Ted Wheeler is tackling a job that keeps ending Portland's political careers.
So we figured he could handle a few fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions.
Wheeler, a former Multnomah County chairman and Oregon state treasurer, takes office Jan. 1 as Portland mayor. That makes him the city's fourth new mayor in four election cycles. Not a single officeholder has even sought re-election since Vera Katz won a third term in 2000.
Outgoing Mayor Charlie Hales leaves behind a legacy of false starts, alienated colleagues and abandoned projects. Wheeler inherits a police force under scrutiny, a housing market in which rents continue to rise, and voters itching for new blood.
As Wheeler made the rounds of entrance interviews with newspapers, we decided to give him a pop quiz: more than a dozen questions in about five minutes to get decisive answers on pressing policies. He proved agile, informed and quick to challenge the premise of our questions.
WW: Fill in the blank: The one ordinance the City Council passed this fall that I wish it had waited for my arrival in office is ______.
Ted Wheeler: The CEO tax. I don't fully understand it or how it's enforceable.
On marijuana, the city should roll back:
(a) the fees for business, (b) the regulations, (c) neither, (d) both.
Yes or no: Should marijuana be under the purview of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement?
True or false: ONI is the city bureau most in need of reform.
It's tied for first place.
The Police Bureau.
Charlie Hales pulls a North Carolina on you, decreeing the mayor can no longer oversee police. To whom do you give the bureau?
I keep it. I would and am going to keep it.
But in this scenario it's not allowed.
In this fake scenario, who would I give it to? [Mayoral aide] Michael Cox.
We want to know which commissioner you would trust with that duty.
On the fly, there's one commissioner who has served as police commissioner previously. That's Dan Saltzman. If I'm forced into this hellish game you've created for me.
Yes or no: Will you consider public financing of campaigns for a budget cut next year?
Everything is on the table.
Fill in the blank: The political establishment underestimated Chloe Eudaly because ______.
I think that's a story yet to be written, and I don't know why. As an aside, I really enjoyed getting to know her. She's going to be a great addition to City Council.
Yes or no: Do you support Chloe Eudaly's call for a rent freeze?
No. It is clear that we do not have the authority to impose a unilateral rent freeze and that it would be a violation of state law. I cannot in good conscience say we're going to violate state law.
Yes or no: Would you have voted for the inclusionary zoning policy if you were on the City Council today?
Yes or no: How did you ultimately vote on corporate tax Measure 97?
I'll leave that for future generations.
How is that leaving that for future generations? We're not going to get your voting record.
Isn't that great? That's convenient, isn't it? I was well on the record with Measure 97.
It's a yes or no question.
I voted no. But now you have to listen to why I voted no. Measure 97 was a very blunt instrument. It was not well thought out. I said early on—and I think it was borne out—that people would pretty quickly figure out that a gross receipts tax can get passed down to the people who can least afford to pay it, with no protections in place for them. It's not that we didn't need the revenues. God knows we need the revenues for public education.
Fill in the blank: Being elected mayor is like ______.
The silly answer is that it's like having your outer layer of skin burned off. The serious answer: It's like a good friend handing you their baby and saying, "Please take care of my baby; I'll be back in five hours."