We tried it. It's a flop.

It's hard to believe that it was less than two years ago when more than 75 percent of Multnomah County voters, including I, voted to make Mike Schmidt the county district attorney. He was elected on May 19, 2020 for a term that was supposed to begin the next January 1, but shortly after Schmidt's victory was complete, the outgoing D.A., Rod Underhill, abruptly "retired." Underhill had supported Schmidt's opponent, an assistant U.S. attorney named Ethan Knight. The governor, "Killer" Kate Brown, appointed Schmidt to take over as soon as Underhill stormed off, in August 2020. 

That means that we've had only 19½ months of Schmidt, rather than the eternity it seems. And unless something happens to move him along sooner, there are 33½ months to go.

Why did we vote for the guy? He ran on a lefty platform: less incarceration, more social work, the almighty "equity," and most important to many of us, police accountability. Underhill and his former bosses had never seen a dirty, racist, or brutal cop that they wouldn't cover for. Schmidt even threw in victims' rights, which sounded a little too real for Portland, but it's a thing nowadays. And so for all of the above, he won his election big time.

The day he took office, the George Floyd riots, badly exacerbated by Trump and his goons, had Portland in their grip. Schmidt had already signaled that he wasn't going to prosecute rioters, that property damage was a price he was willing to pay to facilitate social change. Most of those arrested were released and never prosecuted. The riots went on for many months, and along with becoming greatly dissatisfied with the mayor, Dud Wheeler, and his police chief, Chuck Lovell, many of us quickly developed a case of buyer's remorse about Schmidt. He seemed way too soft. Downtown shut down, boarded up, and hasn't recovered since.

As the riots went into remission, along came unprecedented gun violence, what used to be called gang warfare before that phrase was banned. It seems the entire criminal justice system has failed Portland, and that includes Schmidt. He could hide behind Covid for only so long. (In this television interview of just a couple of weeks ago, he made several mentions of the pandemic, but his heart didn't seem in to be in it, perhaps because he knows hardly anyone is buying it as an excuse any longer.)

Schmidt's standing with the public took another hit a couple of months ago, when Amber Kinney, a senior assistant prosecutor, resigned in a huff and pointed out loudly that Schmidt's leadership team was practically all male, even though some of the hardest and best work in the office was being done by women. Kinney wrote Schmidt a wickedly sharp seven-page letter, including this (with lawyerly footnotes omitted):

In the last year and a half, not only has the forward progress women made in our office ceased, but under your leadership women have been set back decades. I’m unsure whether this failure is due to intentional gender discrimination on your part, or whether your implicit bias is running unchecked.

The attorney management in our office is comprised of only one female (17% of total management), despite the current ratio for lawyers at about 50/50 men and women. Of the lawyers in leadership positions (management + Level 4 Supervisors), 80% are men and 20% are women (only 4 women).  The very next level down, non-supervisors (Level 3 lawyers) are nearly 70% women. The newly created designation of “Lead Level 3s” – the elite squad of major felony trial attorneys, recognized for our longevity in the office, complex caseload, and homicide call-out duty, but who are not supervisors – are almost all women (89% are women and 11% are men). This is a glass ceiling.

Under your leadership, seven consecutive men were promoted or hired into leadership positions. Under your leadership (or in anticipation of your leadership) eight high-level career lawyers have left our office, seven of the eight are women.

Ouch. At that point, many who were on the fence about Schmidt reached the conclusion that he is in way over his head.

Then came the other day, when his office pounded the public's panic button regarding woefully short staffing in the D.A.'s office. And in a move that seems beyond cynical, Schmidt sent a female deputy out to the press conference to play Cassandra:

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office says it is facing an “unprecedented” turnover of prosecutors as gun violence in Portland is on pace to eclipse last year’s historic record.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden said Thursday that 12 to 15 deputy district attorneys have left the DA’s office in the past year.

“And that’s just unprecedented,” Snowden said while speaking at a press conference this morning held by Mayor Ted Wheeler and local law enforcement officials.

“Unfortunately, I can say that we’re becoming overwhelmed,” Snowden said. “Our criminal justice system is simply in crisis.... We have reallocated the resources that we have to focus on gun violence. [A]nd I can say that, unfortunately, just this week alone, we initiated the prosecution in three separate cases where different people had been shot in the face.”

It doesn't take a Stanford MBA to recognize bad management when you see it. Like Wheeler and Lovell, and like Jo Ann "With the Bullhorn" Hardesty and Carmen "Chainsaw" Rubio, Schmidt is not the person Portland needs at this moment. As long as he's spilling soup on his tie, Portland will not be pulling out of its nosedive. 

The platform he ran on will not be fulfilled, certainly not by him and probably not by anyone else, either. The next time around, Portland should be willing to settle for somebody with a less ambitious campaign spiel, so long as he or she has adequate maturity and leadership skills. Schmidt ain't it.