Sources Say: Wheeler amplifies criticisms of city's homeless response
Mayor Ted Wheeler badly misjudged the wisdom of trying to get ahead of the homeless special KGW-TV ran on Monday with his own Friday news conference. He generated far more coverage of the special — and the bad news it included for Portland and Multnomah County leaders — that it would have received otherwise.
Announcing the news conference caused the station to post the poll featured in the special on Thursday, and then included it in Friday, Saturday and Sunday news reports before the special was broadcast. The poll results also were reported by other media outlets before then, including the Portland Tribune and The Oregonian, which used the news conference to preview its own Sunday story about the impact of the homeless on Portland's neighborhoods.
Wheeler also made a mistake by not having any fully funded new homeless initiaitves to announce at the news conference, prompting one reporter to ask, "Why are we even here?"
Wheeler has some good points
It's easy to understand why Wheeler was upset about the results of the poll, which he saw while KGW-TV was preparing its special, titled "Tent City USA."
As Wheeler correctly noted at the news conference, homelessness is a significant problem in many major cities, not just Portland.
The current crisis took off under former Mayor Charlie Hales, who relaxed the city ban on outdoor camping, causing the homeless to become much more visible. And Wheeler has only been in office nine months.
Despite all that, the poll found that 57 percent of Portlanders are dissatisfied with Wheeler's handling of the homeless situation. And 46 percent feel the same about Mulnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury.
Smith runs against county
Because Jo Ann Hardesty is president of the NAACP of Portland, you'd think she would have the edge over Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith on civil rights issues in their race for the City Council. But since Smith announced for the seat that Commissioner Dan Saltzman is vacating, she's generated more press than Hardesty by targeting the county government she is leaving.
For example, on Sept. 27, Smith held a news conference to call for an outside investigation of what she termed "entrenched bias" at the county.
It followed a settlement worth $165,000 with former public health director Tricia Tillman, an African-American fired by white health department director Joanne Fuller, who abruptly retired. Appearing with Smith was former Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland, the first African-American woman to serve in the Oregon Legislature and state Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, the only African-American legislator from Portland.
Then, on Oct. 5, Smith issued a statement denoucing anti-Muslim graffiti found in an employee break room at the health department. She used it to repeat her call for an outside investigation into the county.