(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
According to The Oregonian’s City Hall reporter Beth Slovic, PBOT Director Tom Miller is not likely to keep his job if Charlie Hales or Eileen Brady win the mayoral election.
Both candidates made their intention to make the change in separate interviews with The Oregonian this week:
“I believe we need to change the leadership at the Transportation Bureau, and we need to do it on day one,” Brady said in an interview with The Oregonian on Wednesday about her priorities should she win.
“This isn’t personal,” he [Hales] said on Friday. “There are major issues in the bureau, and it needs a fresh and fully qualified leader.”
While The Oregonian story lacked context for the comments (it’s likely they are interviewing the candidates prior to making an official endorsement), to have candidates weigh in so directly on the fate of sitting bureau director is a bit shocking. However, given a string of stories critical Miller in The Oregonian and his close association with Mayor Sam Adams — the two have worked together since 2004 — it’s easy to see how he would get caught up in politics.
Miller has been the subject of significant scrutiny by The Oregonian since he took office. They’ve questioned his ethics when he stayed at a beach house owned by a local real estate developer, they’ve questioned the motivations behind his hiring and firing practices, and they’ve framed his appointment by Adams — which came with a pay raise and without a competitive, national search — as cronyism. (To that last point, Miller says other high profile positions like Police Chief Mike Reese, Water Bureau Director David Shaff, and Chief Administrative Officer of the Office of Management and Finance Jack Graham were made the same way.)
Reached for a response today about the comments by Hales and Brady, Miller said he finds it “interesting” that the candidates would make such statements because he has yet to sit and talk with either of them about the state of PBOT or the work he is doing. “Neither Charlie nor Eileen has been briefed on the budget or reached out to the bureau for information on how things are going in general.”
“If either candidate wants to see the bureau go towards more of a roads-first or motor vehicles first direction, I will gladly step aside. That’s not the mission of this organization… And I don’t think either candidate, given their records, thinks that’s the right direction.”
“The performance of every bureau director will be reviewed by the incoming mayor, and it will be judged based on their record. I’m confident my record will be judged based on facts when the time comes.” said Miller.
While The Oregonian has inaccurately framed PBOT’s 2013 budget and criticized the agency’s priorities, Miller proudly stands behind it. “It’s the most transparent and disciplined PBOT budget, probably ever… It’s based on a balanced five-year forecast and at the end of it we are well-positioned financially. That wasn’t easy to put together and I did it with no drama from my budget advisory committee.”
Miller also stands behind what he sees as the mission of PBOT: to be an agency that does not prioritize auto access at the expense of everything else.
“It’s a tough budget,” he went on to say, “and clearly there’s frustration with some of the outcomes. Let me be clear, I share that frustration, we all share that frustration; but it’s a question of resources. Our budget retains our commitment to a multi-modal future — that’s what we do at PBOT.”
“I suppose if either candidate wants to see the bureau go towards more of a roads-first or motor vehicles first direction, I will gladly step aside. That’s not the mission of this organization and that’s not the direction I want to take the organization… And I don’t think either candidate, given their records, thinks that’s the right direction.”
Miller, 39, has been in charge of PBOT for just over a year, being appointed to the position by Adams in January 2011. Adams hired Miller to run his campaign for City Commissioner back in 2004 and Miller followed Adams into the Mayor’s office in 2008 as his Chief of Staff. The two worked together through the extreme tumult of the Beau Breedlove scandal and two subsequent recall attempts.
Miller is aware that his relationship with Adams is likely coming into play with these comments by Hales and Brady. But he sounded confident that his record would stand up to any scrutiny.
“I should be judged based on my performance as PBOT’s director. As for my previous work relationship with Mayor Adams, how is that relevant to whether or not I’m qualified or capable of leading this bureau? Again, I’m confident I’ll be judged based on my record, not on Sam’s record: That’s what I deserve, that’s what every bureau director deserves… Anything less would be purely political in nature and that’s not good for the city.”
UPDATE: The Oregonian also reported that Jefferson Smith did not offer an opinion on Miller, saying he wasn’t in a position to judge.
UPDATED: Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith posted this to his Facebook page this evening:
Yesterday I was asked if I would fire the head of the Transportation Bureau. My take is that it is generally premature to hire and fire bureau directors 10 months before taking office. (And months before final election). It can be good practice to ask generally for resignations of all at-will staff and then rehire. Beyond that, it feels premature to pick and choose among directors.