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Focus 12 mayors race on crucial issues

Our Opinion

There has been a great deal of speculation lately - and some actual declarations - about who will run for Portland mayor in the November 2012 election.

We are pleased to see quality candidates - including former City Commissioner Charlie Hales and New Seasons co-founder Eileen Brady - enter into potential competition against a still-damaged, but reinvigorated Sam Adams.

Adams hasn't said yet that he definitely is running, but he is behaving like a mayor with an eye on re-election. And other candidates are flirting with the notion of being mayor. Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, former U.S. Senate candidate Steve Novick, former city Commissioner Jim Francesconi and current Commissioner Dan Saltzman are among them.

It's always entertaining to discuss who might compete for an important position, but the coming mayor's race must focus less on personalities and more on the concerns of typical Portlanders. So putting aside, for a moment, the question of who will run, here is a short list of what they should be discussing when the campaign formally gets under way:

• Fostering high value job creation within the city - and supporting job creation throughout the region. The priority here is not to attract jobs for the sake of jobs, but to encourage employment in industries that mirror the region's economic strategies and that take into account Portland's role as a transportation hub. Portland also is a place where high-value manufacturing can continue and where innovation around issues of sustainability is prevalent.

• Making a new commitment to public safety. Citizens increasingly wonder if downtown and neighborhood districts are safe. They also believe that too many deaths and too many exchanges of gun fire occurring in the City of Roses. Their sense of security is challenged by aggressive panhandling, especially downtown. Underlying these concerns about safety and livability is the question of whether Portland can increase its ratio of police officers to population served - because that is a true measure of whether enough officers will be on duty to provide a sense of security.

• Establishing a dialogue with TriMet about the future expansion and operation of Portland Streetcar. The streetcar is an essential part of a balanced transportation system for the city and region. But given the chance that streetcar service may expand to Lake Oswego, for example, it is time for a greater definition of roles and responsibilities between the city and TriMet.

• Examining how the city will finance itself in the future. The public has grown weary of special fees and water rates being used to fund not only infrastructure and services, but also loosely connected initiatives such as the purchase of natural areas or paying for sustainable street systems and pathways for walking and biking.

• Making something worthwhile happen in the Rose Quarter, where discussions about the future of the district have dragged on for months and years. It's time to see action that brings renewed development to valuable, but still underutilized land.

• Pushing ahead with the Columbia River Crossing project, which is essential to the economic health of Portland and the entire Northwest. In this regard, the next mayor must be prepared to support the efforts of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

• Promoting regional partnerships. While Portland is the largest city in the metro area, efforts to reach out and engage as partners with the area's other municipalities need to continue. Adams has expanded such outreach, but the future requires even more cooperation on matters such as transportation, economic development, water policy, affordable housing and crime prevention.

• Acting more strategically. The City Council - not just the next mayor - needs to follow and achieve an overall strategic plan for the city. The council and mayor must not become distracted by the diverse initiatives or cadence of five different drummers - the mayor and the four city commissioners. The city's strategic plan - the Portland Plan - addresses the importance of education, healthy neighborhoods and a robust economy. The next mayor, whether Adams or someone else, must be able to build consensus on the council to work collectively toward those goals.