Former mayoral staffer Nathan Howard was among those whom WW solicited for a perspective on Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's first two years in office, as part of an appraisal appearing in tomorrow's edition.
Howard, who was part of the Wheeler campaign staff and then transitioned into a job in the mayor's office, sent on along a nuanced analysis of why Wheeler's office isn't succeeding as it hoped.
Like many of those sympathetic to the mayor, Howard argues that giving the mayor more power and control over government would be of help.
"There's two main causes that've led to the Mayor's office failing in the eyes of Portlanders," Howard says. "Mainly, we have an outdated and broken form of government that consistently sets up our city's leaders for failure. We must change the way our City elects its leaders and functions if we want a better Portland."
But Howard also argues that Wheeler, the candidate, promised things that Wheeler, the mayor, isn't delivering.
"Secondly, this administration ran on strong, progressive convictions around increasing housing opportunity, strengthening tenant protections, helping our houseless neighbors, swiftly ending our use of fossil fuels and moving to 100% renewable energy, reforming the police bureau, to name a few," says Howard. "We were elected on those convictions. That's what Portlanders expected then they overwhelmingly elected us in a very crowded 15-way primary back in early 2016. And then the administration abandoned many of its convictions."
Howard offered several examples including the plan to toughen inspections of housing-code violations or direct fundsto build affordable housing from new tax revenues from homes built after demolitions.
Howard was fired after he improperly used a city car and then didn't tell his bosses when confronted about it, as the The Oregonian reported at the time.
But Howard says that he wasn't given a second chance because he was pushing the mayor to the left while his bosses in the office were not.
"I believe that's largely why my minor screw-up earlier this year was exploited and I was cannoned out of the Mayor's office," Howard says. "The commitment to real, bold, progressive ideas and solutions has been watered down to the point that most Portlanders are now wondering; what's the Mayor's office doing? Where's the leadership?"
The mayor's office denies that politics was a factor in Howard's firing.
"Politics had nothing to do with this decision," says now-chief of staff Michael Cox. "The mayor's staff is diverse in terms of both political ideology, professional training and lived experience."