Many commissioners are pushing back against giving up their offices at Portland City Hall, including the bureaus they oversee, after Wheeler made the request to centralize the city’s bureaus. This proposal moves away from the current, decentralized system where the bureaus are housed in different commissioner’s offices.
“This is not something the mayor’s office is doing to you. This is the voters of our community deciding how they wanted to be governed,” Wheeler said. “No one has to agree, and apparently nobody does. It’s another day at the office.”
The mayor and his transition team are also advocating council offices and council chambers to begin a 10-month renovation in January – moving the current council to another location. Staff told the council that keeping commissioners in their office would cost more, and not renovating the chamber until the new council comes in would be more expensive.
“When the new council, city administrator, and mayor take office in 2025, they will need to be able to hit the ground running,” Wheeler said in a letter sent to commissioners. “I understand that several offices take issue with moving workspaces, but it proves to be the most cost-effective and efficient option.”
Commissioners Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez took the greatest issue with Wheeler’s decision.
Gonzalez told the mayor in a text message that the reorganization “is a shameless power grab,” adding that Wheeler is “completely undermining council unity with these attempts.”
Commissioner Ryan also thinks city staff should not have focused on City Hall, but rather focused on the offices for new city councilors in the districts they represent.
“I hope that we personally, and I’m lobbying my colleagues right now to start construction on the district locations,” Ryan said.
However, staff told the commissioner that was impossible when they began this work a year ago, because district maps only became available in August.
“I think we get into thorny territory if this council is deciding how the next council is going to interact with the public,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler has requested all bureaus come under the mayor’s office and that the city hire an interim city administrator next summer.
“It’s kind of the end of council as we know it,” Commissioner Mingus Mapps said. “The transition and sunsetting of how we’ve done business forever is upon us and it’s upon us this week. I think that’s painful for Council.”