I’m writing this in the hours before Strimling is sworn in as the 2nd peoples elected mayor since the policy changes in 2011. Before he speaks later today, let’s talk about the new Mayor.
Four weeks ago, Ethan Strimling was elected Mayor of Portland. The former legislator and CEO of LearningWorks easily defeated the incumbent Mayor and a Green Party challenger, winning an outright majority on the first ballot. In the weeks before the election the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce endorsed Strimling, as did many other groups. His campaign promised a listener – someone who would include the entire community in future City Hall decisions.
But what is Strimling’s mandate? And what do we expect him to accomplish?
There isn’t much of a mandate. It was interesting to see the new Mayor steer away from specific policy ideas during the campaign. 2000 new housing units made the short list, but without much detail about how that would happen. Much of the rest of the campaign was focused on hearing voters and absorbing their frustrations with City Hall and the rapidly changing environment in Portland. In many ways voters picked a new Mayor without asking him too many hard questions.
So what does the Chamber want from the new Mayor? That’s a longer list. It starts with more effective leadership that brings the community together on tough issues like housing, traffic and growth. It includes forging durable consensus that withstand the inevitable citizen-initiated challenges to tough choices. And it also involves taking a regional approach to Portland issues. There’s nothing that happens in the City that doesn’t significantly impact the entire region – and we expect those impacts will be more present in decisions made in Portland.
In a few hours Ethan Strimling has the chance to move from listening to leading. He can pick priorities for the City and the region. He can open up the decision making process so everyone feels more included and heard. And he can reset the City’s perspective to a regional one that understands that no major issue – from housing to transit to homelessness – can be dealt with effectively without engaging the entire region in the solution.
So let’s see how he does today, and in the coming weeks, months, and years.