Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will hand off some of the city bureaus he manages to his fellow council members, lightning his load as the city faces crises on multiple fronts.
Under Portland’s unique form of government, each City Council member runs a portfolio of city bureaus. One of the mayor’s primary powers is deciding which city commissioner controls which agencies. With new Commissioner Dan Ryan sworn into office Thursday, the mayor’s office announced a reshuffle:
Ryan will be in charge of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the Bureau of Development Services, which oversees construction permits among other duties, and the Portland Children’s Levy, a special tax levy that pays for programs to help vulnerable populations. He will serve as a liaison along with Wheeler for A Home for Everyone.
Wheeler had previously signaled his intent to give away some of his day-to-day responsibilities as he steers the city through a deepening economic crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and near-nightly protests for racial justice. In an interview with the Oregonian last Friday, Wheeler had said he wanted to ask the council to take on more of the load of the day to day operations.
In a letter sent to other commissioners announcing the new assignments, Wheeler said the changes would help him focus on “the extreme challenges facing our community.”
“The changes I’m making today allow me and my administration to focus on the most pressing issues facing our city,” he wrote. “And I am appreciative of the fact that you all stand ready to take on more so that we can work in partnership to address the many challenges facing the city.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty will get the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, previously under the mayor’s command.
As expected, the mayor will not be turning over control of the Portland Police Bureau, which Hardesty has been pushing to oversee since July. But he’s signaled it’s not the end of the discussion. Both Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly are up for reelection this November. Once the new council takes office, Wheeler has said all bureaus are on the table.
Until then, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who retires at the end of this term, will temporarily get the Parks Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, which oversees stormwater and wastewater.
The mayor has said in his letter to his colleagues that he will revisit the assignments when the new council has been elected. He asked that no changes in leadership within the bureaus be made “unless circumstances require.”
The mayor will continue to oversee the Office of Management and Finance, the police bureau, the city budget office, the city attorney, the office of government relations, and the housing bureau.
Ryan was elected to City Hall to replace Commissioner Nick Fish, who died in January.