In his State of the City speech last month, Portland Mayor Sam Adams took Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton by surprise when Adams proposed that the city take over the sheriff's duty of providing law enforcement on local waterways.
Adams said that by absorbing river-patrol costs (currently $1.8 million, according to city estimates), the city would let the county invest that money in cash-starved mental-health programs instead.
Adams had never met with Staton to learn the sheriff's thoughts on Adams' plan to take over one of his major responsibilities. Instead Adams reached out to Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen, who twice advised Adams to instead discuss the idea with the elected sheriff.
That finally happened Thursday morning, when Adams met with Staton to discuss the plan for the first time after his Feb. 18 speech. The two sides agreed to spend the next several weeks researching the issue. In the meantime, according to Staton's office, the sheriff and the mayor both agreed not to discuss the matter publicly.
But one person who is talking about the plan is Scott Brewen, director of the Oregon State Marine Board. The marine board pays the sheriff's office about $708,000 a year to patrol local rivers. That covers about 28 percent of the county's river-patrol costs.
Brewen says the marine board has always worked with counties to patrol rivers. Adding a city to the mix may present added complications, Brewen says, and he's unclear on how the city would patrol waterways outside its boundary lines.
"It would not be my intent to start contracting with cities for this work," Brewen says. "Our intent has been, and would continue to be, that we work with the county sheriffs."
But Brewen says he's reserving judgment until he hears more details. He says the final decision would be left to the five-member state marine board.
"I would hate to make it a definitive. But what I will say is, from our history working with the counties, I don't have a desire to do anything differently, and I think the board would agree with me on that," Brewen says. "There's nothing broken to fix, from our perspective."