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How Will Charlie Hales Divvy up the Bureaus?

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DON'T BE SURPRISED if Mayor Charlie Hales keeps a solid hold on—for a few weeks longer—the city bureaus he grabbed from his colleagues in February as part of his new-look budget process.

Hales made the move to promote a citywide view of the budget (and maybe hold some leverage when corralling votes for his preferred version of it). Which means, despite posted schedules suggesting he might hand them back to commissioners by now, that was never going to happen.

This isn't to say there's not a lot of feverish speculation over who'll get what. The Oregonian drew first blood last week in a parlor game that's consumed city hall. We figured we should play along, too.

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Mayor Charlie Hales: Hales has already said he's keeping bureaus that traditionally sit with the mayor. He'll keep the Portland Police Bureau. He's claimed the Office of Equity and Human Rights. He's not going to ditch the money and/or executive power bureaus: Office of Management and Finance and the Portland Development Commission (which might soon be loaded onto a lonely iceberg), and the Office of Government Relations, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, and the office of the city attorney. He will, however, hand off the Portland Bureau of Transportation in order to depoliticize it. He'll keep the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability—it's too important to economic development.

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Commissioner Amanda Fritz: The Office of Neighborhood Involvement is a rookie's gig, something most commissioners would see as punishment. But Fritz, in her second term, will grab it again—because she actually wants it. And no one else really does. The same logic applies, in part, to the Bureau of Emergency Communications. Expect her to also wind up with the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), a nod to her advocacy on utility rates and her frequently stated desire for some meatier and more meaningful policy work.

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Commissioner Nick Fish: Fish is synonymous with Portland Parks and Recreation and the Portland Housing Bureau. Parks, under Fish, has won awards and has been steadily turning its gaze toward East Portland. Housing also enjoys a healthy reputation—winning a big gesture of faith from Hales, who gave it everything it asked for in his proposed budget. Fish covets both, and the conventional wisdom is Hales will deliver. However, that conventional wisdom seems to be slipping. The O argued Fish will lose parks because his push for a parks bond measure is on pause. They're wrong. He'll also give up housing and pick up transportation—a bureau that desperately needs a political makeover and Fish's gift for earning good PR.

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Commissioner Dan Saltzman: Saltzman also has a reputation as a fixer. Witness his staid handling of the formerly controversial Bureau of Development Services over the past two years. He'll keep it, although Hales, close to the development community, might snap it up on economic development grounds. Saltzman also will land another bureau linked to former Commissioner Randy Leonard: Portland Fire and Rescue. Saltzman thumped Leonard for months over the need to use SUVs instead of large-staffed fire trucks for medical calls. He's getting his wish in Hales' proposed budget.

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Commissioner Steve Novick: If Fish doesn't win housing, it's Novick's—a testament to his interest in working across jurisdictional lines, especially on safety-net issues. As federal grants and local tax-increment revenue both dry up—twin sources of construction funding—the bureau's focus will shift even more toward services and require even deeper collaboration with the county and state. (The rookie commissioner also studied the housing bureau's work plan well before he was an elected official.) Novick earned his bones as an environmental lawyer, so he could wind up with BES over Fritz. But that expertise also would serve him atop the water bureau, which he ran briefly upon taking office and showed himself extremely willing to (gulp)... dive into?

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