Portland politics live chat with City Hall reporter Brad Schmidt
11:47
The Oregonian: 
Hello and welcome to our Portland politics live chat about vacation time for the city's elected officials. City Hall reporter Brad Schmidt will join us at noon. Until then, please feel free to submit questions and comments. There will be a short delay between the time you submit and the time you see your post in the chat.
Monday November 26, 2012 11:47 The Oregonian
11:56
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Monday November 26, 2012 11:56 
11:59
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi. I'm Brad Schmidt, and I'm one of two reporters assigned to cover Portland City Hall for The Oregonian. It's noon so let's get started. Thanks in advance for your questions.
Monday November 26, 2012 11:59 Brad Schmidt
11:59
The Oregonian: 
Brad, let's start with the questions several online comments have asked: Why did The Oregonian report this story? Does it matter?
Monday November 26, 2012 11:59 The Oregonian
12:00
Brad Schmidt: 
The newspaper looked at vacation time because they are the only employees for the city of Portland who can take unlimited vacations. Then-commissioner and now mayor-elect Charlie Hales took off more than 9 weeks in 2001. We think it's important to review time off and let readers decide for themselves how much is too much, especially since there's no policy on the matter.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:00 Brad Schmidt
12:01
[Comment From CitizenCitizen: ] 
I think its a bit ridiculous how much vacation time the City Council takes its almost like they are congress in the extravagant vacation time they get. I have been working at my job for over four years now and have taken less than a week total over those years.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:01 Citizen
12:02
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, Citizen: Your response mirrors those of some readers. Others, however, think that the vacation taken by elected officials is acceptable. On this topic, opinions really seem to vary.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:02 Brad Schmidt
12:02
[Comment From CitizenCitizen: ] 
Add in the education and prior experience of our city council they would not come close to these perks anywhere else
Monday November 26, 2012 12:02 Citizen
12:03
The Oregonian: 
How does vacation time compare for elected officials in other cities?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:03 The Oregonian
12:03
[Comment From CitizenCitizen: ] 
Well consider also how much they make a year.... I could buy two houses at the same time on their salaries.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:03 Citizen
12:04
Brad Schmidt: 
Portland officials hold an office that's in many ways unique to the region. Most elected posts are volunteer-like, without management responsibilities or regular work weeks. And certainly not with the six-figure salaries that Portland officials receive. The exception to this is probably Multnomah County, where the commissioners also receive living-wage compensation.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:04 Brad Schmidt
12:04
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I noticed that you included sick time in calculating the commissioners' vacations, but did not include it in describing time off for city employees. Can you explain a little more about how that comparison was done?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:04 Guest
12:06
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, Guest: The Oregonian noted the officials' sick time as part of their time off because it was a minor part of the overall leave. Leonard, Fritz and Saltzman didn't report any sick time so we tried to lump everything together and provide apples-to-apples comparisons. I don't have employee sick-leave accrual data at my fingertips -- sorry.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:06 Brad Schmidt
12:06
The Oregonian: 
Who covers for the mayor or commissioners while they're away on vacation?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:06 The Oregonian
12:08
Brad Schmidt: 
The City Council has weekly meetings where official business is conducted. If they are on vacation, they don't vote, but meetings go on anyway. But the city will cancel a meeting if 3 of 5 members of the City Council are absent. That happened last Wednesday. More generally, however, bureau directors and officials' staff deal with issues and check in with commissioners as needed during vacation time.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:08 Brad Schmidt
12:09
The Oregonian: 
Remind us of the numbers: How much time off have elected officials taken this year?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:09 The Oregonian
12:10
The Oregonian: 
Readers, what do you want to know about City Hall politics? Send in those questions.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:10 The Oregonian
12:10
Brad Schmidt: 
Adams took off 22 days, a few of them because of illness. Fish took of 20 days, one because of illness. Saltzman had 34 days, Leonard 27 days, Fritz 18 days and Griffin-Valade -- the city auditor -- 18 days.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:10 Brad Schmidt
12:11
The Oregonian: 
Any more time off expected in the next month?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:11 The Oregonian
12:13
Brad Schmidt: 
The City Council has canceled its meeting for Dec. 26 -- the day after Christmas -- because of expected absences. I'm not sure who is planning to be gone, however. Leonard says he could take one more vacation day but hasn't scheduled anything. Saltzman said he expected to take a long weekend or two. Presumably Mayor Adams will be busy trying to wrap things up before leaving office. And I don't have vacation plans for Fish, Fritz or Griffin-Valade.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:13 Brad Schmidt
12:13
[Comment From gjetsonpdxgjetsonpdx: ] 
Do the different 'portfolios' per commissioner add risk to such vacation time? For example, in case of an emergency or disaster. On a related note, when do the new portfolios get announced...January or so?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:13 gjetsonpdx
12:15
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, gjetsonpdx: Yes, the commissioners' portfolios carry some importance when it comes to vacation time. Police, fire and water all have a variety of issues that deal with safety, for instance. Leonard told us he cut a Thanksgiving weekend vacation short a few years ago because of E. coli testing at a reservoir.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:15 Brad Schmidt
12:15
Brad Schmidt: 
The second part of your question: Mayor-elect Hales says he'll keep the bureaus for three months and then assign them.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:15 Brad Schmidt
12:16
Brad Schmidt: 
And on that note, Hales was out of the country last week but his campaign manager sent an email with his thoughts. Hales, of course, took 9 weeks off in 2001. But he says he hopes to keep his hours below 3,000 a year -- or about 58 hours a week. He says commissioners probably work about 2,500 hours a year.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:16 Brad Schmidt
12:16
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What kind of reader reaction are you getting to today's story? Is there any kind of consensus?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:16 Guest
12:17
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, Guest:

There's not consensus at all. I got an email from a reader, a state worker, who called the story a "petty article." She said: "Since when has 3-5 weeks vacation per year been a problem? I'm a state worker with 30 years experience and I get 5 weeks. I believe that my elected officials, with all the responsibility they have, and the long hours, deserve the same, no matter how much longevity they have."
Monday November 26, 2012 12:17 Brad Schmidt
12:18
Brad Schmidt: 
Others have said that, given the city's challenges, officials shouldn't take so much time off. Lots of opinions on this one.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:18 Brad Schmidt
12:18
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I saw in your story that Randy Leonard had a lot of days when he working but with nothing scheduled. Is that common among the mayor and city commissioners?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:18 Guest
12:19
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, Guest:

No, working but having nothing scheduled on a calendar is not common. Based on weekly calendars, I'd say Mayor Adams and Commissioner Fish generally have the most items scheduled. Saltzman and Fritz would come next. Leonard's calendar is light, but he'd argue that his calendar isn't an accurate reflection of everything he does and he doesn't update it as much as he should.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:19 Brad Schmidt
12:20
Brad Schmidt: 
A question for you guys: What areas of coverage would you like to see our reporting focus on at City Hall?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:20 Brad Schmidt
12:21
The Oregonian: 
With just a few weeks left in office, what's left on Mayor Adams' to-do list?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:21 The Oregonian
12:22
Brad Schmidt: 
Adams is trying to get a deal done on Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the Portland Winterhawks. And he's trying to get an annexation agreement in place with the Port of Portland for West Hayden Island, which would lead to eventual marine terminal development. He may try and push for parking meters in NW Portland too, although that one has been quiet.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:22 Brad Schmidt
12:23
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What are some early things we can expect from Charlie Hales? Any hints on new policies yet?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:23 Guest
12:24
Brad Schmidt: 
I'd expect that Hales will hold true to his pledge to keep the bureaus and try and hold down costs for water and sewer rates. That doesn't mean the latter is possible -- raters are all slated to go up. But so far I haven't heard of a 100 day plan or anything like that.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:24 Brad Schmidt
12:24
The Oregonian: 
Last call for questions. What else do you want to ask Brad?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:24 The Oregonian
12:25
The Oregonian: 
Have you heard from Hales on the West Hayden Island agreement?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:25 The Oregonian
12:26
Brad Schmidt: 
Hales thinks WHI should wait until next year, when he's in office along with Commissioner-elect Steve Novick. He's said so publicly, but at the same time, he hasn't been particularly aggressive in trying to delay a vote until next year.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:26 Brad Schmidt
12:26
[Comment From James MadisonJames Madison: ] 
I would like to hear Charlie talk about the evils of Sustainability and how Liberal Democrats use this as a weapon.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:26 James Madison
12:27
Brad Schmidt: 
Hi, James Madison:

OK. Well, there's a citizen comment period at the beginning of City Council meetings. I think Hales' first meeting in charge is Jan. 2.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:27 Brad Schmidt
12:27
The Oregonian: 
And with that, let's wrap things up. Thanks for joining today's chat.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:27 The Oregonian
12:28
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
You say city council members answer only to the voters. But they work for the city, and the city has rules for how much vacation time employees can take. Why don't council members have to follow those rules?
Monday November 26, 2012 12:28 Guest
12:29
Brad Schmidt: 
Guest: Because the rules don't apply to them. It would be up to the council to set some standards. But, as Adams noted in an interview with me, that might mean that officials could bank vacation time and get paid out -- as employees do -- when they leave office. Saltzman also question how it would be enforced, since elected officials can't be fired, per se. But certainly the council could pass a resolution establishing guidelines for vacation time ... but that would require putting a restriction on themselves.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:29 Brad Schmidt
12:30
[Comment From gjetsonpdxgjetsonpdx: ] 
Thank you!
Monday November 26, 2012 12:30 gjetsonpdx
12:30
Brad Schmidt: 
Thanks everybody. Until next time. Brad
Monday November 26, 2012 12:30 Brad Schmidt
12:30
The Oregonian: 
Thanks, Brad. And thanks to all of you who joined today's chat. Keep up with news from City Hall at http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/index.html
Monday November 26, 2012 12:30 The Oregonian
12:30
[Comment From James MadisonJames Madison: ] 
Thanks Brad.
Monday November 26, 2012 12:30 James Madison
 
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