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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ssssh: Observations From a Secret Meeting

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Hey everyone. Remember me? I'm the new News Editor 'round these parts. You may have seen my photo yesterday. Of course you did! You never miss a post!

Anyway, so I showed up for my first Portland City Council meeting today. w00t! But here's the rub: I can't tell a soul about what was discussed. Because it's the "rules."

Tuesday's meeting was what's called an "executive session," meaning the council gets to talk freely among themselves and their aides and others about thorny issues they don't want the public to know about. Not yet, at least.

Not the Portland City Council
  • Not the Portland City Council

As expected, the whole thing's pretty relaxed. They sit around the large table in the middle of the room, surrounded by a coterie of bureaucrats while sipping from coffee cups (wait, aren't those against the rules, too?) and cracking wise.

(Looking at the empty dais behind them, I kept thinking of Showbiz Pizza, when the animatronic band would go dark between sets.)

But the subject matter is anything but frivolous. Usual topics? Think things like negotiations with public employee unions, or discussions of legal settlements. Lots of money affecting lots of people.

On today's agenda, f'r'instance:

Council will be holding an executive session to conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to carry on labor negotiations, as provided under ORS 192.660(2)(d).

Helpful, isn't it? In other states, and even other cities, those sessions are so secretive they don't even let journalists in. But not in Portland. You can come, but so help you God if you open your trap.

Representatives for the news media will be allowed to attend but may not disclose or report on the matters discussed.
So what can I tell you? Not much else, because I can't break the rules. And the meeting lasted scarcely more than an hour. But, also because I promised.

Before the thing got started, Mayor Sam Adams, kindly surveyed the room: "Is there anyone in this room who isn't a city employee?"

I raised my hand. "Hi. Denis Theriault, Portland Mercury." (The middle initial is for print only.)

And then Adams fired again before getting down to the business actually before council members: "Do you understand the rules?"

"Clearly. Thanks."

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