At the Portland Planning Commission hearing of September 28th, Len Bergstein gave confrontationally condescending testimony representing Clear Channel in its belief that Mayor Vera Katz' recent Public Murals Proposal was unconstitutional. (Tape of his testimony has aired on Channel 30 and is available from the Planning Commission.)
At the hearing, Bergstein was acting in his capacity of legal counsel and registered lobbyist for Clear Channel. (see http://www.metro-region.org/article.cfm?ArticleID=10295 for his lobbyist registration) The Planning Commission is a mayor-appointed body that sends nonbinding advice to the City Council. At the Planning Commission Hearing, Len Bergstein was entering into the public record his representation of Clear Channel. His testimony therefore stands to inform City Commissioner Jim Francesconi's judgment regarding Mayor Katz' Mural Proposal.
This would be fine and dandy by the relaxed concern the world seems to have for corporate interference in policy making, except that Len Bergstein is now a senior campaign advisor to mayoral hopeful Jim Francesconi.
To pile up the conflicts, Bergstein is a frequently cited political analyst for Clear Channel's radio stations and KGW NBC Channel 8. Also, Clear Channel donated $1,000 to Francesconi's campaign in May, after the tenets of Mayor Katz' proposal had taken shape.
In Portland radio, Clear Channel owns KEX-AM, KKCW-FM, KKRZ-FM, KPOJ-AM, and KRVO-FM. Ron Saito is the General Manager of all stations, which are all located at 4949 SW Macadam Drive.
In short, Clear Channel has the sort of central command over its radio stations that a propaganda minister would drool over. Postitive or negative (or existent or nonexistent) coverage from Clear Channel reaches a lot of people. (This is how Clear Channel makes their money, actually-- the advertisements they air, because they air on 5 radio stations and 550 billboards, reach a lot of people.)
In the Clear Channel Creed, they say "Our goal is to have long term, mutually profitable relationships." ( http://www.clearchannel.com/Television/home.aspx )
We can imagine the "mutually profitable relationships" that might emerge when a lobbyist and legal counsel for this corporation is working to get Jim Francesconi elected.
The Len Bergstein and Francesconi connection is also questioned and discussed at
The following is background on exactly what Len Bergstein stands for when he represents Clear Channel in the sign code dispute:
The issue of Mayor Katz' proposal is its change in sign code and the city's patronage of murals. Although common sentiment might be otherwise, the essence of Clear Channel's assertion is that artistic speech and commercial speech are on a level playing ground-- and that any city "promotion" of artistic speech is therefore unconstitutional. Since 1998, murals and billboards have been legally classified with a level playing ground as the guiding credo.
Predictably, murals in fact lack the access to speech that Clear Channel possesses. While the city has approximately 550 Clear Channel billboards, the number of legal murals is absolutely puny. Since 1998's code change-- which was a direct result of litigation by a billboard company owned and managed by Clear Channel-- 2 murals have been legally painted in the city limits of Portland. Many other murals have been cited and subsequently boarded up or destroyed.
Katz' Mural Proposal is discussed at http://www.theportlandalliance.org/2004/oct/mayormural.htm
The proposal is available in .pdf at http://www.planning.ci.portland.or.us/pdf/PAM_prop_draft_090104.pdf