Mayor Sam Adams announced today he had reassigned oversight of two city bureaus, the Office of Cable and Franchise Management and the Bureau of Development Services, to Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
The move continues a City Hall tradition that Saltzman knows well. Since first taking office in 1999, Saltzman has taken the helm at many troubled bureaus. The Bureau of Development Services is only the latest. Amid the recession, BDS lost millions from its budget reserve and had to cut its staff in half. Commissioner Randy Leonard oversaw the bureau during its downturn.
In our April 2010 endorsement issue in which we backed Saltzman's re-election, we had this to say about the City Council's most veteran member:
Dan Saltzman has a long history of inheriting disasters.
In 1999, his first year at City Hall, then-Mayor Vera Katz gave Saltzman the Bureau of Emergency Communications. When allegations surfaced that the bureau’s director was defrauding taxpayers by falsifying time cards, Saltzman ordered an investigation. And in 2000 he supported a successful charter amendment to end civil-service protection for bureau chiefs, making it easier to fire incompetent directors.
The trend of cleaning up others people’s messes continued in 2001, when then-Commissioner Erik Sten lost $40 million in uncollected Water Bureau revenue because of a computer snafu. In response, Katz gave the bureau to Saltzman, who restored some confidence.
Five years later, in the face of runaway costs and outright abuse, Saltzman pushed reform of Portland’s Fire and Police Disability and Retirement system. That didn’t earn him many union friends but should earn him gratitude from taxpayers.
More recently, Saltzman said yes when the mayor asked him to oversee the Police Bureau, which already had a damaged reputation owing to James Chasse’s tragic death in 2006. Months after Saltzman took that job, the police bureau has become the political piñata for Portlanders’ justified anger over two fatal police shootings in 2010 (not to mention a recent stretch of officers’ road-rage incidents that could double as a TV series called Cops Gone Wild).
In May 2010, in response to a dust-up over budgeting, Adams stripped Saltzman of his duties as police commissioner. That move came just days before Saltzman's successful re-election. Until today, Adams has had to answer questions repeatedly about why he hadn't given Saltzman a new assignment.
In making his announcement today, Adams said Leonard needed more time to devote to overseeing the Bureau of Fire & Rescue, which recently won a voter-approved $72.4 million bond. He also said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who used to oversee the cable office, needed to focus on another new project—building Adams' recently announced Office of Equity.