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Hall Monitor

Blood from a stone

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Last Monday, September 11, former firefighter and current City Commissioner Randy Leonard paid a visit to his compatriots at the Portland Firefighters Association—to ask them for money.

He was looking for support for the city's proposed reform to the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement (FPD&R) system, which will be on the ballot this November. The fire and police unions have a long and acrimonious history with the reform—starting when Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced he was pushing forward on the ballot measure, whether the unions liked it or not. Unsurprisingly, the unions didn't like it, despite the fact the retirement program is a $1.64 billion unfunded liability that could bankrupt the city.

So when Leonard showed up at the union hall, he got what could generously be called an "earful." Surprisingly, Leonard said the union's executive board members didn't have any real problems with the reforms. But, he said, "There are people there who still feel burned by the process. I was there to tell them, 'You have to look objectively at the product.'"

That message was at least partially heard; the board decided to donate $2,000—but to Leonard's political action committee, not directly to the campaign. Plus, the union is officially endorsing the measure.

"Randy's done a lot of good for us and the city, we just wanted to give something back to him," said Jack Finders of the firefighters' union.

(The Portland Police Association has already made the decision to remain "neutral supportive"—that is, they won't give any money to the campaign, but they won't fight it either.)

According to Leonard, much of the union's acrimony was directed at Saltzman—who's become the whipping boy for the way the reform process went down. Union members still feel like they were shut out, although they were both brought in within the last year to hammer out the details.

Robert King, head of the police union, said many are still hung up on the process. "There are some members who feel that this review is being done to us, not by us," he said. "We're supportive of the council resolution, but it's tougher to get people to put up money for something they didn't start."

Which is another way of saying, "If Saltzman wants this thing on the ballot so bad, let him find a way to pay for it."

Speaking of blood from stones! Uttered by City Auditor Gary Blackmer last week: "When did Emilie Boyles become the Tonya Harding of local politics?"

Blackmer knows where Boyles is, but he ain't saying.

Track me down: smoore@portlandmercury.com

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