From The Editor

A reader’s provocative question

Recently we had the opportunity to greet a reader we know in person, and that individual had a question for us, based on what had been seen on “social media”. After telling us what the rumor was, the question for us was: Did we think what had been suggested online could possibly have any validity?

It will not surprise many people who have experience with social media to learn that the rumor was a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy in question was that somehow Portland’s City Council had conspired with “big developers” to bring about the current chaotic situation with homeless tents on city streets and gangsters with guns shooting up the town to bring down property values – so greedy developers would be able to snap properties up at discounted prices to build big developments and make millions!

This conspiracy theory overlooks that such evil developers, in this manner getting cheap property to develop, would have undermined their ability to profit by having made Portland an undesirable place to be! (Take a look at what happened in Detroit.) It also overlooks that the Portland City Council is composed of several people with very different views who seem unable to agree on much of anything, let along conspire secretly on a specific unethical plan.

Our reply, based on our observations of the Rose City’s government and how it is working, was “no”. What we actually said was, “The real reason for all the discord, damage, and death in Portland is even more depressing. The reason, I’m afraid, is incompetence.”

By that your editor was not impugning any the five elected individuals who compose the City Council; they may well be doing the best they can.

Instead, it is our belief that Portland’s quaint form of city government, which has never worked in a city our size (which is why efforts to change it began within a year of adopting the Commissioner form of government a century ago!) is now, today, working so badly that “The City That Works” has almost completely broken down.

We have editorialized more than once recently about the need for Portland to adopt a form of city government that actually functions in a city this size, and we look forward to having a chance to vote in favor of such a change in the next year to year and a half.

But, if you have any doubts about the need finally to make this change, please observe that the dysfunction starts at the top, and affects the whole city: There are five City Counselors, of whom one is also the Mayor. The Mayor is elected at large to be in charge of the Council, but the other four (also elected at large) do not have any individual specific duties or requirements – other than simply serving on the City Council – even though each, including the Mayor, will be in charge (temporarily) of some of the Bureaus that actually run the city.

Those who are elected to the Council these days (1) do not represent any particular section of the city, (2) are not required to come from different sections of the city, and (3) do not have to have any expertise in any of the fields that the Bureaus are in charge of!

As a result, because Counselors do not each represent a different section of the city, most have always had a tendency focus their attention on Downtown Portland. And because they don’t have to live in specific different sections of the city, historically most of them have come from Downtown, or the close-in suburbs.

Further, because the Mayor assigns the Bureaus that each Counselor will lead, and can change them even for those who are re-elected and continue to serve, not only do the Bureaus find themselves directed by their Counselor into different emphases, policies, and priorities every time they have a new Counselor leading them – but they are usually led by a Counselor who has no specific expertise in whatever the Bureau does.

So, our City Council does not fairly and equally represent the voters in all parts of the city; is not represented by Counselors who have experience living in specific different parts of the city; and who got elected primarily on specific issues that they emphasized during the election, and who as a result often have a narrow focus on specific issues they want to address while in office – which may or may not have much relevance to the Bureaus they oversee.

It is no wonder a certain cynicism is observable at the Bureau level – the policies and directions they are told to follow are at the whim of the latest Counselor who is in charge, and if you just wait a while, they and the Counselor in charge will probably be changing again.

For full representation of all areas of the city, and for consistent leadership of city government, virtually all the alternatives for running a big city like ours would work better than this! That’s even been evident to at least two of the current Counselors themselves, who each have spoken out in favor of change.

We, ourselves, think some form of a City Manager form of government, with an expanded City Council with geographic representation reflecting all parts of the city, makes a lot of sense, with the paid officials in charge of each Bureau being selected for their expertise and effectiveness.

So, to repeat, our answer to that question posed by our reader was, “Portland’s current state of affairs, I’m afraid, is just due to incompetence.”

And it is time, in our view, for all of us to obtain a more competent form of city government – one that restores this great city to what it has been in the past, and needs to be in the future.

Don’t you think?

Letters to the Editor
Reader Koehler provided these before-and-after photos. If you see a splitting crossarm, call PGE! Alas, you may notice, only the crossarm was replaced – the old pole is still held together at the top just with bolts!
Reader Koehler provided these before-and-after photos. If you see a splitting crossarm, call PGE! Alas, you may notice, only the crossarm was replaced – the old pole is still held together at the top just with bolts!

Look up, now and then!


Southeast 32nd Avenue narrowly averted an electrical catastrophe recently. I happened to glance up at the ancient utility pole directly in front of my family’s house, and noticed the horizontal support beam was splitting, and was about to take three power lines with it. To PGE’s credit, an inspector showed up within the hour. As this is a family newspaper, I won’t quote him exactly, but the gist was: “Oh Darn!” 

Shortly thereafter, we saw an army of PGE workers: Half-a-dozen trucks, two cherry pickers, and a brave man who climbed the pole. The street only lost power for 45 minutes.  But if you were one of the sports fans nearby watching the Dodgers game on October 11th, and you wondered why everything went dark during the 9th inning with two outs… you know! 

Please observe the BEFORE and AFTER pictures – then take a minute to check the utility poles near your house, and in your neighborhood. And please join me in encouraging PGE to bury their power lines, or at the very least, to replace the oldest utility poles, many of which resemble battered driftwood, and may date back to when many Southeast Portland neighborhoods were built – 100 or more years ago!

Kimberly Koehler

Vickie Walch sent along this picture of this year’s Sellwood marchers stopping for candy at her “Fat Albert’s” A-frame and table near Sellwood Community House.
Vickie Walch sent along this picture of this year’s Sellwood marchers stopping for candy at her “Fat Albert’s” A-frame and table near Sellwood Community House.

About the Moreland Monster March


To my disappointment, I found out that SMBA was not going to have the Moreland Monster March for the second year, due to the pandemic. So the Sellwood Community House came up with a Spooktacular to feature a little march, which was to start there at 5:15 p.m. and end there, with more games and events after that. I think that they’re doing a great job with the Sellwood Community House, though I’m a bit disappointed their march didn’t start in Westmoreland at Llewellyn as usual, and then just end up there; but I still wanted to participate on behalf of my business, Fat Albert’s Breakfast Café. I decided to bring a table, my A-frame sign, a bowl of candy, and my dishwasher and myself, and we went over to the Community House to continue our tradition and hand out candy. It was great to see the kids, and I was glad that people could still participate in a march. I’m sure a fun time was had by all, and we enjoyed handing out the candy! But I’m still hoping SMBA is able once again to present their huge Moreland Monster March next year, though!

Vickie Walsh


Perspective on policing


Today the public expects the police to be the Swiss Army Knife of public servants. Yet the public (and politicians) vilify the police when they fail to exhibit advanced understanding in family dynamics, conflict de-escalation, psychological expertise, and a myriad other specialties that are actually the purview of “experts”.

How unfair. And how did the public come to expect a police officer to be everything to everyone? The answer – politicians, and unrealistic public expectations.

I was a police officer for over 20 years. When I started in 1980, police officers enforced laws and investigated crimes. Period!

Then the idea of “Broken Windows” was instituted. And guess what? Paying attention to little crimes actually reduced the bigger crimes. Proactive policing and not reactive policing works better. But Broken Windows became politicized when statistics showed minorities were making up many of the arrests. Then politicians decided “Doing more with less” was the order of the day. Subsequently police budgets were level-funded or cut.

Then state and federal dollars were reduced in 1985, and domestic violence and mental health workers were impacted. And lo and behold, these responsibilities fell to police officers – with no additional funding or training.

Now, we have the “Defund the Police” movement. Some politicians think they know more about public safety than police. They don’t! And cities (including Portland) are facing record shootings and murders. And still politicians deny that defunding the police and reducing police budgets are the “cause and effect” of massive murder and shooting increases.

The bottom line is that certain segments of society know nothing about police work, and are too blinded by rhetoric and disdain for police to learn. Yet they expect to impact public policy. This is foolish. I agree that police need additional training. I agree that police need to be accountable! But, they need support and funding – not anti-police politicians who want control, but not the responsibility when things go wrong.

Wake up Portland, or live with increased response times and increased crime. Quit letting others make decisions that impact your own safety.

William J. Wolfe
via e-mail

Letters to the Editor may be submitted via e-mail by clicking HERE.

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.


Comments? News tips?

Click here to e-mail us!

Note to readers: At some point, this, our original Internet website, will be replaced at this web address by our new website, as part of the Community Newspapers group. At that time, you will still be able to access this, our original -- and smartphone-friendly -- website, if you save this address: You'll still have your choice of which one to visit!