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Hales: Reese should stay, 'Lottery Row' should go

Two weeks into term, mayor hopes to restore confidence in City Hall


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRIS ONSTOTT - Mayor Charlie Hales is looking forward to when Portlanders trust City Hall to spend their money wisely.New Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who took office just two weeks ago, is working well with Police Chief Mike Reese and will soon name an interim director of the embattled city transportation bureau.

Hales is in no hurry to resume talks on annexing west Hayden Island, a natural area where the Port of Portland wants to develop marine terminals. And he’d just as soon see a Hayden Island gambling mecca known as Lottery Row get condemned — quickly — to make way for a new Interstate 5 bridge to Vancouver, Wash.

Hales made his remarks in a wide-ranging interview Monday with the Portland Tribune editorial board. Hales vowed to steer clear of making “political appointments” as bureau heads, promising to hire managers based on expertise and after national searches. He’s already ousted Tom Miller as head of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, a former aide to then-Mayor Sam Adams who was often panned as unqualified.

Hales said he’s not yet sure about retaining David Shaff, the Portland Water Bureau director who faced similar criticism as an appointee of then-Commissioner Randy Leonard.

But he sounds likely to retain Chief Reese, another high-profile Adams hire.

“I’m very happy about Mike Reese,” Hales said. “My sense is that he and I are working well together.”

One of Hales’ highest priorities is steering the police bureau back into more of a community policing mode, and he wants Reese to carry that out.

Noting a scathing audit in the works about city road maintenance, Hales said he’d like to restore public confidence that the city is wisely spending transportation funds.

“We have to show people right out of the gate that we’re serious about prioritizing maintenance,” he said.

That means getting road repairs back on a regular cycle so they don’t deteriorate enough to require more costly replacement.

The city eventually needs new revenue to pave some 60 miles of dirt roads in neighborhoods, Hales said, but he won’t propose anything until regaining the public’s trust.

He is skeptical that Adams’ new “Out of the Mud” program, which lowered the standards for road and sidewalk construction, will make much of a dent in the city’s embarrassing inventory of dirt roads needing paving.

Goodbye Lottery Row?

Hales asked city planners last week to propose new restrictions on apartment developments that have been permitted without tenant parking. On Monday, the mayor said he also asked the transportation bureau to devise a system of residential parking permits in affected areas, such as a seven-block stretch of Southeast Division Street east of 32nd Avenue. That would make it easier for nearby residents to park in front of their homes.

Hales plans to lobby the Legislature to boost school funding to $6.4 billion, saying the $6.1 billion proposed by Gov. John Kitzhaber is not enough.

However, Hales said the higher figure is still a hold-the-line budget that won’t restore lost teacher positions.

Hales expects crucial funding approval within six months for the Columbia River Crossing project, which includes a new bridge and light-rail service to Vancouver plus improvements to I-5 on the Oregon side of the bridge. But he said the project will need design and budget changes to win approval.

Eventually, Hales said he’d like to rethink how the Portland Development Commission functions for the next quarter-century. With 14.6 percent of the city’s land base tied up in urban renewal districts, Hales said he’d like to put more of that back on the regular tax rolls. But he noted it will take several years for the 11 districts to pay off existing debts.

Down the road, Hales sees a need for more urban renewal in the Lloyd District, the area around Southeast 122nd Avenue and Division Street, and 82nd Avenue south of Madison High School.

Hales has been paying attention to Lottery Row, a strip mall with a dozen small outlets that all have video lottery terminals and sell alcohol.

“It’s a big 9-1-1 call generator and it’s a big nuisance to the people who live on the island,” he said.

Hales faulted the state lottery and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for allowing the Lottery Row situation to fester, saying both have a “a confused mission” of trying to earn revenue for the state.