Observers at Multnomah County headquarters this morning witnessed a remarkable scene, as officials who have been feuding publicly for months over funding a new Sellwood Bridge met to congratulate one another over finally reaching an agreement.
For a few minutes, the players managed to bury their mutual mistrust and make nice in a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination.
First to deliver his lines was county Chair Jeff Cogen, whose office went public last year accusing Mayor Sam Adams of stalling and subterfuge in the deal. In the end, Adams promised up to $100 million toward a new bridge and backed off his demands for a streetcar-ready design.
Cogen's apparent frustration with Adams, and his chutzpah in calling out the mayor publicly, led insiders to speculate Cogen may run against Adams in 2012. Cogen has done nothing to quell that speculation. But today, Cogen downplayed his differences with Adams. (Both share a history in City Hall from when Cogen was chief of staff for Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Adams was chief of staff to then-Mayor Vera Katz.)
"There were some bumps along the road in getting this agreement together with the city," said Cogen. "But the end result we have before us today is truly terrific and something I think the citizens of Portland and Multnomah County can be proud of."
Adams entered the room just as the proceedings were getting under way. After hugging Commissioner Diane McKeel's chief of staff, Corie Wiren, Adams stood at the back until Cogen invited him to the table in front of the commissioners.
Adams sat down directly in front of Cogen and next to Cogen's chief of staff, Marissa Madrigal. A scathing email exchange between Madrigal and Adams' then-chief of staff, Tom Miller, was the most obvious evidence of the acrimonious infighting over the Sellwood deal when those emails went public last year.
Cogen maintained a dogged grin and Madrigal kept a smile on her face while Adams took credit for his end of the deal.
"Although it was not [the city's] bridge legally, it was our bridge from a moral point of view," Adams said. "You have my full support."
Cogen went so far as to praise the mayor for helping end the days when city and county officials lived apart in a "silo-ed existence." Commissioner Judy Shiprack, who keeps on friendly terms with Adams co-chairing the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, also doled out thanks to the mayor.
"I just want to emphasize how good it feels to be in collaboration with the City of Portland and to have the mayor here," Shiprack said.
The Sellwood deal also includes $30 million from the state, $22 million from Clackamas County and millions in federal transportation funding. The agreement passed the city council on Wednesday and was approved unanimously by four county commissioners this morning. McKeel was absent.