The 2016 election cycle is revving up all over the country, Portland City Hall included.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz surprised many local political pundits yesterday when she announced her plans to seek a third term. The announcement came the same day that the once-marginalized city council member won a 4-1 vote to dedicate 50 percent of surplus money over the next four years to “infrastructure maintenance and replacement” for roads, parks and emergency services.
The Oregonian reports that Fritz’s proposal will apply to “one-time funding identified during the annual budget process or excess money carried from one budget to the next.” It’s apparently intended as a sort of make-up call for the city’s infamous failure to follow through on a 1988 plan to dedicate 28 percent of utility license fees for transportation.
Opposing Fritz’s measure was her colleague Dan Saltzman, who said the council was “setting ourselves up to be criticized” by attempting to tie the hands of future councils.
For yesterday’s article, Fritz told The Oregonian’s Brad Schmidt that she plans to finance her 2016 campaign largely out of a life insurance payment from her late husband Steve Fritz, who died in a freeway crash in September when a person headed the opposite direction hit a tanker trailer and then veered across the grassy median into him. He’d been commuting to his job as a psychiatrist for Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
Amanda Fritz is the only non-incumbent ever elected to Portland’s city council with public financing. Two years after her 2008 victory, Portland voters killed publicly funded elections, which were loudly opposed by the Portland Business Alliance, the regional chamber of commerce. In 2012, Fritz won a second term by donating $300,000 of her own money into the campaign.
“Fritz said her husband had picked up extra shifts, working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, in the years since to help rebuild their savings,” Schmidt reported Wednesday.
Fritz has been an uneasy ally for low-car transportation advocates over the years, sometimes passionately supporting sidewalks or opposing the Columbia River Crossing and other times saying she couldn’t support a bike sharing system until people stopped riding bikes illegally downtown.
In her reelection announcement, Fritz listed “Identify funding to maintain basic infrastructure” as one of her priorities for the next two years.
More recently, she joined the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Oregon Walks in support of a “street fund” based on a progressive income tax, but not until opposition from the PBA and others had apparently driven her colleagues away from that plan.
Schmidt’s piece called Fritz “the city’s most unconventional and unlikely politician,” and that may be true.
Two other council members will also be up for reelection in 2016: the pair that at least for the moment are most tightly in charge of the city’s transportation policy.
Mayor Charlie Hales said this month that he’s started fundraising for a reelection campaign. Schmidt reported Wednesday that Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick “said he’ll run again in 2016.”