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By Ian K. Kullgren May 31, 2012

How much of city government does Amanda Fritz manage by budget or employee count?

Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan have another five months of campaigning to look forward to after neither was able to get 50 percent of the vote in the first round of elections earlier this month. That means we can probably expect more debates like the one that happened at the City Club of Portland in late March.

Back then, Mary Nolan closed up the debate by going after Fritz one last time with a pretty damning summation of her four years as a council member: "By her own count, Amanda has initiated only 3 percent of City Council action items while she's been there. She manages less than 5 percent of city operations -- whether you measure it by number of employees or by operating budget."

Both are interesting points. For now, we’re looking at how much of the city Fritz really manages. Five percent seemed low to us -- even with five council members divvying up the work.

Under Portland’s form of government, the mayor assigns commissioners to manage certain offices and bureaus. There are about 20 larger offices and other smaller ones. Sometimes the assignments are a reflection of skill -- sometimes they’re a reflection of politics.

Currently, Fritz oversees the Bureau of Emergency Communications, the Office of Healthy Working Rivers, the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. She also has a budget and employee count specific to her own office.

When we checked the number of employees budgeted for those offices, we got a total of 208 full-time equivalent positions. The bulk of that comes from Emergency Communications, which has 145 spots. All told, the city of Portland has a little under 5,800 FTE positions. If you divide 208 by that, you get about 3.6 percent.

Just to offer a little bit of perspective here, Mayor Sam Adams oversees about half the city’s employees. Randy Leonard, the mayor’s closest political ally, comes in second with about 23 percent, then there’s Nick Fish with about 9 percent and Dan Saltzman with 13 percent.

When we looked at the budgets, we found much the same. For the current budget cycle, Fritz’s bureaus have a combined budget of just over $28 million. That’s 1 percent of all the cash that flows in and out of the city, which has a net budget of $2.8 billion. And it’s just over 1.6 percent of the $1.7 billion bureau expenditures.

After we had all the numbers straightened out, we called Nolan’s campaign to make sure we were on the same page. We were. Our next call was to Amanda Fritz.

"That's probably true -- I haven’t run the numbers myself," she said. But "the amount of work is not related to the number of employees or the budget of the bureau."

She also pointed out that she previously oversaw the city’s Cable Communications and Franchise Office, which was the second highest revenue generator for the city during the recession. What’s more, Fritz has been in charge of creating two new offices (Equity and Health Working Rivers) -- something that she said is particularly time intensive. "Establishing a new bureau is a lot more difficult than taking over a bureau," she said.

Finally, she noted that the office of Neighborhood Involvement may have just 39 budgeted positions, but it works with a network of thousands of volunteers.

The context -- and the fact that assignments are ultimately up to the mayor -- may take some of the bite out of Nolan’s remark but it doesn’t make it wrong.

The numbers back Nolan up; if you look at budgets or staffing, Fritz manages less than 5 percent of city operations. We rate this claim True.

Our Sources

Interview with Amanda Fritz, May 30, 2012

E-mail from Kristi Jo Lewis, spokeswoman for Mary Nolan, May 22, 2012

City of Portland, Adopted Budget, fiscal year 2011-2012

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How much of city government does Amanda Fritz manage by budget or employee count?

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