A day after Mayor Sam Adams balked at the hefty pricetag associated with hosting an Oregon Public Broadcasting-hosted Republican presidential debate in March, OPB showed up in the city council chambers after this morning's meeting to
confront kindly ask him about his reasons.
Adams was happy to oblige. He implied the news station and the state GOP were amateurish for not formally consulting with the cash-strapped city before firming up plans for the debate, currently on tap for OPB's remote offices out on SW Macadam.
"This is the first time I've ever experienced," he said in the OPB chat, using his favorite metric, "in my 20 years in government," "when city government hasn't been consulted" about a major political event.
Update January 10: I need to correct the record and note that the interview was technically with the Northwest News Network's Colin Fogarty. The network counts a handful of public radio stations as members, including OPB, but is not strictly OPB.
He also said whatever visibility the debate might bring to Portland—a selling point raised in the interview and also by GOP officers—was "not worth the local cost." And he actually has a point. Portland's name already graces a basic-cable sketch show (that's getting write-ups in big East Coast magazines). It's unclear how, exactly, a little-watched dime-a-dozen debate will make any more of a splash.
"It's the best of intentions in the worst of budget times," Adams said.
Of course, there's nothing much he can do about it. And now he's working out how to keep costs down while bracing not only for an influx of politicians and their staffers, but also a crush of protesters (hello, Occupy Portland!) and counter-protesters.
OPB and the state GOP meanwhile, say it's still game-on, although maybe they'll listen to the city when it comes to finding ways to lower expenses, Adams told me. During the OPB chat he also said he refused an unidentified liberal group's request for a general election debate for the same reasons.
Adams told me the standoff over the GOP debate was "analogous" to his approach to Occupy, which has cost the city close to $2 million in police overtime largely because of the aggressive way the city decided, initially, to monitor protests. Adams would rather not have to spend much money on debate security (which he says will require cuts elsewhere in the budget), but he will if the debate organizers insist on plowing forward without talking to his office or the police bureau.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!