The bronze Vera Katz sculpture on the Eastbank Esplanade is no stranger to vandalism.

Keith Lachowicz of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, who regularly cleans vandalism from public artworks in Portland, says that it's the target of vandalism between five and seven times a year.

But a vandalism attack, first reported by the Portland Business Journal, that Lachowicz found this morning was particularly ugly: an orange swastika spray-painted onto the statue's chest.

A seemingly unrelated message was scrawled onto the cement beside the statue: "Vera wants affordable housing."

"We got a call saying, 'Vera's got some graffiti.' And that happens from time to time. It's a lot of positive attention but occasionally she gets some negative attention," Lachowicz says. "But we got another call saying this is particularly disgusting, can you please go now."

Lachowicz says he started cleaning the statue around 11:30 this morning, a process which takes about 2 hours. By 1:30 p.m., only the message on the concrete remained.

The defacement of the statue is significant partly because it occured in the midst of an election cycle that has raised the profile of white supremacists across the United States.

Katz, who is Jewish, served as the first female speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and was mayor of Portland from 1993 to 2005.

The statue was unveiled in 2006 with a plaque reading, "a passionate life devoted to equality, opportunity, the public good, and the beauty of the human spirit."