Department from Hell, can I help you?

Here's a worrisome story from OPB about a totally dysfunctional bureau at Portland City Hall, the "Office of Community & Civic Life." Just the name is la-la enough that you can smell trouble before you even walk through the door. And oh, there has been trouble.

For years, rank-and-file staff has been sounding alarms about management at the bureau that they allege ranged from sloppy to abusive: filing at least 4 complaints with human resources, 11 union grievances and an estimated 20 complaints with the city’s ombudsman. The bureau’s turnover rate alone, in the words of one labor expert, should have cast a “flashing red light” over management problems: records show an exodus from the bureau since 2018 with at least 31 regular staff members departing from the bureau, one of the smallest in the city. That includes staffers who were fired, retired, quit or transferred out. More than half of those who left were people of color.

It's been a bad scene for many years, but four years ago, rookie (and one-term) city commissioner Chloe Eudaly took it over. It didn't get better.

Nicholas Carroll, a support specialist for the bureau’s noise office,...  said his supervisor, Kenya Williams, was often unprofessional, publicly disparaging the job performance of his subordinates and discussing them in crude terms. He said Williams asked him to think "fuck you" when on calls with the public.

While under investigation by human resources, Williams took a new job at the Parks bureau as the equity & inclusion manager. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It goes on and on.

The root of the problem is that this bureau's mission is a collection of dogs-and-cats functions that no other bureau wants.

Portlanders turn to the office to deal with their noise complaints, regulate their cannabis shops and liquor stores, and scrub off unwanted graffiti. Most notably, the bureau oversees funding for the city’s network of 95 neighborhood associations, local groups responsible for promoting civic engagement.

It makes no sense. Maybe what they ought to do is disband the office completely, and move its functions into other bureaus. Lord knows, there are plenty of bureaus. 

And what are the politicians doing managing the bureaus anyway? Portland's form of government is absurd. We're 20 years into the 21st Century. Maybe it's time for City Hall to at least get out of the 19th.


  1. I remember that there was a lot of talk leading up to the November election about examining the City's organizational structure and perhaps moving to a Council/City Manager form of government. I guess now that city leaders are comfortably ensconced in their positions, that will be quietly forgotten and nothing done.

  2. No surprise when you have a vague squishy slush fund to piss away. How's that Arts Tax working out? Whatever happened to the legal case to strike it down?


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