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Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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By the end of her time in office, Lee was pretty much reduced to holding up saloons’ liquor licenses to try to force them to toe her moral line. Several institutions were forced to close, including the Music Hall nightclub – which, she was horrified to learn, featured drag shows.
“Men who act like unladylike ladies must go,” she sniffed. “These people were run out of San Francisco. They have got to get out of Portland, along with the undesirable persons they attract.”
Possibly the biggest problem for Lee was the City Council meetings, which were broadcast on KPOJ Radio. Everyone in the city could tune in and hear the councilors shouting at each other, and Lee berating applicants for liquor-license renewals, and the City Council’s nuttiest member, prohibitionist Jake Bennett, screaming at anyone who crossed him. The whole thing sounded like a circus, and not at all like effective government.
When Lee’s term of office ended, she stood for re-election, but this time she went down in flames, losing by a 6-percent margin to her longtime Council nemesis, Fred Peterson.
And things went back to normal in P-town … for a few years.
But, with Lee out of the way, the Teamsters Union – which had never been much threatened by Lee’s attempts at vice suppression, but had been made a little nervous – now felt it was time to expand their influence over Portland’s vice industry. Local resident vice kingpin Big Jim Elkins, outplayed by the nationally connected Teamsters, responded by secretly taping them and leaking the tapes to the Oregonian.
There followed a great deal of drama, all of it starkly partisan, as conservative Republican Mayor Peterson tried to defend himself against charges that he and the city (and especially his police chief, Jim Purcell) were in on it, and liberal Democrat Terry Schrunk – sheriff of Multnomah County, and Peterson’s opponent in that year’s elections for Mayor – tried to position himself as a force for anti-corruption.
Then Elkins suddenly fingered Schrunk, saying he’d slipped the sheriff a $500 bribe to call off a planned liquor raid. Schrunk vociferously denied it, and offered to take a lie detector test, then took one – and failed. Of course, lie detector tests are notoriously unreliable; but it was definitely not a good look.
Nonetheless, Schrunk won. And then, just as he was settling in as mayor, he was indicted for perjury on the basis of that failed lie detector test.
Among those testifying against him in court was U.S. Attorney Robert Kennedy, who for some reason had developed a great desire to nail Schrunk. The opinion in the sheriff’s department, where Schrunk was obviously well known, was almost unanimous that it was all a frame-up; Elkins was the Oregonian’s stool pigeon, the Oregonian was Republican, Schrunk was a Democrat, and he’d been well on track to win the election when the charge had been leveled.
That seems to have been what the jury thought, too. Schrunk was acquitted, and back in Washington D.C. a frustrated Senator Karl Mundt growled that if he lived in Portland, he’d suggest that they “pull the flags down to half-mast in public shame.” That, on top of the badgering they’d watched Schrunk take while testifying before Congress, solidified Portlanders behind him. They felt attacked, and they closed ranks, and for the 16 years after that Mayor Schrunk was unbeatable.
And these were very important years. Terry Schrunk was the mayor who presided over Portland during the urban-renewal projects, when entire ethnic neighborhoods were seized and leveled to make way for parks, gardens, and high-rise office and apartment buildings. New freeways were punched through other old neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the 1960s were coming and going, with hippies and protest marches and Vortex I and the Vietnam War.
Shrunk had started out as a liberal Democrat, but he was a pretty conservative one by the time the Congressional committee got done grilling him in Congress and in court, and he seemed to be a pretty good fit that way with mid-century Portland as such. He was re-elected four times, and his 16 years in office tied the record set by George Baker. He finally suffered a heart attack in 1972; he survived, but in poor health, and decided not to seek re-election.
Schrunk’s time in office represented the high point of the city’s mid-century modernist age. Under his watch, great works of architecture flowered forth around the city, replacing colorful neighborhoods that were deprecated as “blight.” Form followed function, rising dozens of floors into the sky and gleaming with polished aluminum and aggregate-faced concrete. It was a great age, but it was a myopic and merciless one too.
The age continued through the two-term mayorship of Neil Goldschmidt (later exposed as a long-term pedophile), the brief mayorship of Connie McCready, and the one-term-and-38-days mayorship of Frank Ivancie. It ended with the defeat of Ivancie (who had been Schrunk’s executive assistant, and made something of a fetish out of bashing “hippies”) at the hands of the very hippie-ish Bud Clark – whose election in 1988 transitioned Portland into the post-modern age.