Ray Horton is fed up.
Like a lot of Portlanders, he resents the idea that households might have to pay a $144-per-year fee to pave streets. And he's irritated by what he views as the high-handed city leaders who pursued the idea.
But the 69-year-old Mount Tabor resident and retired graphic designer hasn't just griped at his local coffee shop. He's going after the two people he holds most responsible: Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick.
On July 11, Horton filed paperwork to recall Hales and Novick from office for "failure to exercise fiduciary duties."
Horton—a lifelong Portlander who owns three Model A Fords and isn't registered with any political party—has never gotten involved in politics before. But he says he represents citizens who feel alienated from a city government that ignores them unless it wants more money.
He talked to WW about why he has taken up a fight he knows isn't likely to succeed.
WW: What made you decide to try to recall the mayor and a city commissioner?
It started with the street tax, but it's really not about the street tax. Both Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick have a dismissive attitude toward people who express concerns about budgeting. [At a May 29 City Hall hearing], Novick in particular was willing to argue with anyone who brought up a valid point. It was that almost hostile attitude that really pushed me over the edge.
So that triggered your recall effort?
The thing that really set me off was Mr. Novick saying, "We're going to do this, and if people don't like it, they can vote us out in 2016." That was the height of arrogance. I said, "We don't have to wait for 2016."
Why are you upset at Portland government?
You just get discontented as you get older, and I'm no different than most people. But I also think there's an attitude from City Hall that, oh boy, there's new people moving in, and we'll make a lot of money here.
I feel the city is my enemy. I used to go downtown and get a $5 parking ticket. Now I get an $80 parking ticket. It's about how much money they can get out of people, rather than how they can serve the people.
What specific budgeting choices do you have a problem with?
We could go back six or eight years to the light rail that's going to Milwaukie at the expense of paving streets. A nice thing for the city to have, but I don't think it's a priority, especially when Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick are claiming, gosh, we just don't have the money to do what we should have been doing for the last 10 years.
That money was spent on light rail, and bicycle lanes, and conferences for teaching middle-aged white men how to behave.
Do you have other gripes about the city?
Apartments popping up on every corner. The math is pretty easy. You say, to heck with the character of neighborhoods and anything that makes the city charming. What's driving the apartments comes right back down to greed at City Hall.
You'll need 34,921 signatures to force a recall vote. How many have you collected so far?
I have 15. But I'm in the first minute of the game. LeBron James didn't have a great first minute in his first game.
Are you surprised by how much attention you've received?
Overwhelmed, really. And quite moved and humbled. I looked at this as tilting at windmills. And I've had 20 or 30 people email me or write me on Facebook to say they'll do whatever they need to get these petitions out.
What would you say to people who say trying to recall the mayor is a radical act?
They're absolutely right. It's almost a revolutionary act. On the other hand, it's gotten the City Council's attention. We're not just going to sit down and write another check for them, just because they say they want it.