Instead, the mayor and his spokeswoman told the Mercury in a recent interview, he'd like the city's next charter commission (whose members have yet to be appointed) to continue tackling police accountability work. The only thing he'll budge on is a short extension, by just a few days, so the commission can vote on a proposal the mayor favors: the creation of a citizens panel to set sewer and water rates.
The short extension would postpone the commission's expiration from March 2, a Friday, to March 5, a Monday. Some charter review commissioners were hoping to keep working, and holding public meetings, through the end of June.
"I'm not supportive of extending the deadline. We've extended it a couple of times," Adams said. "There will be an opportunity in the next charter process to raise these issues. To deliver these things at the last minute, with what appears to be little research, I know this is well-intentioned, but this is not what was envisioned....
"This does not appear, I think, to pass the quality test."
Jo Ann Hardesty, a former state legislator appointed to the charter commission by City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, said she still hopes to schedule a vote on the two crowd-control measures.
But she concedes that the other issue, putting independent police oversight in the charter, is dead for now; the city attorney's office is still parsing over the potential ballot language. The charter commission can put anything on the ballot if 15 of its (currently just) 18 nominal members support it. A vote of 11 can send an item to the city council for consideration.
"If the items around animals and chemicals make it to the ballot, I will consider it a success," she says. "Because what that will do is give us the opportunity to have a public dialogue on what true accountability looks like."
The mayor had already warned Hardesty last year he wouldn't help with police issues. He and his fellow commissioners have been clinging a narrow view of the charter commission's work: Originally, this latest iteration of the panel was meant to handle only housekeeping changes, work that wrapped up earlier this year. And any city staff time and funding had been tied to that mission.
(Worth noting: The utilities panel, an idea backed by Adams in some form since he ran for city council 2004 and recently pitched again by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, has been an exception to that interpretation. It's gotten funding and staff support and political backing.)
It took some time, but eventually, as Hardesty put it, "once the [charter] commissioners found out that the council is really not the boss of them, and they get to look at anything they want to look at," the relationship between the two bodies grew "very adversarial."
Hardesty says that battle wound up eating into what little time the charter commission actually had to take on bigger issues. When she took on the role of accountability champion last fall, after her appointment, she said talk of a proposal to enshrine oversight in the city's charter had already been bandied around for months but was languishing.
An invigorated attempt came from Portland Copwatch:
SUGGESTIONS FOR CHARTER LANGUAGE ON POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
(submitted January 9, 2012 to the Charter Review Commission's Police Accountability Committee)
* The City of Portland will have an adequately staffed, independent civilian agency for handling complaints about police misconduct.
* The agency will perform intake of police misconduct complaints have the authority to investigate complaints and other suspected misconduct, including shootings and deaths in custody.
* A civilian body attached to the agency shall be made up of community members. The civilian body shall address misconduct cases, policy issues, and the agency's efforts to fulfill its mission.
But Hardesty also realized, once she insisted the commission take up police accountability last fall, that there probably wouldn't be time to vet the oversight proposal. And so, while she tried to race for the deadline, she pushed for the two crowd-control proposals, which sprang directly from the cops' rough handling of Occupy Portland protesters.
Adams said he wasn't familiar with the specifics of the oversight proposal, but quibbled with the work on the two crowd-control proposals. He kept calling them "scantly researched" and said he "preferred they be raised and vetted and researched starting earlier in the process." (Not that he or anyone else on the council went out of their way to help encourage that this time around.)
"Neither the police bureau nor my office have been asked for comments, nor has the charter commission asked for basic research," he told me, echoing testimony from the Citizens Crime Commission, an arm of the Portland Business Alliance, that was read aloud at a recent charter commission meeting.
Hardesty says she's sending out letters today inviting the Portland Police Association and the police bureau's training instructors to speak at one of the few remaining meetings before the March deadline.
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