As I prepare to unveil my first recommended city budget, I reflect on how immensely I have enjoyed serving as Portland’s city manager – even when I made the mistake of not calling a parking ban during the first winter storm in December!

Even though it’s only been eight months, I can say without hesitation that this city is blessed to have a dedicated workforce who gets up every day focused on making it better. Unfortunately, we face a host of great challenges, and city staff have not always had clear direction on where we must go.

Providing leadership and direction on the operational aspect of city government is what I intend to do during my tenure as city manager. Next week I will be presenting my recommendations for the fiscal year 2017 budget, which will reflect the new direction I am asking the City Council to consider.

The mayor and City Council hired me to work with staff not only to implement policy initiatives, but also to make city government operate more cost-effectively and efficiently, with a strong commitment to excellence in all we do. That commitment to excellence is exactly where we are headed with Portland city government.

For too long, city government has overpromised and underdelivered. Currently, we are focused on what I like to call “right-sizing” municipal government so that we can concentrate on the core areas that matter most to our residents and businesses. We simply do not have the financial or staffing resources to do everything for every group or individual.

We are setting new priorities for getting back to the basics of municipal government. For instance, we are focusing on infrastructure improvements such as getting our roads and sidewalks in the condition that a city of Portland’s prominence deserves.


Paving roads or fixing broken sidewalks may not be the most glamorous of undertakings, but they are the foundation of what makes a great city. My goal is to improve the city structurally so we will have resources in the future to look at more aspirational projects.

We are looking at innovative ways to improve city services, seeking to reduce costs and stress customer service and a commitment to get things done on a timely basis.

Recently, I announced a new department for permitting and inspections. We cannot accept that it takes months to get a building permit to construct a deck on your home. By streamlining resources, we can and we will do better. It will take time to fully implement, but the city will have an improved system of getting projects done with the same commitment to public safety and appropriate review.

There are other core services of city government in need of innovation. We must look at the way we collect solid waste with creative solutions that expand the city’s commitment to sustainability. We must look at a 21st-century approach to our technology infrastructure that includes the recent announcement by the city to partner to construct a high-speed fiber network. We must innovate in every area to ensure greater productivity so Portland can address very important issues such as housing and incentivizing the creative economy to produce the jobs that are needed.

We are also focused on ways to get other projects completed that the city cannot afford on its own. The creation of strategic public-private partnerships is essential to getting many objectives accomplished now and in the future. There are many examples of how community groups have come together with the city to achieve great things.

While the city must set the list of priorities for projects, it is essential that we continue to work with community organizations in partnership to get things done. One such example is how the police department, working with community groups, has taken the lead in developing a program to address the growing use of opioids that has caused so much harm to our fellow citizens.

Finally, it has been said by some, that the city does not listen. I believe the city does listen, but sometimes we just disagree. We will always focus on community engagement as a core value of everything we do, but it is important to realize that we will inevitably make decisions where not everyone agrees.

Making tough decisions and accepting the results is why I am excited to be the manager of this great city. If we accept that we will not always get our way on every issue, together we will move Portland forward with a reliable city government as a committed partner.

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