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December 22nd, 2010 BETH SLOVIC | News Stories
 

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Enjoying your holiday? Here’s how much time off City Council took in 2010.

     
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If you’re scrambling to finish your Christmas shopping, there are five Portlanders you can safely cross off your last-minute gift list.

Why?

Because you’ve already given those five people, Portland’s four city commissioners and the mayor, a precious gift—unlimited vacation time. That’s on top of annual salaries of about $100,000 for a commissioner and $118,000 for the mayor.

One of the perks of elected office in the “City That Works” is no official cap on vacation days. That means the only thing between an elected official and a weekday pass at Mount Hood Meadows is the voting public. It’s up to them to judge whether a commissioner or the mayor is using too many vacation days—or just the right amount.

Which is why WW this week brings you a year-end report focused on how much vacation Portland leaders took in 2010.

1. Commissioner Randy Leonard, who got remarried in 2010, took the most vacation days, with a total of 34 days. During one of Leonard’s vacations in May, the mayor and the rest of the commissioners diverted money from the Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau’s maintenance fund while finalizing Portland’s 2010-11 budget, Leonard says. That decision riled Leonard, a former firefighter who oversees the Fire Bureau, and prompted him to place a $72.4 million fire maintenance bond on the November ballot to replace aging safety apparatus. Voters narrowly approved that money measure. Leonard also took a two-week trip to Scotland in October. Leonard’s vacation time doesn’t approach that of former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, a potential mayoral candidate in 2012, who in 2002 famously called it “a sin” to be indoors in August. In 2001, Hales took 48 vacation and personal days, The Oregonian reported.

2. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who won re-election to his fourth term last May, took a total of 29 vacation days in 2010, or 30 if you include Rosh Hashanah. For sake of comparison, the most senior city bureaucrats with 25 or more years of service get 25 days of vacation a year. That means Saltzman, who oversees the Bureau of Environmental Services, took more vacation than BES director Dean Marriott earned in 2010; as a 16-year employee, Marriott got 20 days. All but two of Saltzman’s 29 days off came after his election win (and after Mayor Sam Adams stripped him of the Portland Police Bureau). His longest time off came in September and October, when he spent three weeks in Spain. “I took my daughter to Spain and dropped her off at school there,” Saltzman says of his fall break. “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime [trip]. I don’t think I can think of the last time I took that much time off at one time.”

3. Commissioner Nick Fish sits in the middle of many issues, serving as a swing vote on PGE Park’s renovation for Major League Soccer and other contentious topics. He is similarly placed in the middle of our survey with 21 days of vacation, not including a four-day trip to New York City to accept an award from an anti-homelessness nonprofit where he once volunteered. “Many of us [commissioners] work seven days a week,” Fish says. “We don’t get credit for working on weekends.”

4. Mayor Sam Adams may be known for his frequent trips to promote Portland’s “green” reputation. In 2010 he flew to Stockholm, Detroit, Calgary and Washington, D.C., among several other cities. But in terms of actual vacation, Adams is stingier. The mayor took (or plans to take) 15 days, mostly around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. “Sam likes to take ‘staycations,’” a spokesman writes in an email. “During these times, however, he often ends up working.”

5. A scheduler for Commissioner Amanda Fritz offered a complicated formula for calculating Fritz’s vacation days. It comes down to this: Fritz did no city-related work on just 23 days, as of Dec. 20. However, only nine of those “off” days were workdays, including six days in England to celebrate her mom’s 80th birthday. (The others fell on weekends or holidays.) She also worked 52 weekend days and holidays, but we’re offering no bonus points for that, since most commissioners could boast similar records. Between now and year’s end, Fritz may take six more days, which would tie her with Adams. “I don’t compare myself with others,” Fritz writes in an email. “I simply work as hard as possible to serve the people of Portland.”

 
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