A unique public forum is about to come to an end Thursday as Mayor Paul Blackburn holds his final “Pie With the Mayor” event.
Anyone is welcome to come and talk with Blackburn at Pine Street Bakery, 12th and Pine streets on the Heights, for an hour starting at noon.
Blackburn started the tradition as an opportunity for constituents to ask questions and bend his ear in a casual setting.
He has held Pie With the Mayor three or four times a year in his four years, nine months in office.
Next week’s is the final one because Blackburn has announced his resignation as mayor, effective Sept. 1. His last city council meeting will be Aug. 26 (see sidebar, page A8).
Here are outtakes of a one-on-one with editor Kirby Neumann-Rea in Blackburn’s previous Pie With the Mayor, in April 2019:
HRN: You re-elected to a third term five months ago; what are your main hopes and goals for the city in the year and a half left in your current term?
Paul Blackburn: “One of the very challenging things in Hood River is many of us so passionate about this city, we all want things to go this way or that way, and sometimes if it goes the other way, it’s ‘Oh, this will ruin things ...’
“We (council) are facing a lot of issues, and we have a lot of engagement that springs up, so us budgeting our focus is really the most challenging thing, doing what we feel are the most important things and not getting distracted by all the other things. Staying disciplined about our focus.”
HRN: You have a new city manager (Rachael Fuller) and three newly-elected council members. How has that transition been?
PB: “We are continuing to maintain what I feel has been a very positive and collegial tone on council. Problem-solving happens when we work collectively on council, and not looking to score points on this matter or that one. Keeping that productive playing field is a real priority.”
HRN: How would you describe your role in this?
PB: “I’ve been a pastoral care mayor, trying to listen and think thoughtfully.”
HRN: Getting back to that budgeting our focus idea: You’re saying it’s a matter of how you make choices as leaders and as city as a whole.
PB: “A bad situation is when such and such councilor feels strongly and goes to the city manager about it, and the city manager is kind of caught in the winds. We’ve got to make decisions as a council and talk in a disciplined way, so they (staff) are not chasing, chasing.”
HRN: How would you describe the current relationship among council?
PB: “It’s working great. I am really pleased people understand how important it is to behave in that focused way.”
HRN: Where do voices of dissent fit into the “budgeting our focus” concept and practice?
PB: ”One of the reasons I’m enthusiastic is we have not all voted together on things. We have voiced our priorities, we vote, sometimes it’s 5-2, or 6-1, we shake hands and come back next week. Civilized dialogue has really been well-established.”
HRN: You took heat in recent months for how you were depicted by one individual for your conducting the discussion in council. There have been moments when you’ve had to be fairly straight-forward with people about when is the right time to talk.
PB: “Yes, I’ve had to enforce the rules and durations sometimes, and one individual refused to stop talking after his three minutes and I had to bang the gavel. That does not happen very often but I had to play the heavy.
“In another situation, I had been misquoted about something said in a meeting, and I had to clarify what (the citizen) said I had said and what I really said. Not being a punching bag is an important part of the job, defending other councilors and staff when there are aspersions being made, is part of the job.”