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Mayor Charlie Hales

City of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales

Phone: 503-823-4120

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 340, Portland, OR 97204

Swearing-In Speech

The following is the speech given by Mayor Charlie Hales, upon being sworn into office, Jan. 2, 2013:

Chair Cogan, Mayor Adams, Commissioner Lindberg, officials and employees of our city, residents and friends of Portland:

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of standing before you today as the Mayor of the great city of Portland.

It’s a privilege I never could have imagined some 33 years ago when, as a young man, I loaded up an old car and took off on a voyage to Portland, with a dream of making my life in what I knew was a unique and promising city.

Today, I'm asking each one of you to join with me on a collective journey -- a journey that arrives at Portland becoming an even greater city, making good on that promise…

with more family wage jobs,
with great schools,
with justice and hope for all of us,
and with an excellent quality of life in every Portland neighborhood.

As I said, I feel truly privileged to be here ready to join with you on this journey – and that would not be, except for the love and support of a lot of a lot of people.

First, of course, is my family.  Politics and public service are not a family-friendly environment, and I appreciate so much all of their love and support. Especially my wife, Nancy, and our five children—two of whom, Gavin and Carolyn, are able to join us this morning.    

Then there are the many people who gave so generously of their time and talent to my mayoral campaign.

I thank you for all the miles you traveled with me during this past year, for your encouragement, and your unbelievable commitment to Portland. 

I was humbled then, and remain so now, by your confidence in me.

Mike Lindberg – unflagging optimism, openness

“The facts are friendly.”

And perhaps no endorsement meant as much to me as the one I received from an individual who loves this city and who is loved by this city…a woman who taught me a great deal about the art of leadership. 

That leader is Mayor Vera Katz. When Vera took the helm of the City of Portland, she set us on a course for a brighter future. She navigated by a clear understanding of How Things Work, and a deft perception of How Things Ought to Work.

And she led our city well.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank Mayor Adams for his service to our city, and for all he has done to ensure that this transition was very smooth.

From election night until my swearing in, he has gone out of his way to include me and Commissioner Novick in the Council’s work. Thank you, Sam.

I also extend my thanks and the gratitude of our city to Randy Leonard, for his years of service in the Portland Fire Bureau, the Oregon State Senate and on the Portland City Council.

And to my friends and colleagues,
Nick Fish,
Amanda Fritz,
Steve Novick,
Dan Saltzman,
and our Auditor, Lavonne Griffin-Valade.

I say here in public what I have said to each of you in private:  I can’t wait for us to roll up our sleeves and tackle the challenges facing our city. 

We all answer to the same boss—the people of Portland. They don’t expect us to agree with each other all the time, but they do expect us to work together in an open and collaborative manner to get things done.  They expect us to minimize drama and to maximize results.  I’m confident we will do just that. In doing so, we will honor the pledge I made on election night:  A pledge to work every day to make Portlanders as proud of their leadership as they are of our city.

You see and hear a great deal when you spend a year knocking on 25,000 doors. When you meet Portlanders on their front porches, on their streets, and in their neighborhoods, you hear a lot of pride. But you hear a lot of concerns, too. 

We know that Portland faces adversity and pressing challenges on our journey to greatness.  The list this Council will face is long…issues of planning, transportation, equity, utility rates, cleaning up a Superfund site in our river, the need for more family-supporting jobs for our citizens, missing infrastructure in neighborhoods, homelessness, and more. . .

We approach these challenges, however, from a position of great strength.  Portland is a special place because of smart choices and hard work over many years.  The nation’s best city park system, Bull Run water, a compact, walkable city center -- as well as less tangible assets like a willingness to get involved in so many great nonprofit organizations doing good things -- all have been handed down to us -- because others weren't afraid to take a difficult journey together. 

There are three of these challenges which I believe are the most urgent, and that will lead off the Hales Administration’s efforts.

They are simple to list, and hard to reach:

  • How we spend your money.
  • How we keep EVERYONE safe, and trust our Police Bureau to do so.
  • The commitment we make to our children’s future.

The first of these is to put Portland’s financial house in order, and to give our citizens a more efficient and more effective government.  We must do more with less!

It is the first priority because we can’t address any of the other priorities if we don’t sharply focus our limited the resources to meet them.

The national economic downturn of the past few years has been painful for a lot of our friends and neighbors.  It has forced many Portlanders to cut back, to make hard choices, and to focus on the basics.  We face our own fiscal cliff of sorts - but happily we will not model the behavior of the US Congress - we will instead deliberately refocus the way we conduct the people's business in Portland.

I've learned a lot from the private sector, where I’ve been working for the last decade.  Controlling costs, reducing overhead, working smarter -- all of these things can make any organization more productive and efficient.  Our city must do the same.

To begin the budget process, I have directed every General Fund bureau to submit a budget that is 90% of last year’s budget, and if they believe that additional funds are absolutely necessary to fulfill the mission of their department, to submit a detailed justification of each request above that base.

I believe in leading by example, and my budget for the Mayor’s office will come in considerably lower even than that 90 percent goal.

Next, I will assign all of the City’s bureaus to my portfolio on February 4th. Then, the council and I are going to spend many hours together in the coming weeks and months as we take on the inglorious work of going through budgets line by line.   At every step of the process, we must ask the tough questions:

  • Is this program a core responsibility of the City of Portland?
  • Have we reduced overhead and administrative costs at every opportunity in order to conserve resources for basic services?
  • Are we making Portland a better, more equitable city, by this expenditure?

I want this City Council to prepare this budget as a true Board of Directors, stewards of the whole city.

Being free of turf considerations will, I hope, allow all five of us to make difficult decisions in the best possible way.

The next priority of my administration is public safety.

As I went door-to-door, I heard occasionally from Portlanders who were worried about crime in their neighborhoods, but much more often about the relationship between the Portland Police Bureau and our citizens.  

Police Chief Mike Reese and I have had some time in the weeks since my election to discuss the situation of the bureau, and will soon be working together extensively on the recent negotiated settlement with the federal government over the excessive use of force.

We are in agreement that the policy changes included in that settlement will be quickly implemented—not just because the federal government ordered us to do so, but because they are the just and right thing to do. 

We also agree that it is time for a renewed focus on community policing—on assigning more officers to build relationships with the neighborhoods, the businesses, and the citizens they serve.  And to do all this in a way that builds real trust between excellent police officers and the people they serve -- again in every neighborhood in Portland.

Let me turn now to what will be the third top priority of my administration:

The single most constant concern I heard as I went door to door was about our schools.

There were many young parents who showed me with pride the old house they had bought and were fixing up, and they introduced me to their young children who they wanted to raise in that house.

And then they shared their uncertainties with me: Is the public school in their neighborhood a good and responsible choice for their child?  If they make the twelve-year commitment to public education, will we, the public, hold up our end of the bargain?

We cannot renege on the Portland promise – that you can live anywhere in this city and send your child to a great public school.

We all know there are great success stories being written every day in or schools by amazing and dedicated parents, teachers and administrators.  We also all know that these success stories can not hide the fact that our public schools are not graduating enough of our kids and that the achievement gap for students of color is NOT closing at a fast enough pace.  This must change.

Portland cannot claim to be a great city unless all of our schools are great schools, and unless all of our children are set up to succeed.

I am well aware that, as Mayor, I am not in charge of the day-to-day operation of public schools.  That job rests with our School Boards, the Superintendents, and to a large degree, with the Governor and with the state legislature, who set school funding levels.

But there is a bully pulpit that comes with being the Mayor of Oregon’s largest city.

I will use that bully pulpit to advocate passionately for adequate and stable school funding. I will remind our citizens and our state and national leaders just how important our schools are to everyone’s quality of life. 

So, those three challenges will be the heart of my initial agenda.  I will devote as much time, energy and influence as I can to these time-critical must-do’s, even while meeting the other day-to-day responsibilities of this office and delivering on the basic services that keep our city running. 

Now, Portlanders got to know me a bit over the past year.  Let me tell you what you can expect from me.

I’m a team leader. I like to get to yes and share success. I support our Commission form of government and I’ll seek to make it work well, rather than to change its structure. I like to be challenged.  I believe in true debate.  So, please, whether you are a citizen, a city employee or a Council colleague, tell me what you believe, not what you think I want to hear.

I know I’m not the smartest person in the room – find her.

I’m a magnet for quotes and trivia.

Here’s one from Yogi Berra: Be brief, be sincere, be seated.

Before closing, let me make one additional promise. I have mentioned how much I enjoyed knocking on 25,000 doors, and how much I learned in talking with and listening to, the folks who opened those doors.  As Mayor, I want this conversation to continue.  So, it is my intention to devote a few hours each month to going door-to-door so I can hear firsthand the unfiltered concerns of Portlanders.

And while I can't promise to be as prolific as Mayor Adams when it comes to tweeting -- I'm already up and running at MayorPDX on both Facebook and Twitter -- so like me, or poke me -- but please follow my pages.  I hope to use social media, as well as good old face-to-face listening as ways to further connect with as many Portlanders as possible.

Look outside.  Savor the beauty of our city.

One of the best things about Portland is its proximity to water and wilderness.  We love our trails, our waterways, the possibilities of where we might go today.  It's my passion -- in my spare time as well as in my work life…to set out on a trail or a river, and then to relish the journey.  So, in that spirit, let me close today with the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.   To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift nor lie at anchor.”

He’s right.  The wind is up and the sails are full. There is no time to drift nor to lie an anchor.  Our city’s best days are ahead; let us go there, on this journey toward greatness, together.

Thank you.