As first reported last night by the Portland Mercury's website (I looked all over Oregon Live and only found a vote about the mayor's beard), Tom Potter announced he will not seek a second term as mayor.
Regardless of what any of us think of Potter's performance when it comes to tangible initiatives, you've got to love this guy: a man with record-high approval ratings who shrugs off running again so he can go camping and hang out with his grandchildren.
As Anna Griffin wrote in this morning's Oregonian, though, it would be a mistake to be dismissive of Tom Potter and his four years in office - especially for those of us living near downtown and focused on wonky policy issues. That's how most people in Portland think. Griffin quoted Erik Sten, who may have had the best summation of the soon to be outgoing mayor:
"In a lot of ways, Tom Potter is Portland. He's sincere, he's respectful, he's focused on values rather than specific projects. All the things the political classes want him to be more of, most people don't care about. That's why he's so popular."
Looking ahead, prognosticators identify three probable candidates: city commissioner Sam Adams, developer Rob Ball, and African American Chamber of Commerce founder Roy Jay. Ball would assumedly be favorable to the local building industry; maybe he'd even bring back the Mayor's Design Initiative that Katz started and Potter dropped. Jay is a well respected community leader who, like Potter, would encourage participation from people across the city who've felt left out of civic debate in the past.
One thing that occurred to me immediately about Ball and Jay: if they really do want to get involved in city politics, why are they talking about the mayor's office but never considered a city council run? With the biggest complaint against Potter having been the inexperience of him and his staff at getting legislative and policy measures accomplished, why in the world would we want to choose one of two more political neophytes? Or better yet, if these guys are really interested in public service, why haven't they run for city council or some lesser office?
With the mayoral election still more than a year away, there will probably be a lot more to shake down in the meantime. A few years ago, for example, Erik Sten was the boy wonder of Portland politics. Does he really have no ambition for the mayor's office? There is also former councilor Charlie Hales in the background somewhere; he was instrumental in bringing the streetcar to Portland. There is also Kate Brown, who recently retired from the Oregon Legislature. Hell, why not John Kitzhaber?
Whomever becomes mayor next time around, let's all work hard to make sure design and planning are on his or her agenda.