The City Council voted this evening to eliminate the position of special assistant to Mayor Ethan Strimling by a vote of 6 – 3; the two councilors voting against an amendment to the budget initiated by District 1 City Councilor Belinda Rae to cut the post were Brian Batson and Pios Ali. The Rae amendment passed despite the Mayor’s sometimes dramatic plea to spare his assistant’s post. The Mayor repeatedly stated that Jason Shedlock has been key in many initiatives and would have continued to be had his position not been slashed.
Part of Rae’s justification for the elimination of this roughly $70,000.00 plus benefit expense from the $345M budget was that she had never sought any assistance from Mr. Shedlock. Perhaps that’s so. Maybe Rae had an agenda in not calling on him? Rather, Shedlock was credited with reaching out to Rae constituents when she does not. More likely though, she does not like his liberal stance on issues that contradict her own conservative views on the same issues.
Although conservative members of the council tried mightily to cloathe their rejection of this position in a non-political light, that rationale did not pass the laugh test. Clearly the Mayor was being punished for his independent views that run counter to the conservative members of the Council. Councilor Rae, who can be nasty and petty when views run counter to hers, initiated the action to punish the Mayor for his errant views and cripple him and make him ineffective by taking away his assistant.
The best justification for the elimination of the position that Rae’s conservative team could muster was that the defunding was not “politically motivated.” That was the best they could do. In other words, the conservatives produced no concrete justification for slashing the post. (It’s mindful of the Inept Trump saying that his “Muslum Ban” is not about Muslims.) Judging by the animosity of city hall staffers toward the Mayor that mhn.com has detected, his chances of getting any administrative assistance is non-existent.
What the Mayor did not know until now is that the Portland City Council has a reputation for being revengeful and partisan. Councilor Rae is a particularly obtuse example of spite that mhn.com has observed since covering council activities for nine years now. (Voting in support Rae’s amendment to defund Strimling’s aide were: Brennerman, Costa, Duson, Mavadones, and Thibodeau.) At least Brennerman was able to recover a moral compass when he decided not to recommend at the meeting that a second waterfront person be hired to utilize the savings garnered from the cutting of Shedlock’s job. His decency did get the better of him!
District 2 city councilor Spencer Thibodeau, a real estate attorney, frustrated with the Mayor scolded him in a surprising tone toward the end of the discussion: “It’s all about me. It should be about us,” Earlier in the evening, the inexperienced Thibodeau told the Mayor: “You are on an island by yourself. You are isolated.” The Mayor, sometimes called arrogant by detractors, persisted throughout the evening that he was simply promoting public policy that city voters wanted him to pursue and was spelled out in the charter. Thibodeau said the position is “collaborative” – something the Mayor has not been with the city council. Rather the Mayor has “marched to his own drummer” – something that is intolerable in Portland city politics.
Long-time councilor Nick Mavadones asked: “Why would this be political? We are all Democrats.” Mavadones supported the election of Mayor Strimling to this position over the incumbent Democrat Mayor Michael Brennan in the last election. His blistering – “the sky is falling – chicken little” speech in which he blamed Brennan for mostly imagined problems is unforgetable. His reprehensible attack on Mayor Michael Brennan was a primer for the upcoming Inept Trump campaign against his foes in last fall’s election. Councilor Jill Duson supported his imagined problems and preference for Mayor Strimling at the same event.
(“Civility” could start with the City Council at political rallies, Councilor Mavadones.)
Of course, Jon Jennings, city manager, would like to see the Mayor’s office fail. His staff certainly makes it clear that they are in agreement with him in that goal. The attitude permeates city staffers outlook.
New City Councilor Pios Ali urged councilors to think about how it could work in a more collaborative manner in the future. An idea that the Mayor said would not happen now in view of the defunding of his aide.
Jason Shedlock who spoke on his own behalf eloquently said: “This is like watching my own funeral.”
The posting of the position to assist the Mayor was first published herein on January 12, 2016 – “Figurehead Mayor Getting Special Assistant.” The “Portland Press Herald,” mouth piece for city hall, followed much later with a similar story. Then on February 20, 2016, mhn.com reported on his split from his then wife due to his infidelity. The “PPH” followed with a similar story two months later in April. The editorial page of the PPH also endorsed Strimling over the incumbent and experienced Democratic Mayor Michael Brennan – that came as a stunner to many voters. Particularly to Mayor Brennan himself.