On March 20 I had the opportunity to meet with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Let me first state that for those who are not aware, Mayor Wheeler is a Democrat and I am a Republican, and a local elected official. That being said, the mayor and I had a great discussion on many topics about how our cities might cooperate and the legislative priorities of not only Portland, but all of the cities in the metro region.
We met in the mayor's conference room within the mayor's office. When I asked why we were meeting there rather than in his office, his answer not only surprised but impressed me a great deal. Wheeler said that he doesn't use the traditional office of the mayor; instead he uses a space in the back with what he calls his team. Wheeler believes he needs to be close to and among that team to be most effective. This is a distinct departure from past "imperial" mayors. I got the sense from not only him, but his team, that they are working hard to find solutions to the city's problems.
The most disturbing issue we talked about was the constant disruption of the Portland City Commission meetings by a handful of protesters bent on preventing any business from being conducted. I believe in the First Amendment and that all citizens have the right to be heard by their elected officials. I don't believe that those same citizens should have the right to prevent other citizens or elected officials from being heard or conducting the business which they were duly elected to conduct.
This puts the mayor between a rock and a hard space. Here is my solution to the problem: The citizens of Portland from the left, right and center, independent and unaffiliated, who believe that everyone has a right to speak and that the Portland City Commission has important daily work to do, as well as far-ranging policy decisions to make, should start showing up to those meetings. Peer pressure can be a very powerful tool. Don't disrupt or pick fights, just overwhelm the protesters with sheer numbers of average folks who want to see Portland be "The City That Works."
The mayor and I will disagree on many policy questions over the next years. However, I am convinced that Mayor Wheeler's motives are to do what he feels is in the best interests of all Portlanders. To the protesters, I say the mayor is probably in agreement with you 80 percent of the time, so maybe a little more dialogue and a lot less screaming would go further in accomplishing your goals unless, of course, disruption is the goal. If so, that is not the way a representative republic works.
As my mother is fond of saying, "you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." In other words, talking to one another and human interaction between individuals makes it much harder, if not impossible, to hate your adversary.
To all Portlanders, I say you elected, from what I can see, a fair, dedicated, qualified and honest man as your mayor. Give him a chance to lead.
Dan Holladay is the mayor of Oregon City.