planpdx.org: Interview with Frank Frost
Date of Interview: October 28, 1999
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Frank Frost's lovely home overlooking Portland
FF = Frank Frost
EB = Ernie Bonner
EB: This is an interview with Frank Frost in his home in SW Portland. It's October 28, 1999. So why don't you tell us a little bit about your background, you know, where you were born, grew up, etc. went to school.
FF: I was actually born in Portland, although I didn't grow up here. I grew up down near Astoria on a subsistence farm out in the coast brush. I went to a one-room country school for my first 6 grades.
EB: All-American boy!
FF: Yeah, you damn well know it. Went to a little country high school down there, with about 75 kids in the entire school. Directly out of high school--4 days later--I went into the Navy. World War II was going on at the time and in order to get into the Navy I enlisted in the reserves while I was still 17 so I couldn't be drafted. So I was in the Navy until the end of the war. The Navy sent me to college for my freshman year at Oregon State in Corvallis. And I was discharged, got married, moved down to the University of Oregon, entered the school of Architecture and by accident I joined the Naval reserve about 4 years later and six days after I joined the reserve, the Korean War started and a couple months later I was back at sea. My head was kind of swimming. So I spent another couple of years in the Navy and then came back and finished college.
By the time I finally graduated, we had a daughter, no money and I needed a job. So I came to Portland where I had in-laws I could freeload with until I found some gainful employment. I had a degree in architecture, so I started making the rounds of the architectural offices. But in the process I stopped to see Bob Baldwin who was at that time working for Multnomah County Planning Commission. Then he introduced me to Lloyd Anderson and Lloyd didn't have any openings, but he thought that Lloyd Keefe might, so he sent me across the street to talk to Lloyd and, yeah, he had I think it was a 2 month temporary job that he offered me and that I took. I was there from that time on, except for a couple of years when I went to the University of Oregon during the '701' days to act as a carpetbagger for Herman Kehrli. Herman was the head of what was then called the Bureau of Municipal Research at the University of Oregon. They were the people who had the lock on all 701 work in the state of Oregon. So I played around in some of the small towns up here in the Portland area. I never did move to Eugene. Had some fun. And Lloyd Keefe asked me if I would come back to the city to head up the CRP program that they were hoping to get federal funds for. My job would be to apply for a grant and, if it should come through, and they apparently thought it would, to be responsible for it. I did. And it did. That would have been 1963, the Fall or Winter of 1963. The grant must have come through like... I know I developed the application and sent it off in 1963 because in 1963 right after that I went to Europe for 3 months with the family. I came back and had one assignment which was not very important... turned out not very good... and then we got the grant, so it was either Winter of '63 or Spring of '64 when the grant came through. I was able to put together a really good staff and we successfully developed the Community Renewal Program. It wasn't ever followed very diligently because the laws changed, and the emphasis nationally on urban renewal shifted away from clearance... people tended to avoid a clearance project like the plague. I don't remember how much, if any, clearance the CRP promoted or suggested, but in any case it was a good project and a good plan and I was proud of it and still am.
EB: You got sent out to the Southeast, to Southeast Uplift then, right?
FF: No. The City applied for a model cities grant and I basically wrote the grant application and, ridiculously enough, nobody in the city really thought much more about it. We just sent off an application and did nothing to prepare for it. When it came through it caught everybody by surprise. And there was a huge flurry of activity trying to organize a model cities staff and program, and what not. Because I had written the application, I was assigned to it to be the physical planner. It was a wonderful, crazy year. I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing, nor did anybody else, really. But, in the end, some sort of a humongous document was produced which supposedly set forth the program for renewing that part of the city.
EB: I understood there was a dispute about whether it should be in the northeast or in the southeast.
FF: Oh, there was, sure. Some of the southeast--inner southeast--really thought that it would be a wonderful thing for that area. Yeah, there was a struggle. Based to a large degree on the findings and recommendations of the Community Renewal Program (CRP) we had recommended the Northeast sector and council went along with it, but it wasn't without a bit of infighting.
EB: I had heard that Southeast Uplift and the city's contribution of funds to that effort were supposed to make up for the loss of model cities money to the northeast...
FF: Exactly. That's why Southeast Uplift became funded and organized as a locally-funded effort.
EB: Do you remember what year you were working on the model cities application?
FF: it was probably '67, I think. I know that we completed that first year of work in the Spring of '69. I know that because immediately after that I went off to Europe for 3 months.
EB: You went to Europe a lot.
FF: Yeah. So that brings us up to '69. And after that everything kind of runs together. Let's see, you came to Portland in... '73? What happened between '69 and '73, I don't even remember right now.
EB: Well, just to refresh your memory about some of the things that happened. Meier & Frank asked for the conditional use approval for the parking garage; McCall appointed a task force on waterfront development in '68; the planning commission staff in 1969 was 26 employees. I know it was 55 when I was there and I think it must be 75 or 80 now.
FF: About 2 of whom I recognize.
EB: Right. Now here in '69 it says the Planning commission reviews and approves in principle the first year action program for the model cities program.
FF: Yeah. The thing was inches thick. I don't think anybody knew what was in it. It was an interesting year. The original model cities director was a local minister. He was appointed because he had some expertise in working with divergent groups and he was probably a pretty good choice as initial director because he did get people involved. But he didn't have the slightest idea how to develop a plan or anything. And he hired a guy from Portland State Urban Studies program, Ken Gervais, as his assistant. And Ken Gervais promptly fired Paul Schultze who was the director. I don't know how he was able to do it. I don't remember any more, but Schultze was gone and Ken was ramrod, and he was a good tough ramrod. Without him, nothing would ever have happened that first year. Nothing concrete anyhow.
So let's see. That was done. I went to Europe and came back. I don't think I had any direct involvement in the Meier and Frank parking garage, or any of the other projects the Bureau had going on.
EB: Lloyd Anderson came on in '69.
FF: The council. Yeah. That was a nice breath of fresh air, actually.
EB: Yeah, I think that must have been interesting, the change between Bowes and Anderson.
FF: Yeah. Bill Bowes was certainly from the old school.
EB: Now Lloyd talks about having a lot of trouble with Lloyd Keefe.
FF: Oh, yes, they never...
EB: Did you see any of that, I mean, was that...
FF: Oh, it was apparent from the time I joined the city back in 1955. The two were too very, very different people. Lloyd Keefe, of course, was in a way an idealist. The environment for living in the city was very important to him and he had his own ideas on what constituted that environment--ideas that he pursued like a bulldog. He never knew how to compromise on anything. He just... the little engine that could, you know... but couldn't always. And he'd never believe that. But he was responsible for a lot of things.
EB: Well, I think you could certainly put him down as an important contributor to Pioneer Square. I mean, he was on that from day one.
FF: Yes. Pioneer Square. A lot of the park land that was acquired by the city--Waterfront Park--I think he was primarily responsible for the city acquiring land for Delta Park and the golf course... where all that stuff is now used to be a public housing project during the wartime years. And the development of the new schools program with the school district. I can count a dozen or more schools that are now built on land that we at the planning bureau told the school district that they should acquire and they did.
EB: Can you talk a little bit more about what they called Schools for the Sixties. I remember some reports on that.
FF: Well, the report was called Land for Schools. We got the school district to join us, the city planning bureau, in trying to anticipate growth as it would apply to the school system. We developed growth projections for the entire school district. Using the old, classical definition of a neighborhood being bounded by major streets with a school and park in the center, we located dozens of school sites based on those projected populations. And the school district acquired them. And the Parks Bureau acquired parks adjacent to them. And as I started to say, I think I could count over a dozen schools which have been built on those sites. When the baby boom crush hit the old system, the school district was ready. They acquired those sites when they were basically vacant land. And houses kept popping up around them. It was an incredible program, really. It's still fun for me to spot a school that I saw first as raw land.
EB: It must be.
FF: It was a superb program. In fact, I was staff on it. I was the person who did it under Lloyd's direction. The school district paid my salary for 2 or 3 years.
EB: Well, you wrote the report, right? I could tell from reading it, because it was good. I think you are a very good writer.
FF: But it was interesting that the school district actually put me on their payroll. I worked for the city in the city planning bureau offices, but I was on the school district payroll for 2 or 3 years, I don't remember exactly how long.
EB: It was worth it to them.
FF: Yeah, it was a very, very successful program. Now, there were sites that we had them acquire which are not needed, of course. But you can always sell vacant land when you are absolutely sure that you are not going to need it.
EB: Well, the projections--just like every city across the country--projections were high, for what eventually materialized.
FF: Sure. Baby boom days were upon us.
EB: Plus, we used up all the land but we didn't have that many people, we didn't have that many kids in the family, households were smaller and the whole thing.
FF: We used as the basis what was known then as the family.
EB: How about the Irvington Community Development Program? Did you have anything to do with that?
FF: There was an Irvington Plan. Rod O'Hiser was the honcho. It was eventually adopted and PDC became involved. It was something that was going on just beyond my field of vision at the time. So I can't talk about it.
EB: Were there other neighborhood plans before that?
FF: There were area plans, like there was a plan for the St. Johns Business District. There were a couple of others where documents were produced which never went anywhere: there was one for Hillsdale, there was one for Multnomah. Again, these were business districts, rather than residential areas. I am trying to remember what else there might have been. It seems to me there were more, but I get foggy . .
EB: Now this is all in 1970. What was the planning bureau like? How was it organized, were there major heads of... do you remember anything about that?
FF: Oh, let me try to reconstruct. Lloyd Keefe, of course, had a fairly monolithic organization under him. He had senior planners who had specific areas of responsibility with staff under them. For awhile I was the Zoning Supervisor. I ran our little zoning administration function. I think I had 2 people and a secretary with me. And in those days zoning was pretty much whoever got to the commissioner first would get what he wanted whether it was positive or negative. It was pretty naive compared with what we do today. The senior planners were assigned projects...
EB: What other areas were they in?
FF: Downtown, individual plans like the St. Johns Plan which Bob Keith was responsible for, and I don't remember who was responsible for what but they were individual assignments. It wasn't divided functionally, except that the zoning administration was a separate function as it almost has to be.
EB: When did Dale Cannady come on?
FF: Lloyd Keefe left the Bureau and went to Downtown Portland, Inc. A director was appointed--Chuck Woodward, who came from Oakland, California--and he hired Dale Cannady as his Assistant Director. So it was during the period when Lloyd was gone that Dale came on board. I don't remember the dates. It would have been around 1960. Yeah, it would have had to be around 1960.
EB: Do you remember anything about the planning commission?
FF: I remember the names. Harry Shroufe was the chairman, practically until the time Neil Goldschmidt was elected, or at least it seemed like that to me. Harry Shroufe actually lived in Cannon Beach.
EB: Is that right?
FF: Well, he's a Portlander. He had a business, a plumbing business, I guess it was. But he retired and basically moved to the beach. He still had a residence here in Portland but he spent most of his time in Cannon Beach. And he was old. Other members of the commission at that time: Glen Stanton was an architect. He was also old. They were pretty ineffectual. There were a few really wonderful people on it. Charles McKinley, a Reed College professor, superb man. Very considered, honest and just a fine person. Another educator that I rather liked, though none of the kids who went to his school ever did, was Vere Windnagle.
The work of the commission was divided up into committees. Harry Shroufe had this wonderful idea that we have a 9-member commission. It took 5 for a quorum, in order for them to conduct business. So he divided the basic work of the commission into subcommittees of 3 members each, with the idea that if the decision of the subcommittee was unanimous, that was 3/5, or the majority of a quorum, and therefore could speak for the commission. If they were not unanimous, then whatever the matter was it would have to be referred to the commission as a whole. Unusual, but it streamlined the work of the commission. I worked for quite a time with the zoning committee, a 3-member committee, and the system actually worked.
EB: Is that right? Maybe you ought to propose that again.
What about Bill Bowes? Wasn't he your commissioner for a long, long time?
FF: Oh, he was the commissioner for most, if not all of the time, when I was with the Bureau up until he died. I think Ormond Dean was for some of that time but I didn't' have any contact with the commissioner's office until we were assigned to Bowes. He was a crotchety old strong man. This was, of course, in the days before the Fasano decision, so there was always intense lobbying about anything, any matter, and the commissioners were accessible. Most of my interaction with Bowes had to do with zoning because I was the zoning supervisor for a couple of years. And almost always, he had had his mind made up before he ever got any staff input or commission input--because the lobbying efforts had been working on him. He was an honest guy, but he was opinionated and strong and once he had made up his mind, it was made up. There were some wonderful arguments in council sessions between Bowes and others, particularly between Bowes and Bean, it seems to me. He always had the department of public works and he had a couple of city engineers who basically fed him his ideas. Planning was a nuisance.
EB: How did he get along with Lloyd Keefe?
FF: Oh, very poorly, I would think. He rode roughshod over Lloyd; and Lloyd being the bulldog he is, just kept coming back for more.
EB: It's interesting that they didn't decide to call it quits. But they both just hung in there.
FF: Yeah, they both just hung in there. Of course, Bowes held all the cards.
EB: And Mayor Schrunk in there? How did that work? Schrunk seemed like a different kind of person.
FF: Very different. Schrunk was a very good mayor, in my estimation. He was a quiet, considered man who was intelligent and, you know, it's hard to talk about mayors before Goldschmidt because he changed the way the council works, the way the mayor's office works. Schrunk had his own way of dealing with the power structure of the city. It was a very quiet way, but it was effective. I don't know how to put this... I had and still have an extremely high regard for Terry Shrunk. I thought of him as perhaps a statesman. People tend to forget that things happened before Neil, and much of what Neil has been given credit for was initiated under Schrunk, but I can't give you examples of off the top of my head unfortunately.
EB: The same thing happened to Lloyd Anderson. When Lloyd came in as Commissioner he started work in planning matters long before Neil was even elected and stayed with it even while Neil was Mayor to a certain extent. Lloyd started the subdivision regulations; he started neighborhood organizations; you know, he started a lot of the things that were fundamental to planning all through the 70's.
FF: Yeah, and Lloyd Anderson has had his fingers in the power structure pretty well too. He knew how to develop consensus, too, in a way that Lloyd Keefe never could.
EB: It seems though that Lloyd Keefe was a planning director like many of the planning directors in the United States at that time, coming from an architectural or design background...
FF: He came from an engineering background, his undergraduate degree was in engineering, civil engineering I believe, and his graduate degree was in urban planning from MIT. So he was grounded in the philosophies that didn't operate.
EB: And sort of like the kind, who had to lead, you had to go out there and get this thing done.
FF: This is the way it is. Or this the way it should be out here.
EB: Yeah, that is a beautiful way to put it. This is the way things should be. Now let's get going. So it made it hard for them to adapt to a situation where you have all these power centers and each of them has to be balanced...
FF: very nearly impossible.
EB: So now we're at about 1970. Well, of course, Lloyd and Connie came on the Council; Mildred came on the Planning Commission. And then, I guess, 1970 would have been when Neil first ran, and 1971 would have been his first term as commissioner. Did that affect you guys, were you in the zoning office then?
FF: No, I wasn't. And I don't know what kind of project work...
EB: You were in the southeast. What were you doing in the southeast? Were you involved in something having to do with the Mount Hood freeway corridor?
FF: Yeah, that was after Lloyd Anderson was in office. I can't remember the years now, but I was appointed to be what was called the Highway planning coordinator. My salary was covered by the highway division, by ODOT, to sit in their offices and keep an eye on them. We had a small office out in southeast, sort of right where the proposed Mount Hood freeway would go. I had a counterpart who was a member of the Highway Division staff.
EB: Now, did Lloyd Anderson have something to do with that?
FF: Yes. It was his... he promoted the idea. I'll bet Bill Dirker actually initiated the idea, in Lloyd's ear. I was to report weekly to Lloyd Anderson and Frank Ivancie, you know the yin and the yang. And the other thing that I was specifically asked to report on was the... see, the Highway Division was out there buying up houses. They were buying up properties, anticipating the mount Hood freeway. And Lloyd Anderson and Frank Ivancie were trying to sort of put the brakes on that until the actual decision was made, and I was supposed to report weekly to Lloyd and Frank about the properties that had been offered to the Highway Division or purchased by the Highway Division, along with my own impressions whether the properties should be purchased or not. Frank lost interest almost immediately. But I continued to report. I wrote a weekly memo, I think it was, to the council on that specific tiny little part of the project. And then I met with Lloyd pretty much weekly to tell him what I knew about was going on. It was a kind of a peculiar job. I didn't really have a function other than to keep my eyes and ears open. I spent a modest amount of time in the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill offices, to see what Howard McKee and his massive troops were doing, developing that environmental impact study.
EB: Do you remember who was involved in that, the staff?
FF: The key staff people were Greg Baldwin, now ZGF chief design guy; Mat Lackey, who has since died and the third one was George Crandall.
EB: Eventually, I understand, Ernie Munch and Frances Demoge worked on it, too. That would have been later?
FF: No. They were working from the beginning. They just weren't chiefs. There were 3 guys under Howard who were the primary shotguns. Ernie and Frances were part of the team.
EB: So, did you have a lot of contact with Southeast Uplift people at that time?
FF: Yeah, but it was a casual contact. It wasn't structured. I knew the staff people, and the guy who was the driving force, I don't remember what his name was, a minister...
EB: Now did you ever come across Charlie Merton?
FF: Oh yeah. Of course. And his wife, then wife, Betty. In fact, Betty was the first person to bring to my attention the possibility of light rail. She was into streetcars.
EB: in an organization called STOP. So when did you come back in from that job? You came back into the bureau from that job?
FF: Yeah, once the council voted to dump the Mount Hood freeway, my job was over.
EB: Oh, I see. That was like in '74.
FF: I don't think I came back to the Bureau until then. I might have anticipated it. I remember writing you a memo saying that I'm coming back, and you probably never heard of me.
EB: Oh, I knew about you. I was happy you were coming back. We needed the help. You had good references. OK, so that takes us to about '74. But a little bit more about the changeover from Schrunk to Goldschmidt, that sort of 2-year hiatus when Neil was a Commissioner. Now when he became the Mayor then he started...
FF: He started coming in with his battle ax, lopping heads and... well, he did what a policy-oriented Mayor probably should do, or whoever's newly in charge of something. You know, staff it up with people who believed in his point of view... but he was fairly brutal about it. And it was so foreign to the way Portland did business that it really shook a lot of people up, myself included.
EB: Now at that time you were in the office but you were working in the southeast. I mean, you didn't have an actual office in the bureau's offices.
FF: No, I didn't while I was at southeast, I had an office out on 50th and Foster or 50th and Powell.
EB: I think I went out there once. It was like a single family home or something?
FF: No, it wasn't. It was a little office building. It had been the office of a plumbing company. It was kind of a neat...
EB: Yeah, I remember it being a king of a neat little building. All right, so that must have been lonely out there.
FF: I spent an awful lot of time running back and forth downtown where I could talk to somebody I knew. This guy from the Highway Division (well, there were 3 guys from the Highway Division there) one in charge and the other two honcho lackeys and a secretary. Then I was able to hire Muriel Ames as a public outreach person. And she was very good at it. It is something that I am not good at, so I was delighted.
EB: So when you came back into the Bureau what did you do?
FF: I don't know what my first assignments might have been. There was a lot of turmoil right then. You had just very recently come on board. Lloyd Keefe was out in limbo some place. And Dale Cannady went off to somewhere, I don't know where, or what he was doing. And there was Lynn, your counterpart.
EB: Sheldon Lynn.
FF: Sheldon Lynn was there and he left, fortunately. That dichotomy would have been ridiculous, or was ridiculous.
EB: You mean between his style versus the regular planning bureau style, or Oregon style?
FF: Or between your style and his style.
EB: Yeah, it's an interesting story about how he and I got hooked up together. I'll tell that some other time.
FF: Let's see. Gary... what's the name of the OPD director...
EB: Gary Stout.
FF: Oh yeah. He was snatching positions off your staff, and sticking them into his own staff. It's hard to remember what my actual job assignments may have been there for awhile. Then there was the budget-driven reduction that bumped the senior planners down and brought the chief planners in.
EB: Right. That was the first reorganization; we reorganized under chief planners
FF: Yeah, and then there was a vacant chief planner job in land use control which I applied for and was eventually appointed to. Then, again, my memory clears and I know what I did from that point on, but from the time I got back to the Bureau until I was appointed Chief Planner I really don't remember what I was supposed to be doing.
EB: Well, that must not have been very long because I believe it was in the Fall of 74 when we consummated that reorganization, which was only three months after June of that year when the council ultimately turned down the freeway. But I'm sure that for many people at that time it seemed like a long, long time, and long, long days.
FF: I remember writing you one very nasty memo to do with the budget reduction.
EB: I don't remember that. It just went in the bin with all the other nasty letters.
FF: In the end, you did what I suggested. It was a very minor thing, but Bob Austin's position was proposed for elimination which meant a demotion from his--I don't remember what it was called--a half pay step above. He was the only one holding that position. But that's neither here nor there, just something in my memory bank. That was a difficult time for a lot of people right then.
EB: Yes, that really was.
FF: I also remember, in fact I just re-read a long paper that I think I must have written, although I didn't sign it, sort of delineating the various steps and change that took place and how Neil developed a very monolithic bunch of people under him. (Note: See memo from Frank Frost below).
EB: Well, I'd like to see that sometime, if you don't mind sharing it.
FF: No, I don't mind sharing it.
EB: I'd love to see it.
FF: I've got it laying on the desk upstairs.
EB: You know, in my travels around here talking about that, Neil does come up a lot. And you get all sides of Neil. I mean, you get the good, the bad and the ugly.
FF: Well, Neil was a remarkable guy. An awful lot of what has happened in Portland is strictly related to him. He was able to move people, was able to energize people. He was able to walk pretty heavily on people who didn't see the way he wanted them to see.
FF: Connie was a damn good Mayor, but a lousy speaker... every time she opened her mouth in City council, it sounded like a half-wit talking. And that is what ruined her
EB: Yeah, she had some very innovative ideas.
FF: She worked hard. She had an attention span of an 8-year-old--a 5-year-old. I would try to brief her on zoning matters before council meetings, and it was like trying to talk to my 6 year old grandson. For 30 seconds I would have her ear and then she would be off on something else and I would drag her back. One time she had an ear ring that was bothering her. And I said well, I can adjust that for you. So I sat there and adjusted that ear ring while I went through my whole spiel. She couldn't go away.
EB: Lloyd Anderson had such exasperating times with her. He wasn't even civil. But I always thought she was great. It always seemed to be my role to stand between Neil and Connie on Council resolutions and other actions.
FF: Well, between Connie and Mildred. Wow. They had some real shouting matches, right in Council.
EB: It is part of the problem of dealing with... you must have had similar problems when you were the planning director... we need to talk about that, OK. I mean, you are caught between 5 personalities and you're trying to get three votes. And you work for one of them, you know. Anyway, well, can you talk some more about when you were the director?
FF: In the first place, I never should have been the director. I'm not the right kind of person for that job. My personality just doesn't fit there, in my mind. But I was asked to be the Director by Cowles Mallory, who was OPD Director and, you know, it's flattering, and everybody likes to sit at the foot of the throne and this got me one step closer. So I took the job, knowing full well that I really shouldn't. But we were at a time when well, the downtown plan was in place, comprehensive plan was nearing completion at that time, things were pretty stable. And I thought that for a few years I could probably do a decent job. I enjoyed it actually. I had a wonderful staff--really superb people who, each in their own area, knew just a hell of a lot more than I did. It was fun but I lost the confidence of Frank Ivancie quickly, and I did it almost deliberately, without realizing that I was totally losing him. The comprehensive plan was going through its final adoption process. Tracy Watson had run the job from the beginning, and I let Tracy carry it to the Council, instead of me carrying it to the Council. I didn't know anything about the damn thing, really. I would have felt like an idiot if I had to get up there and answer any kind of specific questions, so I let Tracy do that and I sat across the street with KBOO on the radio and when something came up which was pertinent to me specifically I was there in 2 minutes. But Frank, and rightfully so, thought I should be there and I should be fronting it. I chose not to because I knew Tracy could do a far better job than I could. So I lost Frank. And Frank and Mildred were a coalition, and the planning commission was in Mildred's portfolio at the time. So they got rid of me immediately when Frank became Mayor--for the worst.
EB: Well, what was wrong with you not being there? Why did Frank lose...?
FF: Well, because it was his concept that anything as important as the comprehensive plan should be brought to the council by the planning director. And I can't fault him for that.
EB: Did he have a lot of problems with it?
FF: I don't think so. He just had a problem with the fact that I wasn't there.
EB: So he could beat you up!
FF: That's right. Of course.
EB: Well, I think that if you didn't like being planning director under Connie, you would have hated it under Frank.
FF: Except that I used to be... Frank and I were friends, I thought.
EB: Frank was one of those guys who could kill you during the day and love you at night. I mean, to him it was like business.
FF: Yeah, I know some of the problems that Earl Bradfish had with him. They were very good friends and they actually thought on the same wavelength pretty much. They were both quite conservative. But he damn near fired Earl more than once.
EB: So then, now, what happened after that. Let's see, this is 1980, isn't it? It's actually '81. Connie's out now and Frank's in.
FF: Yeah, and I'm out. I went back to being Chief Planner for Code administration for a couple of years, I don't remember how long and then...
EB: Terry came on as Director?
FF: Yes, he came on as soon as Frank was elected. By then I think Terry couldn't... I wasn't afraid of Terry and he liked people who were. So he moved me out as Zoning Chief and gave me a special job. I was trying to revise the zoning code without creating a new code. There were some major problems with that code, related almost entirely to amendments that had been added to it over the years that were inconsistent with parts of the code that they weren't amending. You could find yes or no answers to almost any question in the code. And I was trying to ferret those things out. But other people got Terry's ear, and he decided that they really should have a totally new code. And I was retiring so I didn't care.
EB: Well, when did you retire?
FF: Fifteen years ago this April.
EB: That long ago? That would have been 1984 or so.
FF: 1984. Yeah. On my 58th birthday. They said I could retire after 30 years or at the age of 58, whichever came first, well, my birthday came about 3 months before the 30 years and I couldn't see any point in sticking around doing a job I wasn't really enjoying any more. I had enjoyed my job up until about then.
EB: Well, I wonder if Planning has recovered from Terry, really.
FF: Well, a lot of the details certainly haven't. He was really bad, bad news.
EB: It shows you the difference between somebody like Frank and someone like Connie. Well, what else can we talk about? Who were some of the people in the codes operation when you were working there?
FF: Again, I had an absolutely wonderful staff, wonderfully different personalities.
[End of Interview]
An Open Memo by Frank Frost
(Summer or Fall of 1976)
This is a memo written by Frank Frost in the midst of the reorganization of the Planning Bureau in the middle seventies. It is a good window on the world of the Planning Bureau staff during the transition from Lloyd Keefe through Dale Cannady to Ernie Bonner from Fall of 1973 through 1976. It was soon obvious to me on my arrival in Portland that the demands placed on the Planning Bureau by the Mayor's Office and by the Planning Commission could in no way be met with the existing staff and organization. The reorganization and re-staffing led to much turmoil, some of which could probably have been avoided, if I had been a little smarter about it. In the end, the Bureau was a much more productive place, but during the process, it was traumatic indeed.
There has, for the past 3 1/2 years, been a relentless and deliberate purge of Planning Bureau staff. It started slowly with an apparent effort to redirect the staff through the installation of a new Director who would be more responsive to the desires of a majority of the City Council. It grew under the leadership of the new Director (and the Mayor) to cause removal from positions of influence of all staff members who held positions of responsibility under the old Director. This has been accomplished through coerced resignations, deletion of positions from the budget, and demotions. Responsibility positions on the staff have, on occasion, been hand selected and appointed through manipulation of the Civil Service hiring practices.
The result has been a complete restructuring of the Planning staff and a replacement of every position of influence with a new appointee. This restructuring in itself is not bad--it is recognized that new leadership needs a certain freedom to reorganize if that leadership is to be effective. What is bad is that this reorganization has been effected through a number of highly suspect manipulations which, in turn, has resulted in low staff morale due to a growing distrust of the integrity of that leadership. The common staff perception now is the Civil Service system provides neither a fair chance for gaining employment on merit nor protection against dismissal or demotion for reasons other than lack of merit.
If this were simply a problem within the Planning Bureau it would, perhaps, be of minor consequence to any but those employees immediately affected. It is, however, symptomatic of a much more insidious situation--a growing system of patronage appointments to positions of decision making significance within the City service resulting in an increasingly monolithic internal political machine stemming from shared points of view and subject to rigid discipline from above.
Following are the key events, in approximate chronological order, that have purged the Bureau of Planning staff:
- In the fall of 1972 Planning Director, Lloyd Keefe, was advised that he was to be relieved of his director's duties and a different assignment given him. The Bureau was under Commissioner Ivancie at the time but the decision was shared by at least Ivancie, Anderson and Goldschmidt.
- In October, 1972, Keefe was demoted in assignment to head up the comprehensive planning function within the staff. Assistant Director, Dale Cannady was appointed Acting Director. An inquiry to Civil Service brought Keefe the response that, while he had Civil Service status, this was a demotion and they lacked jurisdiction to intercede.
- In January, 1973, an ordinance was passed creating a second position of Assistant Director to which Keefe was appointed. There were now two Assistant Directors, one of whom (Cannady) was temporarily acting as Director while a talent search was under way for a permanent Director.
- Ernie Bonner was selected as the new Planning Director in September 1973, from his position of Chief Planner in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Within about two weeks after assuming the Director's responsibilities, Bonner directed Keefe to accept appointment (demotion) to Chief Planner (a position then being created) or face dismissal. Keefe was convinced that with the weight of the Mayor's office against him (two of the three members of the Civil Service Board were now Goldschmidt appointees) he could not defend himself against dismissal charges, so he accepted the demotion and signed a letter to that effect on November 11, 1973.
- Sheldon Lynn was appointed Assistant Director in the position vacated by Keefe. Lynn and Cannady were now dual Assistant Directors.
- In November, 1973, five new positions of Chief Planner were created by the Council: Special Projects (Keefe), Program and Policy Analysis, Comprehensive Planning, District Planning, and Land Use Controls. At the Council hearing on the creation of these positions, Office of Planning and Development (OPD) Administrator, Gary Stout, told the Council that because the existing Senior Planner staff positions were unionized and therefore did not strictly represent management, they could not readily be called supervisory; therefore, a new layer of supervisors above them was needed. Commissioner Anderson asked about the role of the Senior Planners under the new organization and whether, "...we could face the prospect that there would be a re-description of that job reducing its responsibilities and its pay level from what it is now to something lower than that." He was assured by Stout that the Seniors would be used in a lead position under the administration of a Chief Planner, but a direct answer to the question was not given.
- By some means one of the newly created positions of Chief Planner (Land Use Controls) was not available to the Planning Bureau but, instead, was transferred to the Office of Planning and Development and filled by the appointment of Robert Holms.
- Civil service examinations for the remaining three Chief Planner positions were held in May 1974 and subsequently three appointments were made from the resulting list of eligibles. One of these appointments (Policy and Program Analysis) was actually assigned to fulfill the function of the Land Use Controls chief that had been diverted to OPD. There was, therefore, no Chief Planner actually placed in Program and Policy Analysis role.
- In the meantime, at least five staff members were being asked to resign or advised to seek other employment since their jobs were being discontinued in the 1974-75 budget. One Senior Planner, two City Planners and two Assistant Planners were eliminated from the staff, all of whom had been hired by the previous Director. None was fired for cause.
- Also, Sheldon Lynn resigned as Assistant Director in ___________. The position thus vacated was transferred to the Office of Planning and Development and filled by the appointment of Ken O'Kane.
- In March 1975 the remaining Assistant Director, Dale Cannady, was told that his position was going to be eliminated from the 1975-76 budget. Cannady had never held a position below that of Assistant Director and therefore had no seniority rights over a next lower position. (It was discovered later that he actually did have seniority rights--somewhat accidentally acquired--over a City Planner spot, but by this time an alternate job had been arranged for him.) There was, however, the second Assistant Director's position that still bore the title though now part of the OPD budget. Cannady had seniority over this position. And alternate job (Facilities Planning Supervisor) in another Bureau was created and offered to Cannady. He was reluctant to accept and pursued his seniority rights. The OPD Assistant Director position was quickly re-evaluated by Civil Service and re-classified as "HCD Director" thus eliminating any seniority rights to the position by Cannady. Cannady subsequently accepted the Facilities Planning Supervisor position, a "full-time, temporary, position" which he still holds. He, of course, has no seniority rights over anyone and should the single-purpose job he now holds be eliminated in some future budget he would be simply out of a job--despite his more than 20 years planning experience and demonstrated competence.
- With the appointment of three new Chief Planners, there followed a gradual lessening of the responsibilities assigned to the Senior Planners until, as Commissioner Anderson prophesized in the November 1973 hearing, "...he is in fact acting at the level of City Planner..."
- In January 1976 the remaining four Senior Planners were informed that their positions were being eliminated from the 1976-77 budget in order to meet budgetary constraints. Each of the four Senior Planners do have seniority rights and, should they elect to remain on the staff, will become City Planners in classification, with resultant "bumping" of lower grade employees until the four junior people are eliminated. Just who, and in what classification, theses will be is not fully determined.
- In the meantime, in May 1974, Civil Service examinations were given for the position of Senior Planner--Legal Planner. In August Don Mazziotti, and old friend of Director, Ernie Bonner, and of Chief Planner, Doug Wright, was appointed (there is no implication of impropriety intended by the reference to past friendship--Mazziotti was #1 on the list of eligibles; his qualifications were well known to Bonner because of their past association, and he was hired). Interestingly, however, from his second payday on, Mazziotti regularly claimed and was paid for overtime (something other Senior Planners had long been conditioned to avoid--originally because it was not permitted for their pay grade, then, later, when it was permitted, out of deference to their knowledge about budgetary limitations). His gross pay over the first year of his employment as Senior Planner was $3,240.46 above his base pay--making his actual pay on par with that of the Chief Planners.
- Beginning with July 1, 1975 a new position of Chief Planner--Flood Plain (?) was created by ordinance and Lloyd Keefe reassigned to it from his Chief Planner--Special Projects position. The position thus vacated was re-titled Chief Planner--Program and Policy Analysis. Mazziotti was assigned to fill the position temporarily (at his Senior Planner pay level) until a "competitive examination" for the position could be held and a permanent appointment made from the list of eligibles. (The list of eligibles certified by Civil Service one year earlier was apparently no longer considered valid.)
- This "competitive examination" was held, apparently in August 1975 although no announcement was ever circulated to the planning staff nor did any advertisement appear in the usual media so far as the staff was able to discover. In any case, on September 4, 1975, a certified list of eligibles was issued by the Civil Service. This list contained one name: Donald F. Mazziotti. He was appointed Chief Planner from this list on September 4, 1975.
- Upon adoption of the 1976-77 budget by the Council with the Senior Planner positions eliminated, the purge will be complete. Every single staff person who held a position of lead responsibility or who was so situated as to enable him to readily influence City policy or decision making under former Director, Keefe, will have either been eliminated from the staff entirely, or demoted to a position that does not afford such responsibility.
The recital of purge history within the Bureau of Planning staff can be presumed to be of interest to the members of that staff since their jobs are directly affected. There is little reason for any broader concern--after all, one can readily applaud bureaucratic streamlining by the elimination or reappraisal of duplication and unneeded positions. No reason, that is, unless one sees the Planning Bureau reorganization as characteristic of a political administration.
- The Civil Service Board has been wholly replaced by appointees of the present Mayor. The Civil Service staff has been "reorganized" through a process remarkably similar to that used on the Planning Staff. In both cases the new appointees in positions of staff leadership--the "sensitive" positions--tend to be openly political and philosophical supporters of the Mayor. That is not to say that they are not competent in the technical demands of their jobs, but that they are also political supporters. Patronage?
- Within the Planning staff, at least, there are a growing number of temporary positions. These are jobs filled outside the Civil Service and usually paid for out of grant funds or other sources outside the general fund. Not having the protection of Civil Service they are not subject to the Civil Service competitive examination hiring requirements--they are simply hired. A remarkable number of them seem to be political supporters of the Mayor. Patronage?
- There is an increasing number of single-purpose job classifications (as discussed under History for Dale Cannady and Ken O'Kane). These single-purpose classifications serve two useful purposes: (a) A job description can be written around an individual so that he becomes the only reasonable candidate, or he can be appointed temporarily until his on-the-job qualifications can assure him a permanent status. O'Kane may be an example. (b) Once in such a single-purpose position, if the employee does not measure up, he can be eliminated without the messy and difficult business of firing for cause. All that need be done is to eliminate the position. The employee has nowhere else to go. Discipline?
- The result can well be an open invitation to become the basis for a monolithic, disciplined, internal political power-base capable of speaking with one voice and silencing any dissent. It also provides a massive array of ready campaign troops (not to mention fund contributors). Since the adoption of the present City Charter at least, Portland has never experienced a political boss. It appears that a new day may well be dawning.