interviews. I've cut and pasted the text of the job posting, after the jump.

"She sent out an email to all the applicants before the interviews, saying they'd be really quick interviews," says the former applicant. "All the candidates had demonstrated the knowledge and experience necessary beforehand, they said, but the interviews would be to identify who would be the best fit for the office, and why."

Questions during the candidate's interview were restricted to weaknesses, strengths, and barriers to getting the job done. In the interview, no chief of staff was present, which is also customary in interviews for city jobs, just Libby.

"It felt like I wasn't really being listened to," says the former applicant. "It was just these canned questions, and not really asking me what I'd bring to the office. It just felt like window dressing. I just didn't get a sense that I was part of a real interview, like there was no integrity to it."

When the mayor's office sent out an email announcing a candidate had been chosen, the letter said "another candidate's qualifications and experience more closely match our requirements," the applicant says. "So if somebody is getting in there without even the basic requirements for the job, that pisses me off."

"Having some political experience would definitely qualify you, partially, for the position," the former applicant continues. "But only partially. These are some pretty intense planning issues, you really need to have some kind of on the ground planning experience to do the job. I'm pretty disappointed that he'd pick someone that didn't have some kind of on the ground experience of that kind, with experience in regional and local planning."

"This is showing that Adams is not putting Portland first, which was the crux of his campaign," the former applicant continues. "The principles of fair play and honesty are lost, and he's lost my trust. It also casts a considerable shadow of doubt on the qualifications of Adams' other current staff."

Three years ago, Adams personally pushed through a council lobbying ordinance that forbade city hall employees from quitting their jobs to work for lobbying companies in Portland, for at least a year. “The public deserves this transparency,” he said, at the time. And yet, with other, better qualified candidates applying, Adams seemingly saw no conflict of interest or transparency issues in hiring a reporter, whose qualifications for the job have since been publicly questioned, who had confronted Adams with this potentially explosive story less than a year previously.

Also: Libby just went out for lunch with a couple of planners. They asked Libby: "Amy's not coming?"

"No," said Libby. "Amy's not coming."

Awkward silence.

"Whenever a reporter who has been covering a public official is hired by that official there are always concerns about appearance and about ethical conflicts," says Tim Gleason, the Dean of the University of Oregon's School of Journalism. "Absent a bright line between the journalist and someon in the news, there's always the threat that there'll be a perception of conflict."

Now Hiring: Planning Policy Analyst
By Tom Miller
Ask most Portlanders why they choose to live here and they'll say it's a great place to call home. Creating a great home doesn't just happen; it takes thoughtful and even bold planning, with a commitment to act on those plans.
Today most agree that yesterday's plans serve Portland well, but what about tomorrow? The Portland region is expected to grow by another million people in the next 30 years. Should we fear that growth? Should we plan to simply maintain the quality of life we enjoy today? Or should we take bold steps and create a city plan that makes Portland a better, more livable place?
Sam believes in bold steps and as Mayor-Elect he is committed to ensuring the city's comprehensive planning effort for the next 30 years, the "Portland Plan," makes Portland an even better place than it is today. Do you share that vision? Do you have the skills and tenacity to work really hard to make this happen? If so, we want you to join Sam's team.
We are currently looking for a Planning Policy Analyst, who will be a member of the Planning Team and will report to the Planning Strategies Manager. You will assist in developing and supporting policies and initiatives that maintain and enhance the livability and sustainability of Portland, and facilitate the City of Portland's strategic planning goals.
Qualified applicants will have experience with urban planning and familiarity with the issues facing Portland, as well as the work of the Bureau of Planning and Mayor-Elect Sam Adams. Strong writing, research, communication, and critical thinking skills are essential, along with a demonstrated ability to build working relationships with and between citizens, interest groups, and businesses. Our office is an intense and exciting place to work and it demands flexibility, adaptability, and a decent sense of humor.
Applicants with a Master's degree or a Bachelor's degree, with 2 years related work experience in urban planning, political science, public administration, public policy or a closely related field are strongly preferred.
Responsibilities will include research, coordination, development, and evaluation of City programs and policies covering broad and diverse subject areas. These areas will include strategic and comprehensive planning, land use, environmental conservation and sustainable development.
General administrative support will also be required, as needed.
If you are intelligent, passionate, and motivated to help make Portland an even greater place, please submit a one-page cover letter, resume, three references, and a maximum three-page writing sample by Monday, November 17th to:
Tom Miller, Chief of Staff
Office of Commissioner Sam Adams
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 220
Portland, Oregon 97204
Please no email or phone inquiries. Applicants of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

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