Here’s Why Mayor Charlie Hales Isn’t Running for Reelection

We look back at what Hales has accomplished, and at what his final year in City Hall may hold.

By Zach Dundas and Marty Patail December 21, 2015 Published in the January 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Charlie Hales

1. Q & A

Charlie, you have a year to go in office and no campaign to worry about. 

It is a sweet freedom.

If you can pick only one thing to get done, what is it?

The one thing—it’s the question of how do we grow for the next 20 years. We’re going to add 250,000 people to the city, if the projections are correct, and 140,000 jobs. How do we do that? Where? Is Portland still Portland when we’re done? We’ve been trying to grow wisely since the ’70s. I ran for city council in 1992 because it looked like we were going to grow, and we did, but that wave of growth is smaller than this one. Here’s an interesting fact: you know all the apartment construction under way right now, some good, some bad? That’s the rate of production that needs to be maintained for the next 20 years. It’s not a blip. We don’t get to erect a fence at the border. We better do this right.

What have you learned about being the mayor?

During the big rainstorm on Halloween, I was getting tweets: “Why aren’t you out in the streets, cleaning storm drains?” That indicates just how much the mayor is the lightning rod that catches the electricity.

This is a huge job. I love it, and I’m getting a lot done. If people want to compare what we’ve accomplished to the last few mayoral administrations, I’m comfortable with those comparisons. I’ve decided I’d rather succeed in the office than win in the election. You can’t do both in a contested race. You’ll short the office while you run, especially as a mayor.


Like any five-way open relationship, Portland City Hall is a glass case of emotion. Here, the presumed relationships of our four commissioners and mayor.

  • AMANDA FRITZ: IcyHales stripped Fritz of major responsibilities.
  • NICK FISH: LukecoolHales took away the veteran Fish’s longtime housing brief. Vibes: harsh.
  • STEVE NOVICK: Lukewarm - Novick served as Hales’s wingman on several charged issues.
  • DAN SALTZMAN: Balmy - The two have tag-teamed a recent push on affordable housing.


A comparison of total cash raised since September 9, when state treasurer Ted Wheeler announced his run for mayor

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Bogart, Hales’s cat since 2012, has not yet stated if he’ll endorse a candidate.

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Image: Charlie Hales


  • As city commissioner, Hales helped guide city transportation policy through the early phases of the Portland Streetcar, which opened in 2001.
  • When Hales was elected mayor in 2012, the city budget deficit stood at $21 million. He balanced the budget.
  • As city commissioner, Hales spearheaded a $59 million parks bond measure in 1994, which improved 114 city parks.
  • Two weeks after dropping his reelection bid, Hales celebrated a landmark council vote restricting future fossil fuel development within the city.
  • Being married to Nancy Hales, Portland’s most beloved first lady and the first to actually embrace the title.
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