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Guidelines for Portland's New Mayor

Note: As Portland considers a new mayor, an interview with Small Businessman Steve Gann of Gann Publishing was made to offer guidelines and insight on what that new mayor must do to improve Portland.

            The city of Portland seems to be in chaos. Construction cost overruns, crime rampant, traffic congestions, water and sewer lines poorly maintained and bridges in disrepair while public funds are used for favored enterprises, lack of accountability for million-dollar mistakes, and a disenfranchised electorate.

            For years, the elected officials that have run the city of Portland have slowly been moving away from simply addressing the basic responsibilities of running the city—such as public safety; transportation, water, sewer and other city services. They have expanded their reach into areas that have drained money needed to provide these basic services and have competed with private enterprise. This not only weakens the cities economic base but has placed even greater tax demands on the residents.

            The decisions as to whether a city will run efficiently and effectively starts at the top with the mayor. It is up to him or her to see that the cities work gets done and money is not wasted. The decisions on how citizens want the city to run then rests with the people in their selection process for their mayor. Unfortunately, too often, picking a mayor becomes more about personalities and philosophies than job performance, education, and experience.

            Even though all are important criteria, personalities and philosophies are visionary traits rather than action traits. To have a strong city, its leaders must show they have the ability to get the job done. To have a city that is economically strong, vibrant, and thriving the most critical criteria must be about job performance, education, and experience.

            The mayor is accepting the responsibilities of an office of great importance and should be expected and prepared to show he/she can meet at least these basic criteria.

· Performance: fiscal and people management success in public or private sector

· Education: ability to analyze numbers, interpret contracts, effective communication skills

· Experience: social service volunteer and private business

· Personality: disciplined, fiscally responsible, common sense; and the ability to work with citizens, businesses, and public entities

· Philosophy: intent to serve the public, rather than personal or special interests

Portland’s new mayor should be prepared to:

· Implement a plan to accomplish the responsibilities of city government. It begins with reading the City Charter and prioritizing the definitive areas that the city is charged with doing for its people. Striving to do well, what they are called to do in the charter will not only save taxpayer dollars but provide for a greater quality of life for the people within the city.

· Set goals toward achieving measured results.

· Establish citizen task force and ombudsman to elicit input on the needs of the people and the cities performance.

· Have a budget plan that focuses on cost savings, instead of spending. Establishing dedicated funds to cover the basic city priorities. 

· Reinvigorate and encourage volunteerism.

· Requiring preventive management of city services. Fixing water mains before pipes break.

· Requiring an open and competitive bidding process. Holding builders to contract bids, and penalties for performance delays.

· Establish measurable performance criteria for city employees. Providing incentives for fiscal responsibility and accountability for poor results.

            The residents of Portland need to demand a mayor be able to stand up to a deliberative venting process. A process that shows not only who they are, but what they see their responsibilities are as a mayor and the scope of Portland city government. Will they continue depleting city funds on pet projects, “greening” up the city, competing with private development or funding schools, or will they return city government’s focus back to the priorities established in the City Charter—a move that can take the city from chaos to genuine quality.