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June 29th, 2005 The Nose | The Nose
 

POTTER'S WAY

     
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IMAGE: THOMAS COBB
After the millionth time that Tom Potter described himself as a "change agent" in last year's mayoral campaign, the Nose tuned out.

For someone whose English is Olde and best served cold, that Potterism sounded like so much more Portlandese. Down at City Hall, "vision" and "dialogue" pass for verbs, and "impactful" is considered a real word.

But last week, the Schnozz sat up and took notice. Grandpa Tom squeezed out three six-figure-plus city-bureau heads and put a fourth on notice to start applying the spit-shine to his résumé.

The Nose felt like he was watching The Sopranos. (When's that show coming back, anyway? Pirating HBO is hardly worth it when it's all Bryant Gumbel and Taxicab Confessions.) Watching Potter channel his inner Paulie Walnuts was perversely entertaining-and just as you find yourself cheering when those fictional Jersey goombahs whack some poor bastard, you had to think the victims had it coming.

The Nose doesn't know if the rumors are true: that the now ex-head of the city transportation department was an ineffectual yutz, that the Water Bureau dude was swimming in the shallow end, that the Emergency Management chief was Portland's version of the Maytag repairman. And the Nose doesn't know if the Bureau of Environmental Services' director-the guy Potter told to straighten up or sleep with the fishes-is an uncooperative guardian of his own turf at the city's expense.

What he does know is that Potter is keeping his promise, actually holding people accountable just as he said he would when he came into office six months ago. And you can bet the next time Potter asks somebody to do something, it's going to get done a lot faster with last week's shit-cannings fresh in everybody's minds.

That's all the more remarkable because Potter is hardly a government basher. (He leaves that to the subset of local bloggers who, you get the feeling, would be happier living in Topeka.) This lefty ran as the people's choice-the business community's bane-the ex-cop whose idea of improved livability was more cushioning for his recumbent bike's seat.

Potter's soft image seemed to portend bureaucratic business as usual in a city where it's more common to see a corporate coffee bar firebombed than a public employee reprimanded. As it turns out, Potter was dead serious about taking on the power brokers when he declared his independence by limiting campaign donations to $100. But while many of his supporters probably thought he was going to shackle "big business," Potter was really taking aim at the unions and entrenched insiders whose primary mission is keeping City Hall bloated.

What's Potter's next trick? The Nose fears Hizzoner may lose his butt-kicking resolve in a morass of "visioning," "dialoguing" and "community inputting" over the next few months. He hopes not-and that maybe Potter's shake-up will eventually mean potholes beyond the Pearl District get fixed and the water bill comes on time.

In the meantime, the Mayor looks impactful, and the Schnozz is impressed. Bada-bing!

 
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