Mayor Charlie Hales this morning offered praise for a county commissioner toward whom his top aide had made sexually suggestive remarks, while pledging his support for a summer internship program he tried to cut from the city budget.
Hales' speech at Multnomah County headquarters today suggested an effort by the mayor to mend bridges with County Commissioner Loretta Smith a week after he suspended his top police liaison, Baruti Artharee, for repeatedly making sexually suggestive comments about Smith at public events. (Artharee returns tomorrow from his week-long suspension, widely criticized as too light a punishment.)
Hales was also patching up another offense toward Smith: His first major decision in City Hall was a failed attempt to cut $394,000 in funding for Worksystems summer youth internship programs, which Smith champions.
At the kickoff event for the Worksystems, Inc. internship program called Summerworks, Hales and Smith were all smiles.
"I really appreciate your personal leadership and your passion for this program," Hales said, "so thank you, Commissioner Smith."
Neither official referenced the Artharee controversy. But in her opening remarks to teenagers gathered to begin their government interships, Smith made note of how close Hales came to de-funding the program.
"As Mayor Hales can attest to, this is no easy task," Smith said. "We squeaked out enough money to make sure that you all are here today."
Smith added the the internship programs, which hire mostly low-income and minority teens, are especially important to Portland's efforts to reduce gang violence.
"What I do know is, I've never seen a kid doing a drive-by on their way to work," Smith said.