PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler kicked off his run for Portland mayor Wednesday morning with a promise for an open, transparent city hall not beholden to moneyed lobbyists.
His speech was preceded by supporters who pointed to his career as Multnomah County Chair and his record of success with programs to help the poor and homeless.
"At the end of the day, we made things better," he said.
The same cannot be said of current mayor Charlies Hales, Wheeler added, saying the Hales has conducted city business behind closed doors, created a legacy of just press releases, and has failed to make real progress on homeless issues and on chronic street repair issues.
"Let's fill those potholes," he said.
Wheeler said Hales failed to first include the public in making the tough decisions on how to pay for a repair list now over $2 billion deep, instead rolling out five ideas for raising taxes to pay for streets and telling citizens they would not have a vote.
He said Hales should first have apologized for the city being poor stewards of the city's basic needs.
As for where to first tap taxpayers for money, Wheeler said the simplest step was to raise the gas tax. A vote on that should be made by an informed public that actually campaigns for such an increase, he added.
Wheeler also said a greater share of the city's income from urban renewal should specifically target lower and middle-income citizens.
Asked about what tough decisions he has made in the past, Wheeler brought up his conclusion as state treasurer that financing for the Columbia River Crossing project was not feasible. "I lost friends over that."
Wheeler's decision to run had been widely expected, as term limits prevent the Democrat from seeking another term as treasurer. Until February, Wheeler was considered likely to run for what would have been an open governor's race in 2018.
The picture changed, however, when John Kitzhaber resigned as governor and was replaced by Kate Brown. Armed with the power of incumbency, Brown is expected to seek the Democratic nomination.
Mayor Charlie Hales said he welcomes the challenge from Wheeler.
"I'm really proud of what we've done in just the three years that we've already been in city hall," he told KGW. "I've taken the city from the biggest budget deficit in its history to its biggest surplus. We've fundamentally changed the relationship between the police bureau and our community."
Hales also pointed to increased attention to East Portland during his tenure. His message to Wheeler is that he welcomes a specific analysis of what he has accomplished as mayor. "We'll see you on the trail."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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