planpdx.org: Interview with Kelly Bacon
Date of Interview: March 26, 1996
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Portland, Oregon
[This is an interview with Kelly Bacon, who was Ernie Bonner's Administrative Assistant at the Bureau of Planning. The interview was held at the Multnomah County district attorney's office where Kelly Bacon worked at the time of the interview. The interview was held on March 26, 1996. Kelly died shortly after this interview.]
KB = Kelly Bacon
EB = Ernie Bonner
KB: I was in a military family. We moved around in the early days on the east coast and later in California. About the late fifties my Dad was relocated to Oregon State. He was assigned to the ROTC group at Oregon State. So I came to Oregon in 1961 or 62. I started high school in California, and finished in Corvallis high school. Then, and because it was across the street, I signed up for Oregon State. I went to Oregon State University for about three years. I had a good time. This would be 1968, too good a time to be having in 1968--when they were using a Hoover vacuum cleaner for people like me, sweeping us up and sending us to Fort Lewis. So I ended up joining the army, pending the draft. I said Hell, if I am going to be drafted, I'll just add that year (actually, it was only nine months because you could get out early), and try to save myself some grief and have some chance at picking what my military specialty would-be, rather than have to just basic infantry. So I went up to Fort Lewis, and did my basic training. That would've been in early 1968. I decided to get into stock control and accounting. I figured I would be a specialist and would be assigned to Germany.
EB: Everybody wanted to go to Germany.
KB: What happened to me, they yanked half of our class (after we finished that basic training in stock control and accounting) and said they were going to send us to Army Graduate School, another six weeks of stuff. However, they had a map of all of the 83 locations where we would be trained on using a particular piece of equipment (basically mobile computers), and every location was in Vietnam. So they said, "Welcome, everybody in this room is going to Vietnam." So I finished that out and, sure enough, got assigned to Vietnam. I went to Vietnam, assigned to the I Corps. Ironically it was the same location that my present employer, Mike Schrunk, was assigned to. I did the year of duty there, and came back to spend the remaining 18 months or so of my service up at Fort Lewis again. I got discharged in 1971. And I drove down to Portland in a snow storm, just to get the hell out of Fort Lewis as fast as possible.
I drove straight to Oregon State, where I had already been accepted, to finish up. That took about another year. That would put it at 1972. My roommate decided he wanted to go to Hawaii--I was actually going to go for a double degree I think at that point--sociology and political science--but I had enough hours already to graduate. I was just dinking around, basically. But I graduated. He came back one day and said, "Let's go to Hawaii." I was getting unemployment checks from the Army. In those days they were pretty generous about that. You got the Washington unemployment, which at that time was one of the highest in the nation. So me and my checks went to Hawaii.
After about three months in Hawaii, literally having fun and just goofing off, I came back to Oregon. That would have been in 1972--right about the time that George Wallace was shot. I remember walking in off the street into a radio station to hear the news reports about that. I decided I needed to start looking for a job. I had my degree so the schooling was over for me. And I wasn't going to get a job in Corvallis. I always joked that I was on my way to Seattle when I stopped in Portland.
I came into Portland and roomed with a couple of my buddies. They gave me room and board until I found my way around. I found myself knocking on doors, but not getting very far, doing a lot of interviews. You go to a lot of interviews, check the State listings. I don't recall doing the County, but maybe the city. One of the State listings had a job application for a drug counselor--drug counselor for veterans. But you had to have had some experience. I mean, this thing required that you had some experience with drugs--to the point, it sounded like, that you had to have been arrested for it, or have some kind of record. Well, that kind of pissed me off. Here, I had played by the rules, I hadn't gotten into any major league trouble; I certainly would not consider myself any kind of a drug user. I would admit to one thing--I was young. I wrote a letter to the Oregonian, complaining about this. This is bullshit. You try to do well, and everything else, and here you are trying to move for a job and they are giving these jobs to other characters--people who have problems. So one day I came back to the apartment and somebody said that Commissioner Mildred Schwab had called--that she wanted me to come down and see her. And I didn't know her from Adam, I didn't know anybody.
EB: Was this a city job?
KB: No, it was a State job. It had nothing to do with the city. So I showed up the next day; I was escorted into her office, and after some preliminary chit chat, she said, "Well, I will find you a job." And the next thing I know, I'm going down to an office down the street, in the Yeon Building, I believe, a building since torn down. Basically, it was a CETA job. That's what it turned out to be. The Mayor had started up a project to reexamine civil service. Ken Calvin ran it. Ken was the leader of it at that time. They were studying civil service. They needed a secretary and that is what I was put to work at, because I had said something about being able to type. I think basically what happened is that commissioner Schwab had called down there and told them to take this person, whether he can type or not. Put him to work.
EB: Get him something to do.
KB: ...and that is kind of what...
EB: How did she know you?
KB: From the letter.
EB: Oh, from the letter to the editor.
KB: Just cold, just cold. And about the same time, I recognize that, if I wanted to get involved in public affairs or get involved in city work--and that had always been my interest in a way, in political science--that I should start hanging out with that crowd. You know. You go to the bars. You go to the election night parties, you start meeting people and learning names. So, concurrently, I was starting to do that. I worked with this little team for about a year. It had its ups and downs. Ken Calvin was replaced by Molly Weinstein, who worked there. She took over. Ken had gotten too academic, and wasn't producing results. The mayor's office was not happy, for a variety of reasons. Molly's job was to bring this study--basically a 2- or 3-year study--to an end. That wasn't happening as fast as Ron Buel wanted down there at the Mayor's office. So we finished it up.
By that time, nine months to a year, I had met people and I had gotten a little bit of expertise in personnel. I mean, I knew something about what civil service lists were all about. I knew my way around a little bit. When the place closed down I subsequently got a job with the county commission, to help implement some of the recommendations of this report. And I went to work, essentially, for Commissioner Padrow. He had an assistant. I was at that point more like the student intern. I was no longer a CETA employee. I was assigned to some personnel work for Don Rocks, who was an assistant at the time to Ben Padrow. I did a lot of work with the unions, explaining the study we had done. I wrote up a couple of reports for Padrow's use. I think he was trying to make a name for himself. He was on a leave of absence from Portland State, to run for commissioner. He got elected and was doing a variety of things. I can't recall how long that lasted. it was in the months, four or five months. Again, you are meeting people as you go along. I became friends with a couple called Gustafson. I hope I am recalling this right... Marjorie Gustafson...
EB: Marjorie and John...
KB: yes. I had become friends with them. I worked with him when he ran for commissioner of labor. I helped him gather petitions. I became friends with Marjorie. At this point, I am unemployed again. My little gig with the county is over. I am hoping to get with some personnel department. Somehow, I remember Marjorie more than John, making reference to an opening in the city, and I think it was specifically in the Bureau of Planning. But I don't recall, exactly.
EB: Well, Kish is the one who really wanted you in there. Now I don't know how he knew you, but...
KB: Maybe it was through Gustafsons.
EB: Could it have been through your CETA job with Ken Calvin? Dave was working with the Mayor's office on that CETA stuff.
KB: You know, my memories of Dave begin with the Bureau of Planning, but I am sure that we crossed paths...
EB: He seemed to know all about you.
KB: Is that right? I don't recall specifically.
EB: I don't remember exactly, either, what happened. I do remember Dave thinking you were the right person for the job.
KB: I remember getting this referral to get down and talk with the Bureau of Planning. And the next vivid thing is meeting you and Sheldon Linn. And then I had to go get bedded with Gary...
EB: Gary Stout.
KB: And, of course, Stout asked me... I remember his interview more than I remember your interview because I was trying to develop the pecking order in my head. I mean, how is this thing working? Because they all appeared be kind of new, groping around in their jobs. I knew enough to know that. And I was just interested in the job, you know, public service all that kind of stuff. And I remember Gary was... by the time I talked to him, I knew that I was, like, their person--that I was the final candidate and he was checking me over to make sure I was not going to be a problem, that I wasn't someone who came in dragging their knuckles on the floor and drooled all over the place. He was very specific in his interest about detail work, things that I got the impression you were going to be weak on.
EB: that's exactly what he was doing.
KB: So I kind of got a fix at that point. And now that I recall, I did have a high regard for Kish. I must have developed that prior to coming to the Bureau. I really do not recall how that happened. I had a really high regard for him, to the point where trying to follow in his footsteps was daunting for me. I remember thinking about that. I knew you guys were all in a new group, because you said so. And I did not know squat about urban planning. To this day I do not know that much about it.
EB: Just goes to show you that you can live a full life without knowing anything about Planning.
KB: But I do recall going through Stout's interview process, and there being some interest in having an administrative component to the team they were developing over there. But they also had the impression that Sheldon would provide that end of it. And as I think was described, you were providing the larger vision and things of that nature. I'm getting this from Stout.
I don't know when I showed up, or what I did the first day or even the fiftieth day, but I remember you saying that, you know, we don't know what the Hell we're doing around here, so pitch in. And never having had, really, a city bureau with a regular kind of organization--I had really operated to that point on these little study groups. So this was a regular organization, your own bureau, delivered services, had a pecking order, etc. You certainly blunted the pecking order business. I think that was pretty clear. But Sheldon was... I went to dinner... because I got the sense, right at the front, that he was the guy I had to help... not in the sense that I had to direct him, he was directing me, but I was going to do more direct service to him, probably, than to you. He would have administrative tasks that I would perform. Don't ask me which ones I performed, because I can't recall any of them. But I do remember dealing with him much more than with you. Now, I can't recall how long he was there. It wasn't that long.
EB: No, I think he did leave in 1974. He might have been there a year.
KB: It seems to me that he was gone about two or three months after I began work at the Bureau. I went out to dinner with Sheldon and his wife when they lived in that little house over by the Mac club. But he wasn't really around long enough to develop any kind of social relationship. He went back to Baltimore, as I recall.
At that point, I was beginning to understand all of these programs, trying to make heads or tails out of them, what planners do, but I'm still trying to develop some sense of the politics of the place; like who's in and who's out. I never knew Lloyd Keefe at all, but I knew that he had been bounced down and put over in a corner. And then I remember he was working on the one hundred year flood plain. Now, at this point I don't remember if I was dealing with you or with Dale Cannady. Did Dale replace Sheldon? Because as I recall, I started working with Dale. One of you, I don't recall who, wanted me to go in and see what Lloyd Keefe was doing. I had to deal with him in terms of his office space and the other little stuff that was probably digging at him. He seemed to be a kind of happy guy but I felt bad, whatever I was doing, I didn't feel good about it because it seemed to be part of pushing the guy away, out the door.
EB: You mean because he didn't really have an office and he didn't have a place to go?
KB: Yeah, and we were trying to get him out the door. How do we do this kind of thing? But nobody's talking it, particularly. You may have been frank about it, but Dale wasn't. I was doing a lot of stuff with Dale, you know, filling out personnel forms and other things. We got into a pissing match at one point.
Now, times are maybe fuzzy because things are concurrent, things happening in parallel. And I was only there about a year, about 12 months. Maybe a little less, if we were to calculate it. So some of these things overlap and it's all kind of compressed. The events that I remember, in no particular sequence were things such as: we got into a pissing match with women planners. I can't remember... there was a group of young female planners, you had just hired them or maybe they had been there. They weren't... they were feeling their oats or something else and they were members of the Union. They wanted to exercise some of the contractual clauses... they were very minor and I had to deal with it.
EB: You did a good job of that, Kelly, because I don't remember that. I do remember that one woman graphics artist describing this picture of a manhole cover as a personhole cover. This was a publication about Portland's historic districts. She refused to title that a manhole cover. I thought that was great.
KB: For the life of me now, I can't recall what the friction was. It was between them and me. I don't think it was you or the administration. It may have been. It was one of these minor matters like, you know, whether the women get to go to the bathroom.
EB: I haven't talked to anybody who knows anything about this, but there seemed to be some kind of an issue which always came out involving graffiti in the women's rest room. There used to be a lot of things in the women's rest room that people laughed about, and that us men knew nothing about.
KB: Now that vaguely rings a distant belt. Women. The rumor control. But I can't remember the details of it, I just remember that it was there. It was somewhat visceral, but the issues weren't awe-inspiring or anything like that.
EB: Were you there when we had the Tuesday massacre--Black Tuesday, or whatever it was called?
KB: I will never forget that.
EB: And the night we decided to...
KB: You decided to get rid of a bunch of people.
EB: Do you remember that?
KB: Oh, Yeah. I remember very clearly. I don't remember all of details; and some of the names I have forgotten. But I knew that your frustration level had been building. I get home one night to the apartment where I lived at Southeast 39th and Powell with these buddies of mine, and Lynn had called. I called her back, and she said, "Kelly, (this has got to be like 9 or 10 at night, I had probably been out to the bars and was just coming back) Ernie's down at the office and he's going to fire everybody, or he's going to get rid of a bunch of people. You've got to get down there." So I go down there and I go into your office, and you've got it all mapped out. Organization charts and the whole nine yards. And you're going to get rid of about, maybe maximum, 5 people. And I knew you were going to have problems. I went through the names and there was no debate about--one had a drug problem and one was an alcoholic and another one was a pain in the butt--and there was that kind of stuff. It was a collection of problems. But you had put it all together and you're going to sweep house. And you're going to do it tomorrow, the following day. I'm not sure what I contributed to the discussion, other than to just learn a little about it, what the hell you're going to do, etc. I knew you were going to have a problem with one person. There was a woman in the zoning section that I thought you were going to have a problem with because of her union connections, but a couple of the other ones, it was probably long overdue. I wasn't that experienced at that time for these mass firings. I have since become much more experienced.
EB: You can't do that any more.
KB: That's right. It would take a year to work on one. I forget how we break up or how we leave. I probably knew you were committed to your course of action, and I knew there was going to be hell to pay. I just know this. I know that the Mayor's office and Gary Stout are going to... because you're not telling them, you're going to just go do this... So the next day I got to work and I swear to God... and you started bringing these people in, talking to them. And as that proceeds, I get a call from Stout saying, "What the shit is going on over there? What's going on?" And he said he would be right over. So I go running over there, to City Hall, and Stout was there wondering what the hell is happening? And I said, "Well, Ernie is getting rid of some people." I didn't know whether you had the authority or not. As far as I knew, you did, except you had one union person who was going to be a pain in the butt. As far as I was concerned, and I knew at the time, that you could get rid of those planners. But he was all... and he had obviously gotten it through the Mayor's office, I don't think he'd learned it independently, maybe you called him, maybe you had chatted with him. I just knew that I was over there talking to Stout--at that moment--and I was defending you or giving him your position on this thing. And then I left and went back to the Bureau and that's about the picture. I remember a couple of them sticking, in terms of the terminations, and some others on which we had to retreat on.
EB: Well, I thought I had an unassailable position. I didn't fire any of them. I said, you either resign, or I will set in motion, now, a process to fire you. So I didn't fire anybody. And, of course, you couldn't. You couldn't just fire someone. You'd have cause, and you'd have a long process, so nobody could argue that I wasn't following a reasonable process. I don't know whether I told the Mayor's office or not. I suspect that I might have told them. I don't really remember. I know the whole thing revolved around the budget problem. We were short of money. If we're going to bring in some people who will get the job done, there was no way that I could keep the dead weight around. I just couldn't.
KB: I remember that part--the dead weight, and I remember your frustration. So it wasn't a surprise to me when Lynn told me you were going to get rid of some people. But that you were going to get it all done in one day, and it was all compressed, and the number of people, that surprised me. When I went to see Stout, and he hollered at me about what you were doing, it was... And I do remember some of the individuals. Like I said, I don't recall names and I only vaguely remember faces. But I know that was unsettling to the larger group. The individuals from zoning had support and you had to take that into account, and she stayed there for a while.
Yeah, that's a seminal memory, getting that call and running down there and wondering can this guy do this? And you're right, you were firing the trigger, and that things were happening.
EB: It definitely made an impression.
KB: I remember, it shook up the organization a little bit. And I think... I think soon after, one of the other tasks that I detested ever since, was that you had to reorganize and move people. It wasn't driven, I don't believe, by a remodeling effort...
EB: Well, we reorganized into chief planners, so we had a completely new organization.
KB: And I don't remember us moving walls or anything dramatic, but I remember this person having to go over here and all of this kind of stuff. Because I had to sit down at night and figure out the boxes. Who was going to go here, who was going to go there. Maybe it was driven by some remodeling efforts that we had to do in the building. That could have been. We had that big old ugly thing, that the city still has, that wooden model of the downtown. It used to sit at the top of the stairs as you came up to the second floor of the building. This thing would sit there, and whenever a new building would go up, they would kind of build a cardboard model of it and put it up there.
EB: And that beautiful tapestry we had at the top of the stairs, eventually, as a result of the one percent for art program, is now in Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Kelly's office.
KB: Oh, is that right? We've got a couple of those turkeys laying around ourselves.
EB: do you remember any of the budget fights? Were you involved with the council in any of those?
KB: No, I would've been there for just one budget cycle. I remember doing work sheets and I would have done those kinds of things. But I don't recall the substance of any of those battles. You've jogged my memory on some of that stuff. In my time there, I recall filling out a lot of forms. I recall having to do a lot of that kind of stuff. I'm sure it was elementary to a lot of people like Kish. But to me was all new stuff. So I was focusing my attention. There was some kind of the EPA grant and I had to put that together. I didn't have a clue what that was, what 701 meant, but I was putting this thing together. I mean, I would have blown all of the true-false tests anybody could have given me on where is this from, what does it do, where are these places, and what is it all about. I didn't have any idea. And when I finished, I still didn't have any idea. But I remember doing that kind of activity during the year that I was there. And I remember the budget process, but I didn't get directly involved, like walking along with you at council stuff.
EB: Do you remember any of the personalities at the Bureau? Any strong memories of any of them?
KB: I remember Cannady and Keefe and Spencer Vail. I became friends with some of these people. I remember Terry Sandblast being a strong personality. Karen, I remember. O'Hiser... Because I remember, he was the downtown planner as I recall, I got the impression that he created his job and that was his assignment, I guess. I really did not understand what downtown Planning was or what the downtown plan was. I didn't know you could do that kind of stuff because these were business people who had built up their building and I didn't know that the city could do anything, that it could have anything to say about that kind of thing. But I learned about that stuff. I remember the Nordstrom project. Or was it the Main Building... there was a big hole in downtown Portland... or it may have been the Galleria building. It had been vacated and their was a big effort to get that developed. I remember stout being involved in that, that kind of stuff. I remember some early discussions with Doug Wright and the transportation corridor in Sullivan's Gulch--and early briefings on light rail. I remember Doug briefing the staff on options, getting people up to speed on where that planning was going. Most of that was unfamiliar territory to me. I remember a guy who died not too long after I left, an older guy, he had worked for Connie McCready. He had either been on her staff or was kicked around from somewhere else, and he was part of this battle to kill the freeway. He was part of that, tasked to the Bureau, an ex-military guy.
EB: Bill Dirker?
KB: Yeah. Yeah.
EB: He came from Anderson's office.
KB: He was somehow involved in that piece.
EB: He was the transportation coordinator for the city.
KB: I kind of liked him. He was a boisterous character. I don't know what he contributed to the effort. He was into this business about the Civic stadium. He got into that.
EB: What connections did you have with the Mayor's office? Did you have anything to do with those people, either individually or otherwise?
KB: Not much. I don't recall having very much. I knew some of the people and I would sometimes carry over documents and this and that, but there were no substantive contacts, as I recall. I recognize some of those individuals on the streets nowadays. Often I do not remember their names. I remember Ron Buel and Bill Scott, and Alan Webber. I just remember them as people, I didn't have any real involvement with them.
EB: Were you around when other chief planners were, like Mazziotti and Wilde, the head of neighborhood Planning?
KB: OK, I remember them. Mazziotti. There was a character. He must have threatened resignation at least two or three times with me. I don't know how many times he threatened to resign with you. But it always had to do with his pay.
EB: His pay? He didn't get it on time, or something?
KB: No, he just wanted to... he may have been pimping me or something like that, or yanking my chain, but he would come in and say he wanted these kinds of things as part of his package: He wanted more money and things of that nature, and where is it in the budget, and all that, and I'm going to resign if I don't get it. I didn't pay much attention to it, you know. Talk about a blow-hard; he was a good one. Denny I remember being a nice guy, a hell of a nice guy.
EB: Let's see, who else was around. Ken Hampton was around. He was head of zoning, and had been there for awhile. I don't remember where he came from.
KB: Yeah, Sandblast worked for him. I used to see Ken on the street every now and then. He did some early stuff for the county after he left the City.
EB: Was Bev Nelson still the secretary when you were around? Do you remember her--petite, little lady?
KB: Oh, she was Stout's secretary, wasn't she?
EB: No. Of course, Stout always thought that everybody who worked at the Bureau worked for him.
KB: No, he had a person--a good-looking blonde.
EB: No, I know who you are talking about. Bev was dark-haired, small. She might have been gone by the time you got there.
KB: Yeah, Mazziotti was quite a character. You brought him in, didn't you?
EB: Exactly. He and Doug Wright were the ones basically who I knew from before who came in.
KB: Yeah, the neighborhood stuff had just started up, too. Goldschmidt was working that field pretty good. I think at that same time, Mary Pedersen was involved?
I had on and off dealings with others in the city, but they were minor and administrative in nature. I wasn't carrying any water for you on the policy side, I don't recall. It was mostly administrative and trying to keep you from having to deal with that stuff. Because that's how it evolved. I remember doing more and more of that as the year progressed, as Sheldon and Dale Cannady did less.
EB: Probably everybody was trying to get it off their table onto yours.
KB: I remember one letter I got once. This was when LCDC had just come into existence. The land use planning law had passed recently and implementation and execution was just starting. I got a letter from LCDC saying that they wanted to have 12 goals--what were the City's 12 goals? Or the city had to have 12 goals, or something like that. I had to turn this thing in. And I sat on that thing, and it was still on my desk when I left. And I always had this guilty feeling, that Jesus, the city had failed (and I'm sure it was followed up by 18,000 different kinds of things, letters, calls, memos, meetings) but this forlorn little letter... And it really didn't hit me until maybe a month after that this letter may relate to this other thing. But by then I was about out the door, so I decided to keep my mouth shut about that.
EB: Maybe somebody will forget it, right?
KB: Yeah. There was a lot of that going on, too.
EB: Yeah, that was happening to LCDC all across the state.
KB: I now know what all that was. There was somebody with about my experience level down in Salem saying well, now the law says we should write the county and the cities a letter...
EB: Were you there when we did the remodeling?
KB: Well, I just remember having to deal with reassignments of massive space. But I left before you actually did it.
EB: I've got a great picture at home standing with my arm around that statue that Don Rocks loaned me, he said. It used to be on the hotel down there where the Trailways station now is. That was the Hoyt Hotel, I think. That's the only thing I have that shows the old office. I don't have anything to show the old office.
KB: I didn't take any knick-knacks. There's certainly nothing at the house now. It was a crappy building, I remember that. It was a horrible building.
EB: What were some of your personal feelings about working there?
KB: Well, I knew I wasn't interested in planning, after a while. To me, it didn't strike my bone right. I got the impression that, particularly in reflection, that a lot of these planning issues were so intractable and so long term that I just didn't... it's like spinning wheels. You realize when you look back, how much has in fact changed. It surprises you.
EB: And how long it took?
KB: Yeah, and I always joked to my friends that they're working on things that they'll be working on 20 years from now: Union Avenue redevelopment project and Errol Heights, etc.
[End of Side 1]
KB: I don't remember specifically any one type, but I know they were getting pumped out. My question was, to what effect? It was a long term time frame that people were dealing with, but they had the energy and excitement of people who were just seeing short term solutions, and there weren't any. Maybe it was just the age of us--we were all young and wanted to get going.
EB: Well, now, you were young. You were just trying to get started on a career path.
KB: When somebody comes to me and says do you want to work in the D.A.'s office as a special agent, I said sure.
EB: So that's what happened to you, right?
KB: I ran into Mary Lou Calvin, she was working for Harl Haas, the district attorney at that time... I ran into her and her husband's bar, a place called Calvin's Pub. So I was down there and, jokingly, asked her if she had a job. I hadn't been looking around, it was just an off-the-cuff kind of thing. I didn't know squat about the D.A.'s office. And she said, you know, we do. So the job opening at D.A.'s office--what in the world could that possibly be? I subsequently went over and interviewed and found out that I would be a special agent, working in the D.A.'s office, doing some pretty interesting things in law enforcement. I hated the idea of leaving after only a year but the subject matter was just too... I mean, the topic...
EB: Well, it wasn't that interesting to you. It's pretty hard, actually, to get into something where you have no affinity whatsoever for the subject matter.
KB: Planning just didn't strike my deal. And I didn't see myself... You would've had to go... kind of like here, I've been able to carve my own job career out of here, but if you want to do some things you should be a lawyer and be a prosecutor. But you don't have to. I, like, kind of showed that you don't have to. But I would've had to do that over there. I wasn't a planner, I didn't have an architectural background. To be at the core... I mean, the organization's core task was to do that particular topic... I mean, I wasn't going to hang around and not be a player. I haven't made my career here as a prosecutor but I at least, as you say, have an affinity for the subject matter.
One of the things I remember is trying to keep up with Kish's reputation. That drove me a lot, because I have always held him in high esteem. And the chaotic nature of the place was another reason.
EB: Too much energy and all those hormones.
KB: Yes, too much energy. I can remember... The only time I did pick up a piece of planning and did work substantively with it was my work with Al Berreth on the five-year capital improvements program. he didn't have a clue, either. He didn't know what the capital improvement program was, either. What do they look like? How do produce one? He came up with these maps. I would help with the maps and we would put down on the maps everything that was happening in the town and everything that was supposed to happen in the next five years. Nobody had a clue. But you have to start somewhere.
EB: Well, just a list of projects would be better than what they had, a list of projects that were already under construction. And no one was trying to meld those individual projects into a whole that accomplished something the City wanted.
KB: Well, that's true. Yeah, it was about an inch thick as I recall, by the time we finished with the damn thing.
EB: Well, it was typical Gary Stout. You have a bunch of individual fiefdoms, all doing their thing, and he's trying to break that down, bring it under one person's control, aided and abetted by the mayor's office who wanted control over all of that stuff.
KB: The other was a real effort to bring all that stuff in, and the energy of everybody was to kind of pull it apart. I remember the capital improvements effort with Al. But, generally, it seemed the fact that nothing really happens was an endless cycle, or so it seemed to me. And that is why, I think, I wasn't drawn to planning.
The other piece, I remember, Butler, Gary's assistant... for a while there, doing Doug's job seemed like it might be interesting. Because once Gary got Doug, I started to deal with him more. Doug represented the office of Planning and Development, I represented the Bureau of Planning. I knew then that neither one of us probably had the authority to do squat. The other people, higher up in the chambers, were doing the stuff that was really important. We were probably just spinning wheels, filling out forms and passing paper between us. I decided I didn't really want to do that... bounce around in the city doing administrative kinds of things. I ended up here doing administrative things but the topic interested me.
EB: Did you later come across any of the personalities or the individuals in the Bureau of Planning?
KB: Marjie Lundell. She came after me, of course. Later, she went to work for the county. She was with the county in the cable business, which I thought was a great deal. She spinned it a different way than I would have spinned it. I would have been interested in getting into the business. She went on to the movie and TV stuff with the state. But I thought the cable business was a hot one.
EB: Did you know Marjie when she worked for Connie McCready, before she came to work at the Bureau of Planning? There is another case where, I recall, it was a question of Oh, yeah, Marjie wants to do the job, let's get Marjie to do the job, and there wasn't a lot of competition for that job when you left.
KB: I remember talking with you. There was a process, but she seemed to be at the head of the list. I got the impression, if I recall right, I may even have been on the interview panel... You know, we had to go through these charades, the civil service thing. I may have been on the panel. I can't recall if I got the presumption about Marjie from you or not. I don't recall knowing her that well before her application. I had enough dealings with her, and running across her path.
EB: Well, Kish showed up at the Bureau of Planning as my first administrative assistant because Neil made that a condition of hiring me, that I hire Kish. Kish was at the Bureau of Human Resources at that time. They had the CETA program. They hired lots of CETA people. In fact, they may have been funded almost entirely by CETA.
You know, a lot of people are saying that what was done in the seventies made Portland what it is today. And people all over the country are talking about how Portland is so great. I honestly think we were.
KB: That we made a difference?
EB: More like... I don't know whether we did or not. I suppose we did. But it strikes me at that time that it was the farthest thing from anybody's mind that we were creating a wonderful big city.
KB: I got the impression from Stout that he did. For the rest of us, I think we were just chasing our own paranoia. I think there were enough people around who were just scared because none of us knew what to do, but we weren't afraid to just go do it. I think I observed a lot of that--very young people who had a lot of energy and were skilled enough technically not to be afraid. I mean, they were pushing it. And they had a Mayor and an administration who supported them. I don't know what your own experience was. But that was the general... I thought this was one of the Golden Bureaus.
EB: Well, we certainly were a favored Bureau, except by Frank Ivancie.
KB: Well, I don't recall thinking that people felt they were doing great things with planning, that they were designing the ideal city, or the diamond city in the sky. It was much more an opportunity of unknown character being presented to a bunch of skilled people who didn't have very specific visions but collectively knew that they could employ their talents in a wide open fashion and not have to take a lot of risk. And, as a result, and because perhaps of the state land use environment that had already started, they felt they could do some things.
EB: But it always seemed to me that if you have a hundred and fifty or two hundred interested people, five city commissioners, and nine planning commissioners, none of whom agree on anything, on any one issue, that the results of all of our efforts was usually some heavily, heavily compromised situation held together by chewing gum and wire. It never seemed to me that anything could come out of that. So you forget that behind that was a vision of sorts...
KB: It wasn't a specific vision.
EB: It wasn't.
KB: But it was the knowledge of what people didn't want to happen. They didn't want to have California. and they had an opportunity to do something different because the state law and the political environment was going to be forgiving for that kind of experimentation.
[End of Interview]